'Scandal's' Kerry Washington on Olivia's Shocking Family Affairs
The actress talks with THR about Olivia's complicated relationship with the president and breaks down her character's Luke Skywalker moment.
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Thursday's season two finale, "White Hats Back On," episode of Scandal.]
Holy Scandal reveals, Batman!
During Thursday's season two finale of ABC's breakout hit Scandal, the Defiance team welcomed a shocking new member as Olivia was forced to make a heartbreaking decision about her relationship with Fitz. But welcoming the president into the scheming illuminati wasn't Olivia's biggest reveal. At the end of the hour, D.C.'s top fixer was revealed to be the president's mistress, and was rudely escorted into a nearby limo to meet Rowan, the head of B613 and her father.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Scandal star Kerry Washington to discuss the nature of Olivia's relationship with her father, playing that scene opposite Joe Morton -- an actor she's been a fan of for years -- and more.
The Hollywood Reporter: Olivia gets a very Star Wars reveal: Rowan is her father!
Kerry Washington: Looking back, Joe and Shonda were so excited to see me so excited because they knew where [the story] was going. I'm really excited to see how it unfolds.
THR: We don't know much about Olivia's upbringing. How did you play the scene considering that the nature of their relationship is so unclear?
Washington: When we were playing the scene, we kept asking [director] Tom Verica and Shonda what their dynamic was and even they didn't know. It was like a crazy game in acting class where every time I'd get into the car, we would each make a bold choice about the relationship, but we didn't tell each other what it was. When they were editing the episode, they had 20 different ways to play that scene -- if not more -- just based on the intonation of how we said those words to each other. We played it a lot of different ways. It was really fascinating to see which of those acting choices they went with because I do think it says something about the relationship between the two of them, but not with any clarity or definitive specificity.
THR: What were some of the ways you played it?
Washington: There were some ways that I did it that were much more "Oh, thank God, I'm happy to see you" or "Oh, I love you so much; I thought you were dead." The one that aired has some anger to it that's really interesting. I wonder what Shonda sees in it and what audiences will see in it. It's a really layered response, and it's not a simple one; it's a really complicated exchange.
THR: Olivia's identity as Fitz's "mistress" has been revealed, but we don't know who leaked it. Theories?
Washington: We were theorizing the other day at work about who could have done that. People have such vastly different theories about it. Every time we think of somebody who it could be -- "Oh, well maybe it was Mellie" -- there are reasons why it wouldn't be Mellie. Or maybe it was Billy before he gets sent away. But there are two reasons why that isn't right, either. It's really tricky. Even when you think you know, there's always this one-two punch where you thought you saw something coming but then they one-up your expectation.
THR: Might the fact that her identity as the president's mistress went public change her decision about Olivia and Fitz's romantic future?
Washington: That's part of what makes her relationship so complex is that she's always felt torn, she's always felt complicated feelings of both "I wish this never happened" and "Thank God I met someone that I love this much." That will continue to have the complexity that it has. Maybe the stakes are higher in terms of how that plays out because everybody knows now. Internally, it's not all that different. Externally, how that's navigated is different. It's an enormous cliffhanger right up there with "Who Is Quinn Perkins?"
THR: Mellie takes Fitz back and avoids the race issue coming up when Olivia's identity as Fitz's mistress is revealed. How might she use this to her advantage?
Washington: One of the things that upset me so much when we did the table read and even watching the finale was that Olivia has worked so hard on this plan and how it's all going to unfold, and because she gets caught up in the moment of wanting to prove to the first lady that there's a plan, Fitz shows her my hand. The thing about your strategy that makes it work is that it's your strategy and other people don't know about it. But in that hospital room, Fitz shows her Olivia's hand completely so she can now build a counter-strategy, whereas if she didn't have that information, she wouldn't have been able to.
THR: Fitz is welcomed into the Defiance fold. How will Olivia work to protect him now that she's aware that he killed Verna?
Washington: I have no idea (laughs). She has a pretty big crisis of her own on her hands now, so I don't know. I feel like her world just got turned upside down, but it's hard to imagine her extricating herself from it completely.
THR: Gov. Reston (Tom Amandes) is back and was working with Billy to prove Fitz rigged the election that cost him the presidency. How much of the election rigging is he aware of?
Washington: I think he's been fully briefed [about the election rigging], but I don't know. I'm sure that Billy held on to some information for leverage, so we'll have to see.
THR: David proves that he does indeed wear the white hat -- getting his job back when he gives the Cytron card to Cyrus and giving Olivia the smoking gun to have Billy arrested. Can we expect him to continue working with OPA now or could we see him return to being a foe?
Washington: There are no simple relationships on this show, so I can't imagine that their relationship will be lovey-dovey and easygoing now. They've always had history and they now have more history than ever before. It's not going to be simple.
THR: Rowan tosses Jake into the hole where Huck was held. Will Olivia seek him out again?
Washington: Isn't that crazy? When I read that, half of my heart was really broken because I didn't want that to happen to Jake, and the other half was so excited because he's not dead and may not go away. We all love Jake so much, and Scott Foley is such a great member of our cast. It's definitely nice to leave things open-ended. I specifically said to Shonda at the end of season one, "That elevator door closed and we never saw anything happen," and she just smiled. It was because we all love working with Matty so much, and we were looking for hope and, yeah, that's where they were going all along.
THR: Looking at season three, would you like to see a focus on Fitz's re-election? It's one thing that we've only seen thus far in flashbacks.
Washington: It would be really exciting because I feel like we've had some elections where there's been record-breaking numbers of voter turnout in this country, and it would be really fun for people to feel more invested in and familiar with the process than ever before. It would be really exciting, not only for us, but for audiences to go there. If not season three, then hopefully eventually.
What do you want to see in season three? Hit the comments with your thoughts. Scandal returns in the fall on ABC.