The company line on “Scandal” is that Olivia (Kerry Washington) and her colleagues at Olivia Pope and Associates are “gladiators in suits,” white-hat-wearing good guys who will do whatever it takes to help their clients get the right outcome.
But the show’s creator, Shonda Rhimes, doesn’t really see Olivia — who, after all, helped steal a presidential election for her candidate — as a traditional hero.
“I think Olivia has always been an antihero,” Rhimes told reporters on the “Scandal” set recently. “I don’t think any of the characters on our show have ever been just good people doing good things for good reasons. I mean, Cyrus [Jeff Perry] is a character that I think a lot of people love and love to watch, and he murdered somebody. He had someone murdered. I don’t think anyone on our show is 100 percent good.”
Rhimes also discussed where “Scandal” is headed for the rest of the season, when “America’s baby” will be born and more.
Q: Had you always planned to do the election story this season?
Shonda Rhimes: No. I think we planned to do seven episodes of “Scandal” [last season] and then hope for the best. And honestly, when the first seven episodes were over, I think we sat around and thought, “What the hell are we going to do next?” and really came up with this.
What’s the next big piece of the flashback puzzle?
Wow — I can’t tell you that. We’re going to see some pieces of flashback that involve Quinn [Katie Lowes].
Will you delve into Hollis’ [Gregg Henry] involvement in the assassination attempt?
We’re definitely going to unravel what was behind the assassination attempt, absolutely.
How did Hollis come into Fitz’s [Tony Goldwyn] world?
I feel like Hollis and Verna [Debra Mooney] were part of Fitz’s father’s world, and that’s where they came from in the first place. Also, Hollis is the money guy. Hollis is the first big donor. In our writers’ room world, he’s one of the Koch brothers as far as we’re concerned. So that’s how that started.
At times it feels like this is early “Breaking Bad” with Olivia. She’s on a really dark journey.
That’s interesting. … I think it is a very dark journey, and I don’t think that Olivia Pope is [just] a good person doing good things. We get to a point where we talk a lot about — she says the white hat is starting to feel like it doesn’t fit my head anymore. I think that’s very true.
What will Fitz and Olivia’s relationship be like now that he’s woken up?
I think it’s going to be complex. … I think [surviving the attempt on his life] puts him in a hopeful, excited place where he thinks anything is possible. Whether or not he continues to believe that anything is possible remains to be seen.
We’ve heard people say they enjoy the show because it’s bonkers. Are you OK with that?
I think I’m OK with anybody loving the show for any reason they want to, as long as they don’t say that it’s a guilty pleasure. Because when you call a show a guilty pleasure, basically you’re saying, ‘It’s crap but I can’t stop watching it.’ But for any reason — if they love the show because it’s bonkers, that’s fine.
But it is taking place in a heightened reality, isn’t it?
We’ve never wanted the show to be 100 percent real, ‘This is really Washington.’ If it was that show, I think …
Co-EP and real-life inspiration for Olivia Judy Smith: I wouldn’t sleep with the president. [laughter]
Rhimes: Olivia Pope wouldn’t be sleeping with the president. It would be a very different show. We wanted to be a little high drama, a little Shakespearean if we could, in the sense of what the characters were up to and what they were doing, and not have it be a show in which everybody was [high-minded]. We had “The West Wing” for that, and they did it brilliantly, and we weren’t trying to do that.
How much of what you write is inspired by real events?
We draw a lot of it. The thing I think is interesting is how much people are like, “That’s ridiculous,” and we’re holding the newspaper article that’s either, “this is what happened,” or “this is what 50 people believe happened,” or “here’s the documentary where somebody believes this thing.” … More often than not, our stories come from something or are inspired by something we saw in the paper. Or I’ll call up Judy and I’ll go, you don’t have to tell me if this really happened, but could it have happened? Can you blink once if it’s possible? We take stuff from her life all the time — sometimes it sounds too crazy to be true, and sometimes it doesn’t.
When is America’s baby coming?
America’s baby is coming. It’s coming sooner than you think.
Will the election story end at episode 13 this season?
The way I’ve structured it — we knew we had 13 [to start the season], and then we got a back-nine pickup. It ends-ish at 13 — I think it has a very satisfying ending at 13, and then there are tentacles that reach out and send us into a new place in the back nine.
“Scandal” airs at 10 p.m. ET Thursday on ABC.