The inner workings of Olivia Pope and Associates and “Scandal” may be kept tight under wraps by Shonda Rhimes, but the cast didn’t let that keep them from spilling some info at the annual PaleyFest at the Dolby Theater Sunday night, where they talked about what makes “Scandal” fun yet poignant, and still managed to tease a couple of upcoming stories.
The panel was hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, who didn’t hold back from asking the hard-hitting questions.
“Are any of you on Twitter?” he asked, rousing a roar of laughter from the audience and the social media savvy cast, who are known for taking over Twitter on Thursday nights when the show airs.
The cast also reminisced with the host over their first memories from the show’s early days.
“During the pilot we were all trying to figure out what ‘Scandal’ is and our characters, and there’s this thing called ‘Scandal pace,’ in which we speak really fast,” said Darby Stanchfield, who plays Abby, remembering her first day on-set with fellow castmember Jeff Perry. “We weren’t in the same worlds in the pilot but we were just kind of checking in with each other about, ‘How are you doing?’ ‘What’s your process?’ and ‘Is it feeling a little fast?’”
Leading lady Kerry Washington, who “handled” a bout of laryngitis to attend, remembered when Stanchfield became the final piece in the “Scandal” puzzle and recalled thinking ‘Okay, this is our team.’ It’s like that moment in a superhero movie,” she said. “All right, now we’ve got to go out and do something.”
Washington also shared a moment from early camera testing with Tony Goldwyn. Though the two hadn’t worked together in Hollywood, they had a history – conveniently – working in D.C. on political matters. She remembered simply talking politics with Goldwyn in front of the camera, sparking excitement in Rhimes and executive producer Betsy Beers. “I thought ‘Oh, they like what they’re seeing. We must have chemistry or something.’”
“Have any of you argued with Shonda or disagreed,” posed Kimmel, receiving an instant “No” from Perry and a slew of head shaking from the rest of the cast. “I’ll raise my fist and say, ‘You’re right,” exclaimed Joshua Malina, while Perry jokingly lamented that he had to sleep with a casting director to get the job in the first place.
Perry is married to Linda Lowy, the casting director for “Scandal,” and shared that the two “have a firewall,” as she often learns of plot points ahead of the Perry and the cast. The actor explained that often he’ll hear Lowy’s reactions from another room, “and I know it’s something I can’t know.”
One example? Perry’s wife knew that his character was gay, first.
“We’ve never been allowed in a writers room…ever,” said Perry on the subject of Rhimes and the writers secrecy over plot lines. Goldwyn is the only cast member who has had the chance to step through the heavily guarded doors when directing.
“Shonda said, ‘I’m very uncomfortable with Tony being here,’” he said. “’It’s really weird.”
The only clues that are ever given are of a cryptic nature, explained Washington. “Occasionally I get a random question that’s a little bit of a teaser, but the one time I sent a question back to her, she didn’t respond,” she laughed.
While the cast couldn’t tease much on the carpet ahead of the panel, Perry did shed some light on Dan Bucatinsky’s upcoming return. “Shonda wrote a really Cyrus-centric episode, and included four different time periods of the character’s life,” he said. “Dan and I got to be together again and got to play time periods that we’d only hinted at but not explored and then play a couple of events that the audience has never seen.” Perry teased that the episode will offer a new look at Cyrus’ past, before meeting Bucatinsky’s character and later, where “exploring little niches of Cyrus and James was beautiful to play with.”
The cast also addressed last week’s more topical episode “The Lawn Chair,” which saw Oliva take on a Ferguson-type situation, with a black teen unjustly shot by a police officer. “We were just floored,” said Goldwyn, describing his reaction reading the script for the first time. “We were speechless.” He praised Rhimes for insisting that the story be told at a “painfully relevant” time, as a Missouri grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown, and the 50th anniversary of civil rights marches in Selma, Alabama.
Meanwhile, Washington shared that the show’s recent storyline following Olivia’s kidnapping felt equally relevant, “at a time when we were begging people to pay attention to hundreds of black girls that were taken overseas.
“We became the epitome of ‘black lives matter,’” said Washington, explaining that rather than putting true events on paper “she made a president go to war for this one person.”
“Scandal” airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.