April 12, 2012 9:00am PT by Lesley Goldberg
'Scandal's' Kerry Washington: Olivia's Strength is Her Biggest Weakness
How do you represent a woman claiming to have had an affair with the president of the United States when the leader of the free world is preoccupied professing his love for you?
That's one of the primary questions ABC's new Washington, D.C.-set political fixer drama, Scandal, is posing to viewers after President Fitzgerald Grant's (Tony Goldwyn) camp enlists political fixer Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) to douse a potentially term-ending story when a former White House aide makes some very Monica Lewinsky-like claims.
So why, after voluntarily leaving the White House, does Olivia return at the request of Fitz's chief of staff, Cyrus (Jeff Perry), to do such a major solid for a guy she already perceives as guilty? (Note to Fitz: Avoid calling anyone else "Sweet Baby"!)
"The thing that makes her really great at her job is how compassionate she is," Washington tells The Hollywood Reporter. "When she takes on a client, she really cares for them and she plays to win not for much out of ego but out of the desire to truly take care of other people and give her fellow human being a shot. She believes that people, if they're willing to be accountable and take responsibility for a situation, then they deserve a second chance."
While Olivia gives that second chance to Fitz's former aide, Amanda Tanner (Liza Weil), she isn't as accepting of the president's word about the alleged affair, returning to the White House where she confronts Fitz about the flap and slaps him after sharing a revealing kiss.
Washington notes that it's Olivia's concern for others -- Amanda, the president and perhaps even herself -- that keeps her coming back to the White House.
"One of Olivia's greatest strengths is also perhaps one of her greatest weaknesses," she says, noting that the truth about Fitz and Amanda's history will be unfold each week. "That compassion and that deep, deep caring for her fellow human being and her desire to make everything OK for other people is part of what makes it difficult for her to really cut ties with the people that she cares about."
With the ability to speak freely to not only Fitz but also Cyrus, Washington reveals that the trio's relationship will be explained during Thursday's Scandal when Pope & Associates takes on the case of a D.C. madam.
"They worked very closely together and it's very clear that this used to be a family, this staff in the White House," she says. "You get that sense when they're all walking through Camp David that this used to be a family and what happens when somebody walks away? How does the family operate? What are the new rules?"
Do you think Fitz had a fling with Amanda? Should Olivia represent her? Hit the comments with your thoughts. Scandal airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.
E-mail: Lesley.Goldberg@thr.com; Twitter: @Snoodit