The politics of the world certainly look different today than in 2012, when Barack Obama was in the White House and Shonda Rhimes’ “Scandal” was first premiering on ABC. Now entering into its seventh and final season, the politics of the show itself look very different, too, after electing its first female president in Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young) last season and now seeing its first gay vice president in Cyrus Beene (Jeff Perry).
“This is a gift of a season,” star Bellamy Young said during a recent set visit in which Variety took part, noting that Rhimes always knew where the show started and ended – but that it originally ended in her mind with the election.
“Then the world changed, and she felt she had 18 more stories to tell,” says Young. “I’m so interested to see what she’s feeling: If she’s feeling romantic, and they ride off into the sunset to make jam, or if she’s feeling very disillusioned and Olivia gives up on love and stays in D.C. and sells her soul.”
Young considers herself proud to rank among the “amazing women” who have portrayed female presidents on TV. Whether you’re a politician or an actor, if you’re a woman in power in America, she says, “you have to work twice as hard to even be seen for your efforts at all, past your hair, past what outfit you wore today.”
So while Mellie is trying to be the “ideal president of her dreams,” Young admits that perfection might not be possible. “Scandal” is out to explore the compromises that come when women in power are forced to “weigh out” what they value the most.
“In some episodes to come Mellie will be surprised by what she values and what she’s willing to do to protect that, and how Olivia aids or works against that,” Young says. “It will really start to be sobering.”
When “Scandal” first started back in 2012, Young says the show was like “opera,” given its grand-scale storytelling. But since then, she says, the real White House “out-steps” the show daily in terms of drama, and therefore she believes the show has re-calibrated a bit.
“I have to believe that in the current world context that part of the legacy that [Rhimes] wants to give is acclimating people to the sight of a women in power,” Young says. “Maybe the nation gets used to that thought, and I’d be cool with that.”
“Scandal’s” seventh and final season premieres on ABC Oct. 5 at 9 p.m.