As Scandal‘s election storyline keeps on heating on up, a new player arrived on the scene this Thursday — Alex Vargas, the politically savvy brother of Pennsylvania governor-turned-wannabe POTUS Frankie Vargas.
In short order, Alex (played by Law & Order: SVU alum Danny Pino) put Cyrus on alert that he who eventually puts Frankie in the White House has yet to be determined, and to that same end brokered a deal with Olivia, trading damning dirt on Mellie’s rival, VP Susan Ross, for a sordid secret about Olivia’s ex, Edison Davis.
Should Cyrus worry about losing his seat at Frankie’s table? And what bombshell about Susan Ross is Olivia now holding? Pino shared with TVLine a peek inside Alex’s playbook.
TVLINE | Alex stirred several pots pretty quickly. Whose worst nightmare will he prove to be?
I am probably Cyrus Beane’s worst nightmare. Though maybe not his worst nightmare; after all, he’s had some pretty bad nightmares. And hes also caused a lot of nightmares. But he definitely finds in Alex an unexpected force to deal with. There’s nothing like the tie of family, and with Frankie running for president and my character’s past success in helping him win two prior elections, that all proves to be a difficult tie to break. But Cyrus will try to do that.
TVLINE | What are Alex’s prioiries? What drives this guy?
Alex’s priority is to have his brother be president — partly because he loves his brother and he wants him to achieve that for several reasons. But also, personally, selfishly, it would give Alex carte blanche as a political operative. It really is the ultimate bargaining chip, the ultimate leverage, the feather in his cap.
TVLINE | How morally gray would you say he is?
He’s a political operative, so it’s fair to say that the reason he’s not the candidate, the reason his face isn’t on the poster, is because he’s heavily in the gray. The things he has done, to give his brother plausible deniability, are probably things he doesn’t speak about at parties. But what’s interesting about him is that after we meet him, he gets even darker. Especially being pushed by Cyrus.
TVLINE | Is there anything Alex won’t do in the name of getting his brother elected? Like, if he needs to have a guy whacked, will he give the order?
As an actor, you have certain ideas as to what your character is… and then you get on a show like Scandal where the writing is so good and so incredibly unexpected in the best way possible, you embrace how twisted and how desperate they can make a character. As an actor, you do nothing but accept it and want more of it, when you’re in those hands. Is there anything he wouldn’t do? The short answer is probably no.
TVLINE | Why do you think Olivia agreed to the exchange of dirt on Edison and Susan?
Because she needs something. She needs information to help her candidate [Mellie Grant] win, I need information to help my brother win…. [Edison may be her ex] but her current situation, her current battle, is to defeat Susan Ross. Once they each get out of the primary then it’s “game on” for us in the general [election]. Politics, as they say, makes strange bedfellows.
TVLINE | Olivia told Alex about Edison’s stints in rehab. How does the dirt Alex just gave her on Susan Ross compare? Is it equally explosive?
When they make the trade, Alex’s line is, “I hope what I’m giving you on Susan is as good as what you’ve given me on Edison.” Alex, being a political operative, really is the photo negative of Olivia Pope, serving a totally different master. To upstage Cyrus, he needs that information on Edison, so he’s willing to give up what he knows is damning for Susan Ross. I would say that it’s incredibly personal, even more personal than Edison’s [rehab].
TVLINE | So, he gave Olivia good stuff…?
On so many levels. It is something that will have repercussions for Susan Ross politically and personally. It is the kind of thing that when you find that out, you would read it in a tabloid and think that it’s not true.
TVLINE | Oh, man — she’s from outer space.
How’d you know?! [Laughs]
What did you think of this week’s Scandal and Pino’s debut? And what’s your theory on the Susan Ross secret?