Post Mortems

Scandal Series Finale: Joshua Malina Reflects on That Killer Twist, Insists Olivia Pope Is an 'Absolute Villain'

Josh Malina

The following story contains massive spoilers from Scandal‘s series finale — proceed at your own peril!

In the end, David Rosen fell short of the finish line. Joshua Malina‘s Abby-loving AG was poisoned to death by Cyrus in Thursday’s Scandal swan song. He was, rather surprisingly, the show’s only major series-finale fatality — a distinction we have a hunch his hilariously egomaniacal portrayer will interpret as the sincerest form of Shonda Rhimes-induced flattery. But we didn’t want to assume. So we asked Malina ourselves in a phone interview conducted Friday evening.

TVLINE | How does it feel to be the Scandal‘s finale’s only significant casualty?
I’m enjoying it. I’m basking in the afterglow of death. [Laughs] I feel a little like Tom Sawyer attending his own funeral. It’s like, “Oh, they really did care!”

TVLINE | How did Shonda Rhimes break the news to you?
She called me the night before the [finale] table read and said, “Look, I have some news for you… ” And I think I finished the sentence for her and said, “Are you killing me?!” She said yes, and I could feel my heart pounding through my chest. As we got deeper into Season 7 I anticipated there would be some high-profile deaths. But I thought, “How much impact would David Rosen have?” Shonda articulated that in the world of Scandal it made sense that David had to go. And I completely saw it.

TVLINE | What purpose did his death serve?
I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say it served a purpose. But Scandal is a topsy-turvy world. And anyone who is too trusting or too good is not going to survive in the end. Our hero, Olivia Pope., is morally dubious at best. He was the closest thing to a “White Hat” that we had, so it kind of made sense that he would be the one to go.

TVLINE | To that point, were you surprised that, in the end, so many characters escaped significant punishment for the horrible things they did?
One of the great miracles of Scandal is the fact that Shonda managed to keep the audience rooting for Olivia Pope through seven seasons of treachery. When I watch the show, I see an absolute villain who is portrayed with absolute charisma by Kerry Washington. She’s done horrible things. Somewhere in there is the brilliance of Scandal. It says something about our society and the people we hold [in] high esteem.

TVLINE | Was there a part of you that was sad David and Abby didn’t get their happy ending?
I felt bad for Abby. And for David, certainly. It was nice that they seemed to have a happy, romantic endgame coming. But a happy ending was never [meant] to be for David Rosen.

TVLINE | Safe to say there are some amusing outtakes from your death scene?
I suspect so. [Jeff Perry] and I went at it for a really long time. It was five hours of wrestling and fighting and suffocating and dropping glasses and sweating and choking. [Laughs] We had a stunt double on standby but we never used him. I was like, “I’m going to see myself out of this life.”

TVLINE | How did you interpret that portrait of Olivia at the end of the episode?
I can’t believe… [Laughs] I was going to say that I can’t believe someone with that much baggage could rise to the presidency but maybe there are present-day signs that such a thing could happen. Maybe there’s reason to believe that nothing could hold Olivia back from ultimate power.