Season 6 of “Scandal” kicks off with the results of the presidential election — the show’s presidential election, that is.
The first five episodes of “Scandal’s” new season, which premieres on Jan. 26, were filmed before the real-life 2016 election. And so Shonda Rhimes and the cast say that the political drama will draw no parallels to President-elect Donald Trump or Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Speaking Tuesday morning at the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Pasadena, Calif., Rhimes was quick to deflect the first question from a reporter that specifically prodded about Trump.
“I don’t really equate the two,” Rhimes said about “Scandal” and the election. “That’s not really the goal. If that were the goal, we would have waited until after the election to write about the election.”
When the show returns, the election results between “Scandal” characters Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young) and Frankie Vargas (Ricardo Chavira) will be revealed in the first episode. But the show’s presidential hopefuls were not inspired by Clinton or Trump. “There aren’t any similarities,” Rhimes said. “I don’t think the candidates have any similarities … these candidates don’t equate so I don’t think you can correlate the two.”
Young, who plays former a First Lady running for president (like Clinton), explains that the TV world and the real world are kept separate.
“Our world is a complete fiction,” Young said, keeping the focus on the new time-jumping format of the new season, rather than the election. “You’ll find out the results of the election immediately, but we’ll go back in time and find out what happened to those characters in those moments. That kind of storytelling finds a new way in Season 6.”
Tony Goldwyn, who portrays President Fitz, who will be out of the White House in Season 6, noted that “Scandal” serves as an interesting form of political entertainment in the current climate. “In counterpoint to this crazy political world America is living through, it’s interesting, but they’re not the same.”
Joe Morton acknowledged that while political news coverage is consuming TV, some viewers may not even want to watch “Scandal,” even though it’s fictional.
“I think the audience is going to watch what makes them feel well,” Morton said. “Some people may want to watch something that has nothing to do with politics simply because of what’s going on in the world … there is no real similarity between what’s happening in the real world and our show.”
Though the “Scandal” panelists didn’t engage in Trump conversations on stage, following the panel, star Kerry Washington did speak to reporters, including Variety.
“I think we have to be careful by saying that the results of this election represent the majority of the sentiment of the country because half the country didn’t vote, and half of who voted, not even — the popular vote went to Hillary,” Washington said. “So we’re talking about less than the quarter voted for our next president. And I also think it’s important to say that inclusivity is not just about people of color and women. Inclusivity is about everyone having a seat at the table. It doesn’t mean keep white people out, or men don’t have a voice. Everyone should have a voice at the table.”
Also on the panel were stars Darby Stanchfield, Joshua Malina, Scott Foley, Cornelius Smith Jr. and executive producer Betsy Beers.