'Scandal' Has Abandoned Some of Its Dialogue After Presidential Debates

Showrunner Shonda Rhimes told fans at PaleyFest that the series has changed dialogue after watching the presidential debates unfold.
 Jordin Althaus/ABC

Amid the current presidential race, ABC's Scandal is staging its own — with a new candidate set to be revealed during Thursday's episode who bears a resemblance to, yup, Donald Trump. 

During the show's time at PaleyFest on Tuesday, fans were treated to an early screening of the episode — which THR won't spoil here — where a new candidate joins former first lady Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young), Susan Ross (Artemis Pebdani) and Francisco Vargas (Ricardo Chavira) in the race for the White House.

"There might be some parallels coming," Young said with a laugh, remaining mum on details.

While Young's Mellie is looking to become the first female president of the United States and her Republican character does, at times, resemble Hillary Clinton, the Washington, D.C.-set political soap exists in a world where real-life politicians like Barack Obama don't exist. But that isn't stopping Scandal from taking on the actual election.

"If you think the debates you've seen in the real world are fun … " star Kerry Washington (Olivia) hinted of what's to come as the series will soon feature its own presidential debates.

Added showrunner Shonda Rhimes: "We did have some moments where I'd run back to the writers' room the next day [after a debate] and say, 'There's some dialogue we have to cross out because it's already happened. ...' The election right now is its own thing. You can't make that stuff up." 

Scandal recently saw Clinton pay a visit to the show's Hollywood set as star Washington joined fellow TGIT colleagues Ellen Pompeo and Viola Davis and filmed a campaign ad to support the former first lady — which was directed by Tony Goldwyn (Fitz).

Co-star Scott Foley (Jake) was directing the episode at the time of Clinton's surprise visit. He confessed to being terrified when Clinton sat down behind him as he was attempting to direct the last shot of the night. "Everyone wants to go home and then three highway patrolmen and a documentary film crew came through with nine Secret Service members with guns and then a bunch of aides and Hillary came through," Foley said. "And I thought, 'Oh God!' I didn't know what to do. She sat behind me; it was terrifying! So that's my excuse, Shonda, when you see the episode. Blame Hillary!"

As for the future of the series — which Rhimes has said isn't a series that will run eight to 10 seasons — the prolific producer said she knows when Scandal will end and "where it ends." 

Asked if Fitz will ever find out about Olivia's abortion, spoilerphobe Rhimes said, "My question is: Does he need to? ... I haven't actually decided but I wonder. We talk about it a lot." 

The panel ended with a fan question grilling Rhimes about why she opted to break up Fitz and Olivia after they'd spent nearly five seasons working to be together — and out in the open. "Olivia is on a journey," Rhimes said, noting that her primary story is finding herself — and not finding Fitz. "She fell in love and got the fantasy — and discovered that the fantasy was not real. ... For Olivia, breaking free — while painful — was the first step in realizing she's not who she's supposed to be. Her father [Joe Morton's Rowan] has been saying that and while he represents evil to a lot of you, he also represents truth."

Scandal airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on ABC. Stay tuned after this week's episode for a special postmortem interview.

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