The series creator and showrunner, who also penned the final episode “Over a Cliff,” confirmed that a possible revival in the future is DOA at a live table-read of the series finale script by members of the cast at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood on Thursday night. “‘Scandal’ is finished,” said Rhimes. “I love everybody and would work with everybody again in a heartbeat, but ‘Scandal’ is finished.”
Tony Goldwyn, who played President Fitzgerald Grant III and Pope’s object of affection, echoed her sentiments. “I mean, who knows, but I think it ended. And it ended beautifully. It’s over,” Goldwyn told Variety.
Referencing “Hamilton,” Rhimes called the finale event to benefit the Actors Fund the “One Last Time” of “Scandal,” as she teased that the audience would not be hearing a live reading of the edited episode everyone will watch on TV. Responding to gasps, she assured that they were going to get the episode and “a little bit more.”
The entire cast, save Scott Foley, who played the ill-fated Jake Ballard, was on-hand to perform the whole finale script, including scenes that did not end up in the final show and, as Rhimes describes, “random song lyrics the ‘Scandal’ writers put in every script” like Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road” and Semisonic’s “Closing Time.” Betsy Beers, Rhimes’ longtime producing partner, read the stage directions, which included a lot more “f-bombs” than are heard onscreen.
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In a post-show Q&A, Rhimes described that the idea of the finale, where the audience is left to interpret Pope’s legacy and whether or not she might have indeed become President of the United States one day, emerged as “politics in America took a totally different turn than [she and the writers] thought, so the politics in the show had to shift.” Rhimes continued: “We were not trying to tell the story of what was actually going on. So, that changed the way the end of our series was going to be.”
Rhimes also shared that Stevie Wonder, whose music has been frequently played throughout the series from tracks like “Higher Ground” to “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” wrote a song inspired by watching “Scandal” that is featured in the closing montage. “Stevie Wonder created and shared a special song with us no one’s ever heard before. That is the final song in the show. And I laid it in yesterday. It’s pretty extraordinary.”
Joshua Malina, whose character and perennial “White Hat”-donner David Rosen received the ax in the finale, also revealed that he received a warning about the death. “I famously was always concerned about dying,” Malina said. “But to my delight, Shonda did call me the night before to tell me. And then I started to get excited about the idea.”
Joe Morton, whose Papa Pope delivered a speech that made the actor feel “invulnerable” in the finale, said he was proud of playing “a black man who is literally running the country from behind the throne. I don’t think that character exists on any other show. Just as the character Kerry Washington plays doesn’t exist on any other show.”
Closing the night, Washington thanked the “Scandal” audience for her ability to be the first African-American woman to lead a drama in 40 years. “We all know how it works,” Washington said. “If ‘Scandal’ hadn’t been a success, it would’ve been another 40 years. Congrats to the audiences, because you made room for other protagonists who look all kinds of ways.”
And as for how Rhimes came up with the iconic popcorn and wine concept? “I eat wine and popcorn. It’s my normal routine,” Rhimes told Variety.