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‘Scandal’s’ New Recruit Danny Pino Teams Up With Olivia: ‘Gladiators Will Not Be Disappointed’

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read ahead, if you have not watched Thursday night’s episode of “Scandal,” titled “Pencils Down,” which aired March 24.

Danny Pino made his “Scandal” debut on Thursday’s episode, and he’s already stirring up drama. Pino plays Alex Vargas, the brother to Frankie Vargas (Ricardo Chavira) — a.k.a. Cyrus’s (Jeff Perry) presidential guinea pig.

As soon as he arrives, he ruffled feathers with Cyrus, as he wants to take control over his brother’s campaign — and he does just that by teaming up with Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) for a twisted game of exchange-the-dirt on presidential hopefuls.

In the episode, it’s revealed that Olivia’s ex Edison (Norm Lewis) is running for president and none other than Papa Pope (Joe Morton) is backing him up. Viewers also found out that Edison went to rehab long ago, after becoming addicted to pain pills from an accident. That piece of information could ruin his chances at becoming president — and that’s exactly what Alex is hoping for.

Alex makes a deal with Olivia to exchange information on Susan Ross for dirt on Edison, and though the episode ended with the cliffhanger on Susan’s secrets, Olivia’s reaction said it all. “I think Gladiators will not be disappointed,” Pino teases.

Here, Pino teases Susan’s secret and talks about Alex and Olivia’s “professional attraction” to each other.

We’re you a fan of “Scandal” before you joined the show?

You know what — I had not watched the show before, but I had heard so much about it and when the potential of it came up, I started watching and it is pretty addicting. You just can’t help to want to find out what happens to all of these characters.

You play Ricardo Chavira’s on-screen brother. How was it working alongside him?

Ricardo and I have known each other personally for many years and we’ve always wanted to work together, so when I found out we’d be playing brothers, it made it that much sweeter. We have a good time together and I think that history that we share, it’s something that we can use to enhance that relationship.

You share a lot of scenes with Kerry Washington. How is she to work with?

Kerry and I did a pilot years together so we briefly met doing that pilot. She really sets the tone. She’s welcoming, she’s prepared and incredibly engaged and professional. I was very excited to work on those scenes with her. Olivia Pope is such a complex character that her fame proceeds her, so when Alex Vargas knows he’s dealing with her, he knows that it’s probably not at face value — there’s always several layers to that relationship.

Cyrus and Alex have a hostile relationship off the bat, but they both have the same goal in mind: the make Frankie president. Why don’t they like each other?

There’s always conflict between somebody who professionally has your brother’s best interest in mind, and what a family member deems to be his best interest. Alex is out to make a point that nobody knows his brother better than him and nobody knows how to run a campaign for his brother better than him. Cyrus senses that he’s being stepped on, and as much as Alex tries to cover what he’s actually attempting to do to win over the staff and essentially take that power back from Cyrus and restore himself as a pseudo campaign manager, it’s very apparent from the first scene that is going to be a bumpy ride. To put it simply, he’s not going to take any sh-t from Cyrus.

Olivia gives Alex information that Edison has been to rehab. What will Alex do with that information?

Alex is a political operative and he’s always going to use information to benefit his brother. The information that Edison has been to rehab is something that he legitimately feels the American people should know about. He feels that the voters should know the full picture on any candidate who is running for such a high office. Obviously that serves him and that serves his brother, and it makes it seem like he knows what he’s doing and it certainly puts his hand higher up on the broomstick than Cyrus, so he’s going to use it to expose Edison Davis as a pill-popper.

Why did Olivia agree to swap information with Alex?

It’s a quid-pro-quo — you rub my back and I’ll rub your back, and we’ll see each other in the general election. I’ll help you make it out of your primary, you help me make it out of my primary, and then it’s game on until we get to the next level of the video game. It’s a big game. Alex and Olivia are on opposite sides of the same court. I think they are professionally attracted to each other because they see their reflection in the other person.

We won’t find out what the dirt Alex has on Susan Ross is until next week, but what can you tease?

The information on Susan Ross is incredibly personal, and really goes to the core of who she is outside of the office of vice presidency — and certainly beyond the scope of being a president. I could say it has to do with her family. It’s incredibly personal.

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