Does it take more than a $1,200 white coat to fix the Grant campaign’s problems? Scandal‘s Abby Whelan will find that out tonight (ABC, 10/9c), when the ginger gladiator is called on to take Olivia’s place “handling” 1600 Penn.
Darby Stanchfield spoke with TVLine about the why behind the switcheroo (which finds Abby struggling to handle misbehaved politicos), teases a Scandalous reveal or two and contemplates RSVPing for a possible Castle wedding.
TVLINE | This week’s Scandal is titled “The Fluffer.” That’s not referring to Abby, is it? Because isn’t that a “special” kind of job…?
[Laughs] Abby is not the fluffer. No.
TVLINE | Good to know. Why is she stepping in for Olivia this week?
Well, tensions with Fitz and Mellie are at an all-time high, after he discovered what she’s been doing behind his back. Meanwhile, Olivia has this internal struggle with the idea of being “the help” and needing to establish really clear boundaries, so she looks for a proxy. By process of elimination, Abby’s about the only one that she knows right now she can call upon who’s not embroiled in some sort of killing or torture scheme.
TVLINE | Or getting doped up with a syringe after sex, yeah.
Exactly. But there’s also this bond developing with [Abby and Olivia], so it’s a big moment for Abby to prove her worth and help with the damage control now that the presidential campaign is in full swing. There’s big time mud-slinging in this episode, and also a White House character from our history resurfaces to add fuel to the fire.
TVLINE | Stepping in for Liv, is Abby’s attitude more “gung-ho” or “Wait, what?”
Abby’s really gung-ho. I mean, she even dresses the part. She puts on her most “Olivia Pope clothes” and is very sincere about being Olivia’s proxy. She isn’t received too well, though, partially because of what’s going on at the White House. It was interesting shooting this episode, because it was like I was guest-starring on a different show, since I’ve never really been in the White House world. It’s a world that I watch as a viewer, but shooting it, I had to keep reminding myself that Abby doesn’t really know about most of what’s going on in this room and with these relationships. I had to stay really on task like, “Oh, right, I don’t know this…”
TVLINE | As proxy, does Abby have to make any tough calls? Does she have to “lay down the law”?
She tries to. But let me put it this way: It’s like going in to substitute teach a bunch or really, really, really misbehaved, terrible middle-schoolers. Abby really doesn’t know really what she’s stepping into and she tries her hardest, but “the kids” do what they want to do. Ultimately, she’s on the phone with Olivia saying, “You need to get back here and make things normal.”
TVLINE | You know, all she needs to command their respect is one of those two-and-a-half minute monologues….
[Laughs] Believe me, Abby gets one of those. Whether it lands or not is the question, but yeah, the writers crafted a beautiful monologue for Abby.
TVLINE | I hear you have an interesting scene with Paul Adelstein’s Leo….
Abby and Leo do have an interesting scene…. They kind of go toe-to-toe. He’s definitely slinging mud, but so is Cyrus. No one can sit on their hands.
TVLINE | But most importantly: Is there any time in this busy episode for David Rosen?
Poor David…. I mean, look, I haven’t seen the episode yet, and we always run like eight or nine minutes over so a bunch of stuff gets cut, but there is a really great pillow talk scene between Abby and David, after she starts working at the White House. She really says what’s on her mind, and it’s pretty funny. There is some good Abby/David stuff there.
TVLINE | Good, because now Josh [Malina] will re-tweet this story when I post it.
[Laughs] Only because his name’s in it.
TVLINE | Is this your favorite Abby episode to date?
This season, yes, it is. I had a wild walk-and-talk thing with Cyrus played by Jeff Perry, which was a blast. It was so fun being in the White House and working with all these new characters…. And some surprising stuff comes up for Abby and Leo, so that was fun, too.
TVLINE | Now that you got to hang out there for a bit, what would people be most surprised to know about the White House set?
Oh, it’s very, very different, in that when I’m working over at Olivia Pope & Associates, it feels like we’re in middle school, with everybody, like, singing and dancing between takes. But on the White House set, behind the scenes, it’s more like you’re in graduate school. Everybody’s a bit more…
TVLINE | There’s a certain “decorum.”
There’s a certain decorum. Everybody’s preparing in their own way. I mean, all actors work very differently from each other, even within OPA, but the Gladiators sort of operate as one organism. It’s like a school of fish, where we all swim together.
TVLINE | Speaking of Gladiators past and present, what’s Abby’s take on Quinn these days? I mean, she was never her No. 1 fan to begin with.
That is one of those continuity situations where when we were shooting it, I was like, “Wait, do I know how deep she is in B613? Do I know what’s going on with her little love triangle?” But I can tell you that Abby definitely finds out more by the end of the season, and in a really surprising way.
TVLINE | What are you doing with your extra time off this spring, having already wrapped the 18 Scandal episodes?
My grandmother’s 90, so I’m going to go see her. And I’m going to my alma mater later this month to speak to the student body at large…. I don’t know what else. I’ll garden and cook and…
TVLINE | Maybe RSVP for a Castle wedding? Bring Alyssa Milano as your “plus-one”?
Wouldn’t that be great? Wouldn’t the fans love that? [Laughs] It’s so funny, Castle fans have been starting to get really, really nervous that because we’re wrapped [on Scandal], now I’m available to go back. I get such a kick out of the panic they go into over even the thought of Meredith showing up. I mean, it shows how dedicated they are, the Caskett ‘shippers. It’s pure amusement for me.
TVLINE | Poor Meredith. What’d she ever do to anybody?