'Scandal' Case Study: Columbus Short Talks Harrison's Helping Hand and Mysterious Backstory
"You've begun to see his evolution," the actor tells THR of the Gladiator's growth.
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the "Mrs. Smith Goes to Washington" episode of Scandal.]
Harrison's (Columbus Short) job duties are expanding at OPA.
After the Gladiator served as the ringleader in helping to "fix" Olivia's (Kerry Washington) public image after she was outed as the president's mistress, Harrison stepped up to help keep the lights on at Olivia Pope & Associates by bringing in a new client. After taking on a client they don't know much about, Harrison steps up again to help Olivia out of a risky situation, as Mary sought answers in a bid to clear her son's name and mysterious death. After an hour filled with tension, it turns out her son was an American hero and CIA agent who recruited 57 people into a ring of undercover agents posing as terrorists working for the agency. Olivia, meanwhile, protects the undercover agents and tells Mary that her son was indeed a terrorist, vowing to protect her. Her efforts, however, aren't enough, and Mary winds up shoving Olivia out of the office and blowing herself up.
After everything, it was Harrison's eagle eye that helped OPA crack the case and reveal that the FBI agent was a fraud, helping Olivia get the real answers she was looking for. It ultimately helps save Olivia's life, much to Mellie's amusement. (Oh, how we love drunken Mellie's "Saint Olivia Pope" speech!)
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Short to preview how Harrison's role with OPA will evolve going forward and get the details on his character's mysterious backstory.
Harrison has really become Olivia's right-hand man in this episode, middling between her and the FBI. How will we see Harrison's role evolve going forward?
It's going to continue to grow on the fertilizer that's been set with what you've seen so far. You've begun to see his evolution with those big office talk moments last season to now, and really fitting into this right-hand man position and owning it. When he says, "Let's get to work," and the rest of OPA just looks at him, now they know that Harrison is a force to be reckoned with. If Olivia isn't there, they trust Harrison to handle it and get it done. That's what you're going to start to see a lot more of as the season progresses.
Does Harrison's work in this episode assisting Olivia with the bomb situation help repair the damage that OPA created in fixing her status with the public as Fitz's mistress?
The thing about Harrison and Olivia's relationship is it's a lot different than everyone else's. Olivia knows exactly why Harrison did what he did. I don't think there's more damage than what he did with Abby and breaking her and David up. That's not even close to what it is between Liv and Harrison because she knows why he did what he did. She knows that that's her right-hand man, even though at the end of the day he did what he did. Olivia is the most forgiving, and she's the meaning of a Gladiator. Gladiators don't have feelings and that action, behavior, and choice by Harrison has no dictation on their relationship that they have.
Why does he go to the ends of the earth to help pull her out of the media circus?
Hopefully, what we'll discover later in the season is in Harrison's past. Harrison will for the rest of his life be loyal to Olivia. It's like The Count of Monte Cristo, where that pirate pledged his life to him no matter what, like a knight pledging his allegiance to a queen or a king. Harrison is that Gladiator and he based that on her being there for him when the people he thought he loved and hoped would have been there for him weren't.
Shonda Rhimes has described Harrison's backstory as the gun on the wall. We've learned more about Quinn, Huck, and Olivia's history. What can you share about what we'll learn about Harrison?
I can't share anything, but I think it's going to be so special for the audience to watch this unfold. It's something that will be seen for sure. I haven't seen it yet; we've had a few little talks. It's going to be good, and it's going to be as scandalous as anything we've seen and as exciting.
Our theory is that Harrison is somehow related to Olivia.
I've had that theory. That's the easy theory, and because people have hit that theory on the head, I think, in normal Shonda fashion, that she's definitely not going to go that way. (Laughs.) I think there are some other awesome things that people really wouldn't expect for their relationship to go that we're in store for.
Harrison was central in discrediting the reporter who broke Olivia as Fitz's mistress. Considering that didn't go over well with Olivia, how will we see them work together in the future? Will there be any fallout for him?
I don't think there's going to be fallout per se. I think it's one of those things that as it progresses, we'll understand why he made those choices. Olivia made choices, and one thing Olivia knows about Harrison is that, regardless, he's loyal and she trusts his decisions.
OPA is struggling to land clients because of the bad press, and they take on someone unstable in this episode. How will Harrison work to bring new clients in?
The thing about OPA is at the end of the day, when you're having the worst day of your life, you want the best, no matter what. Sometimes when you're in the worst situation, you abandon your judgment or your stance on somebody else's actions and just go with the best. More than Harrison setting it up to have clients coming in, I think clients will always remain coming in because she's Olivia.
How will Olivia use Harrison going forward?
His role at OPA and relationship with everybody there is only going to evolve more as the season progresses.
How will OPA learn from the bomber experience going forward?
Basically, they need to keep the lights on. They're going to take on clients that they normally wouldn't have, or Olivia may bend her normal criteria, and maybe Harrison will take on clients without even talking to her about it. It's headed in a great direction, and I'm really excited for the Gladiators to go on that ride with us.
What did you think of Scandal? How do you think Harrison will play a role going forward? Scandal airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.