Mellie Grant may have won the Scandal-verse’s presidential election, but as you’ll see in Thursday’s final season premiere (ABC, 9/8c), her fight is far from over.
“First and foremost, America is not yet acclimated to having a woman in power,” actress Bellamy Young tells TVLine. “So nothing that Mellie does can be seen in its own right. It’s seen through the filter of how her hair looks that day, or if she wore pants. There are so many filters that, hopefully, we can all just shed as we go through our lifetime together. So there’s that, just being a woman in power — a single woman in power, which is unprecedented. And since this is Shondaland, we’ll definitely explore that.”
Below, Young elaborates on the challenges facing her character, including whether or not she can really trust Olivia Pope:
TVLINE | Considering how long Mellie has talked about becoming president, it’s almost surreal to see her achieve that dream. Did you ever think you’d see the day when she sat in the Oval?
You know, I really didn’t. I never try and second guess where our writers are going to take us, but things also change so quickly on Scandal. Even when I read the episode with the inauguration, I thought, “Well, I get to be present for an episode.” I’m grateful for whatever happens in the present moment, but I don’t get too attached. I seldom let myself get a dog in the hunt, but at one point during her campaign, I gave in. I really, really wanted it for her. … I’ve never asked Shonda [Rhimes] outright, but I’m not sure that this is how it was all supposed to turn out. It was supposed to end with Fitz leaving office, but then the world changed, and I think she realized she has a few more things to say about racial injustice and gender politics and the state of our world as it is.
TVLINE | Watching the premiere, it feels almost like a “what if?” episode. Like, what if the female candidate really did win the election? Did it feel that way while you were shooting it?
So many of my colleagues and I campaigned for the candidate who did not win — or who did, but didn’t win the electoral college — and I think it’s truly surreal to stand in the Oval Office that our production team designed and to tell a story where the decisions are being made through not just one woman, but two women’s minds, hearts and souls. It’s just a very different perspective and experience than what I wake up to every day.
What’s funny is that our show started out so crazy. It was a Greek tragedy, an opera. It was almost melodramatic, it was so outlandish. We’ve been steadily outpaced by reality, so now we come to a place in Season 7 where we’re maybe, for part of our country, a little wish fulfillment or a safe haven. In our world right now, I hear a lot of division and fear mongering. What I keep listening for is the voice of hope, inclusion and love. I really feel like once an episode, our writers deliver a monologue that contributes to a really important conversation, really moving something forward in a way that I need to hear.
TVLINE | Not that things aren’t a little chaotic in the White House. Who can Mellie actually trust?
She knows that the devil on one hand is Cyrus, who is the best at his job in the world. There is no Washington beast like Cyrus Beene. But she also knows she can’t trust him as far as she can throw him. On the other hand is Olivia. It’s so interesting to me that Mellie and Olivia are sitting on this big tub of kerosene just waiting for a match. There’s so much Mellie doesn’t know, and I’m not sure how or when they’re going to reveal it, but it’s waiting to explode. Mellie is so hopeful about making history with Olivia. She feels invincible with Olivia by her side. But I think it’s going to be seismic when she realizes what’s really going on.
TVLINE | Fitz is off in Vermont, but I imagine he’ll be a potential resource for Mellie, should she have any questions.
I love their relationship so much because in as much as they are not partners, they are really allies. They just know each other so well, and the history is so deep. I hope, I think, I feel that he’ll be an invaluable resource. Who else could she go to? Who else has been president that she knows? Whether that also proves to be a wrinkle for Liv, I don’t know. It’ll be interesting to see whether or not Washington is something Fitz can even do in his post-presidential life. tdi
TVLINE | I’ve noticed that Mellie’s wardrobe has also gotten an upgrade. Does that help you get into POTUS mode?
Definitely. We made an effort to streamline and simplify her looks. Less frivolity, no florals. It just makes you feel very present and very in command. We’re even flirting with some pants every now and then — it’s a whole new Mellie!
TVLINE | Lastly, you mentioned earlier that Mellie being a single president is unprecedented. Might the door still be open for her and Marcus?
Once you connect with a person, even if life pulls you away for a while, the connection never dies. It’s unresolved between Marcus and Mellie. What I always loved about them was that they could really call each other on their stuff. They were real friends before sexy time, though that part was good, too. I feel like she needs that more than ever now. And Marcus went to work for Fitz, so I feel like he’ll need it too. Fitz is a handful! I hope there’s a Chapter 2 for them. I hold out hope for them. It would be strange to me if that doesn’t come back around.
What are your hopes for Scandal as it heads into its final season? Drop ’em in a comment below.