'Scandal's' Tony Goldwyn: Having It All Has Never Been So Devastating

Did Fitz and Olivia get married? Which ghost from the past came back to save the day and haunt the habitually doomed couple?
Courtesy of ABC

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Scandal's "Get Out of Jail, Free" episode.]

You can't always get what you want the way you want it. That's been the running theme of Scandal's fifth season so far as Olivia and Fitz's love story just added another tortured chapter.

During Thursday's episode of the ABC political soap, Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) and Olivia (Kerry Washington) came thisclose to finally getting married. But despite the president's best efforts, the nuptials were to happen out of necessity as Cyrus (Jeff Perry) suggested the union as the only way to keep the D.C. fixer from testifying against Fitz during his impeachment trial.

Although they came close — she did take Betsy Ross' stunning ring — ultimately it was Mellie (Bellamy Young) who saved the day and helped Olivia avoid the shotgun wedding that would have been the equivalent of her going to jail. Here's where the heartbreak begins: After Mellie and Fitz finally get divorced, Mellie winds up helping Rowan (Joe Morton) — whom she finds out is not only is Olivia's father, but the man whom she helped kill the jurors last season as well as the guy responsible for the death of her son. In an effort to end the impeachment trial — where Mellie committed political suicide when it came out that she paid a woman to pose as the president's mistress — Mellie helps get Rowan out of jail and the head of B613 is the one who had possession of David's missing files. Rowan sends incriminating photos to all the senators involved in Fitz's hearing and the whole trial winds up being dismissed as a witch hunt.

Naturally, Mellie helping the man who killed her son comes at a price: Olivia now has to help her become the next president of the United States. What's more, given that Olivia was without a doubt not ready to get married under these circumstances, Rowan's release also helps her get out of an impossible situation — only the cost may be Fitz's heart after Abby returns the wedding ring to the president.

THR caught up with Goldwyn to get the scoop on the presidential divorce, how Fitz will respond to effectively being stood up at the altar and how Rowan's return spells trouble for pretty much everyone.

This season so far has focused on how getting what you want doesn't always work out the way it's supposed to be. Where does Fitz go from here? He's divorced but Mellie has turned against him and he didn't even get married.

Fitz is in very rough place at the end of this episode. All he can do is what he's been doing. He's not going to give up on Olivia. There has been some very good news. We don't see it in this episode, but when he finds out about avoiding impeachment, that's a positive thing. He doesn't know how that happened but that's a positive. Fitz loves Olivia. He's obsessed and consumed with his love and his absolute belief that the solution to all of their problems are to commit to one another. He really believes that. If she would just trust that, then they would find equilibrium. Olivia doesn't see it that way, but Fitz has faith; that's his touchstone and answer. I think all he can do is keep fighting for that.

What is going through Fitz's mind when Abby (Darby Stanchfield) gives him Olivia's ring back?

That she ran away again and couldn't do it. At the end of the episode, he's assuming that the ship is sunk because she's either going to purger herself or avoid her testimony or maybe he doesn't even know what she's doing. He doesn't know that there's been a deal made [with Rowan]. He's devastated when the wedding doesn't happen. When Olivia ran off when the story broke [that she was Fitz's mistress] and Abby came onto the Truman balcony with Fitz, she said, "How many times does she need to do this for you to understand what she's doing?" It's like the definition of insanity — doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result — because she keeps running away. He assumes when that ring hits the table that this is what's happening again.

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Their shotgun wedding doesn't work. Will Fitz try and woo Olivia and create the wedding they deserve after this?

I think he will. I don't know that but that would be his intention for sure. This isn't the wedding he wanted, either. As Shonda [Rhimes] put it to me, that thing on the balcony was a Hail Mary out of stress and trying to somehow make it personal. To do something that took a strategic decision and inject it with how he feels about her and remind him that they love each other — except that didn't work out.

After four seasons, how refreshing does it feel to now be able to play this relationship out in the open?

I love it, it's been so much fun and so interesting on two levels: it's different and refreshing. This has been happening for four years and all of the sudden Shonda made the choice to go there completely. It's very refreshing. But what I like best is it looks at the very real situation of what would happen if the president of United States just got honest about being a human being. Presidents and people of all stripes have had affairs for various reasons throughout history. For some reason, the White House is put on this pedestal of moral purity, which is just not real. So what happens when a flawed man who may be a man of great attributes … gets real? What kind of pressure does this put on a loving relationship? They love each other deeply. Fitz should be with Olivia and not Mellie if he's going to have a healthy relationship in his life if you take the presidency out of it. Mellie and Fitz are deeply troubled and he fell in love with someone extraordinary. If they were normal, he would have left Mellie and started a new life together [with Olivia]. The White House puts all kinds of pressure on that to make it impossible when you want to just tell the truth. Can American people tolerate that? What kind of opportunism comes out of that? Like what happens with Senator Gibson, the blackmail in the last episode, impeachment? What pressure does that bring onto Fitz and Olivia and Fitz and Mellie? It's interesting.

Have you changed your approach to playing this now that you've gotten the green light to go there?

