A president, whose adulterous behavior becomes a major problem, is at the center of the new ABC drama Scandal. Along with the Commander in Chief, there are lots of other scandalous people who seek out a crisis management firm to spin their troubles away, and that keeps the show interesting.
Olivia Pope, played by Kerry Washington, is the Queen Bee of fixing problems in the series. And there are lots of unpredictable clients who show up at Pope’s office, whether it’s somebody in the military, a politician, somebody in the corporate world, somebody in the labor movement, or a celebrity or a sports figure. They all have secrets to keep.
People behaving badly in Washington, D.C., and a crisis management firm that protects the public image of politicians and other VIPs– is what Scandal is all about. And it’s based on a real woman (Judy Smith, currently on a tell-almost-all book tour) who is the go-to gal for putting the lid on the embarrassing scandals of the rich and famous.
So creator-producer Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy) had to get a strong actress to play the lead. That’s certainly Kerry Washington, who has had a flourishing career since playing Ray Charles wife in the Oscar-winning movie Ray. She was also very sexy in Eddie Murphy’s new film A Thousand Words. Her other film roles were in The Last King of Scotland, Lakeview Terrace, and For Colored Girls.
Now Kerry has the job of playing Olivia Pope, who is protecting and defending and keeping the secrets of the nation’s elite under wraps. Also starring are Henry Ian Cusick, Katie Lowes, Guillermo Diaz, Columbus Short, Darby Stanchfield, Jeff Perry, and Tony Goldwyn as the President who can’t keep it in his pants.
When she first read the script Kerry admits she said, “Who do I have to kill to play this role?” She loved it because it’s a different type of character for her. “I really try not to do the same thing twice. I’m drawn to diversity in my work, so I like the challenge of doing something I haven’t done before.”
The idea that the stories are based in D.C. also appealed to her. She said, “People know that I’m a very politically active person and so in that way I was fascinated and intrigued to do a show that takes place in this world.”
Being very honest, Kerry admitted that the series is “the hardest I’ve ever worked without a doubt. And it’s the most challenging and fulfilling job I’ve ever had, artistically and emotionally. It’s very exciting and the scripts keep getting better and better and more complicated.”
Kerry likes the way that “Shonda writes flawed people,” meaning that she writes real people. “These are people who are three-dimensional, fully realized human beings. And that is a joy for any actor, because so often we are having to create the three-dimensionality of a character. But when it’s given to you, it’s such a treat. I really love playing a complicated woman.”
The character of Olivia Pope may not always do the right thing, and that gets complicated in Kerry’s portrayal.
Where is the line for her? Kerry said, “I don’t think that Olivia believes that the law is always an accurate reflection of good and bad, and that justice is more complicated than the law. At Olivia Pope & Associates they are really all about trying to make sure that people deserve a second chance. People make mistakes and to the best of their ability they try to even the playing field. They try to be helpful to people who don’t have anywhere else to go, if they feel like that help is deserved and justifiable.”