At the end of the sixth season of “Scandal,” Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) was in the power seat as the chief of staff to the first female president (Bellamy Young’s Mellie) and the new head of B613. And when the seventh and final season starts, Olivia is enjoying wielding her power, even though it may mean pushing aside those who have been closest to her.
“Olivia’s sitting in the highest seat,” said Washington during a set visit of which Variety was a part. “Anything that jeopardizes her ability to show up for the republic is potentially a problem. Relationships are not the most important thing right now, unless that relationship serves and enhances her ability to wield her power in the ways that she needs to.”
Olivia once wore a white hat as she fought to serve her clients, many of whom had been wronged by politicians or the system in general. Now, though, she’s fighting hardest for what she thinks is best for the country overall. Washington says she doesn’t believe that fame or power changes a person but rather “reveals who you are,” and for Olivia, this season will be about navigating the “extraordinary amount” of power she has with the person she has been.
Now it may be like father, like daughter, says Joe Morton, who plays Olivia’s dad, Rowan. “What’s the old adage? Absolute power corrupts absolutely,” says Morton, noting his character went through that first. “I think that’s what Rowan’s big worry is. When you get that much power, morality goes out the door because you think everything you’ve done is for all of the right reasons.”
Last season, Olivia orchestrated the death of the former vice president and was about to place Cyrus (Jeff Perry) in the role. Washington admits she doesn’t know where the line is for her character after taking such deadly action, but she does say that Olivia is “trying to do everything differently” from how she saw others like her father Rowan before her.
“She is going into this time and this position having been able to watch a lot of people make mistakes, and so hopefully she takes all of that wisdom with her and doesn’t walk down the same paths,” Washington says, noting that Olivia is coming from a place of service.
When the season starts, 100 days into Mellie’s presidency (and yes, Cyrus is her veep), the two women will be in a “dance” with each other regarding the give and take of power. Young says Mellie is the most public symbol of power, but chiefs of staff have pulled strings behind the scenes well before Olivia got the gig.
“To make history at all, but to make history with Olivia, is a thing so delicious she couldn’t have even dreamed it,” Young says, adding that Mellie “has no idea” of Olivia’s true involvement in B613 or how she rose to this power.
“There’s so much kerosene they’re both sitting on and they’re just one little match flick away from an explosion,” Young says.