Not really because Fitz wanted that the entire time. Since season one he's been fighting to come clean about the whole thing. That's what he's always wanted to do. He's finally getting his wish. But the interesting thing is now he's gotten what he asked for, it's like be careful what you wish for. What does that look like? It's not what he expected. In terms of other real people, there's never been quite this circumstance. President Clinton and other people before him, there may have been other presidents with deep love outside of their marriage, I don't know. In Clinton's case, it was a dalliance but the great mistake that Clinton made was to lie about it. I'm fascinated by what would have happened if he had just told the truth. President Clinton is still one of the most beloved people in American politics and world politics. He's the greatest politician who ever lived in America and he went through this terrible ordeal of disgrace. We're a forgiving country. So what happen if politicians didn't feel a need to lie and be something and live up to an impossible ideal. Fitz said to Susan in the last episode, "I fell in love, I'm a flawed person like everybody else," and she said, "You're not allowed to be a flawed person." And that's the issue.

How might Fitz feel when he finds out that Rowan, the guy who killed his son, is responsible for him staying in office? How might Fits respond to that?

Let's hope he never finds out about that! It's the worst of the worst and absolutely devastating. What happened in season was Defiance and the rigged election was terrible for Fitz — and for Fitz and Olivia — and this is 100 times worse. The man who had his son murdered and Olivia made a deal with Rowan, who is responsible for all of her misery, to save his presidency and get out of marrying Fitz. It's all so awful.

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Is this something Olivia and Fitz can survive?

I don't know. That's a rough one.

Do you think it's the one thing that would keep them apart?

Well it's Shonda so I don't think there's one thing. I'm not sure how Fitz would get over that one, maybe he would. He loves Olivia but that's a tough one.

Do you think he would rather be impeached than have sold his soul to the devil and owen Rowan here for saving his presidency?

No question, sell his soul. Or found another solution. The truth is Clinton was impeached but it wasn't successful because it was bogus. The STARR Commission and the whole witch-hunt wasted millions of dollars and was unsuccessful. He won that because at the end of the day it was a dalliance and a human mistake but not an impeachable offense. For Fitz, it is the same. The Jeannine Locke (Samantha Sloyan, who is on Grey's Anatomy now) thing is very messy — plus the fact that he didn't have an affair with this woman and was manipulated by Cyrus, Mellie and Olivia. He was furious when he found out what happened, but there was nothing he could do about it because it was done. I still think he would believe they could have gotten out of that. He would rather fight that battle a thousand times than make a deal with Rowan.

Anytime Rowan is around it's never good for anyone, especially Fitz. How will his release from prison shake things up?

Rowan is one these great archetypal characters. Is he pure evil or is he Darth Vader? Rowan is a mysterious figure. As far as Fitz is concerned, he's evil. He is someone who, in Fitz's mind, is a sociopath but who is brilliant but so consumed with power and control that he's gone to the dark side in the guise of saving the Republic.

Rowan's release also comes as Jake (Scott Foley) was planning to leave the country and turn his back not only on Olivia but his spy career and flee the country with his ex-wife, Elise. Clearly Rowan is behind her death. Will this motivate Jake and Fitz to work together to bring him down once and for all?

I would hope so. I don't know. They have an interesting, unexplored relationship. Their relationship functions on two levels: they're brothers in arms, brothers in Rowan being this dark father figure in some weird way to both of them. It's this destructive force in both their lives who they would join together to fight — and have. The rivalry for Olivia is secondary to that. Frankly, Fitz won that so far. Fitz always believed he'd win that. He never believed Olivia was in love with Jake in the way she is with Fitz. He was an escape hatch even though he was in love with Olivia. Olivia was his girl. Fitz has won that battle. They're not friends.

Fitz is officially divorced from Mellie, which has been a long time in the making. Is this something he would have were it not for the impeachment trial?

Yes, eventually. Mellie wasn't having it. He presented her with divorce papers in the first episode and had that crazy negotiation in third episode with the interview that Mellie bailed out of. It finally came to a head in tonight's episode because she had to save her own ass because she'd stupidly purgered herself. It was inevitable, as sad as it is. There's that crazy fight they have signing divorce papers, which is awful, but those conversations do happen.

Mellie is using Olivia to become the next president and has taken the gloves off with Fitz and is working with Rowan. It's such a dark turn to have Mellie working with a man she knows killed her son and is responsible for the death of the jurors.

It's so dark for Mellie and she's so consumed with revenge and destructive force. So much of what this show explores is the effect of power on people. That all-consuming corrupting influence that the kind of power that sits at 1600 Penn and what that does to people. Mellie says she could have been something and she feels Fitz robbed something from her and she's now going to take it. Her dead son be damned, and 17 jurors be damned. I avoided thinking about that because Fitz just can't know about that. It's almost incomprehensible. It's very disturbing and dark.

It makes this love triangle even worse. Now Olivia is beholden to Mellie.

Is Olivia really doing that to help Fitz? Or was it an escape? Was it to avoid marrying Fitz? I don't know. Where is Olivia in all this? I don't know. I couldn't believe it when I read that! It's fascinating because what kind of influence and control does her father have over her? It's so complicated, in that moment; she's trying to save the White House, which politically makes sense but is also insane. It avoids her of having to purger herself and committing to Fitz, which she's terrified of, and being trapped by Fitz. Also that thing with her father, that thing that pull that she has to save her father. I asked that question, what are all the things that are at work with Olivia.

It feels very much like the early seasons.

I feel the same way. It's very integrated versus separate case of the week stuff, I always prefer when it's all wrapped into one and everything is connected.

What did you think of the big wedding fiasco? Sound off in the comments below. Scandal airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on ABC.

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