'Scandal' Case Study: Bellamy Young Spills on Mellie's 'Harrowing' Past
The actress behind the first lady on ABC's political thriller talks with THR about her big flashback episode in our weekly postmortem.
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Thursday's "Everything's Coming Up Mellie" episode of Scandal.]
ABC's red-hot Scandal delivered another jaw-dropping hour Thursday when the political drama flashed back 15 years to show Fitz and Mellie's first meeting with Cyrus and, in the present day, reveal Olivia Pope & Associates' search for answers behind the mysterious bombing of a civilian flight that hit close to home for Washington's top Gladiator.
During the jam-packed episode, Mellie (Bellamy Young) -- a partner at a law firm when Fitz enters the California governor's race -- learns that she will have to be the one to make the biggest sacrifice if her husband is to have a successful political career. Only the price she pays is a major one when Fitz's father, Jerry (Barry Bostwick) -- drunk after a fight with Fitz, who insisted on not using his shady military background as a campaign strategy -- rapes his daughter-in-law, Mellie.
Meanwhile, Olivia (Kerry Washington) told the rest of the Gladiators that the president (Tony Goldwyn) was the pilot following orders from her father Rowan (Joe Morton) to shoot down a civilian plane with her mother on board.
During their search for answers, Charlie (George Newbern) sets up a hungry Quinn (Katie Lowes) to kill the one guy who could have provided answers about the lone passenger removed from the doomed flight said to be carrying a dirty bomb that could have wiped out half of London.
And because this is Scandal, the biggest episode comes in the final moments when Rowan goes to visit Omar Dresden, the prisoner who was pulled from the plane before it departed -- only Omar happens to be Maya (Khandi Alexander) -- Olivia's presumed dead mother, who is being held as an inmate in a maximum security prison.
The Hollywood Reporter turned to Young to break down the events of the episode and what's next for the tortured first lady.
Fitz's father Jerry (Barry Bostwick) raped Mellie. What was your reaction when you found out?
I found out at the table read -- publicly -- and it was harrowing, I won't lie. It's the chance of the lifetime to have material like this and to have such a rich episode for them to trust me with is humbling and terrifying, wonderful and a blessing. But that scene, to find out cold and reading it with everyone else at the table was like life -- not to say reading it at a table is going through it in real life by any measure -- but you numb out. Those events in life are so shocking was you numb out, those events in life are so shocking that you're not reading it with grace or aplomb; you're just getting through it. Barry is such a beautiful actor, and it was written so viciously -- [showrunner] Shonda [Rhimes] was clear in her vision of what she wanted it to be. It was a sobering table read.
Will Fitz ever find out that his father raped his wife?
We will see. I can't imagine what his response would be. I can't even speculate because the things I'd imagine, the writers can think of better scenarios than I can.
Does Mellie know who fathered her youngest son, fittingly named Jerry?
I can give no comment to that!
Is there anyone who knows the truth about Jerry raping Mellie?
I can't talk about it at all without saying something Shonda will shoot me for!
We see Cyrus, Mellie and Fitz's first meeting. Considering it was Cy who told Mellie that it was her job to care for the president's career, is that speech from Cyrus his way of telling Mellie that she can't ever spill the family's dirty secrets?
Absolutely. Mellie is always willing to learn; she has no pride about failure -- she soldiers on. Meeting Cyrus, from the moment she heard the word "kingmaker," she was laser focused on soaking up every bit of wisdom from him. That's all she's wanted to be. She wanted to do that for Fitz and tried to do that in her own way. They've accomplished a bit together as a couple -- and they have dreams -- but she hasn't known how to take it forward. You can see her drinking in every word and questioning when she has a question, clocking it all and you can hear the cogs grinding forward in the slow but steady momentum as she starts to formulate her own ideas, since agreeing with Cyrus on that point and knowing how much she needs him -- but the true slap in the face is when he says, "Your job is to be the wife." It's a slap in the face because it's two-sided: Your job is no longer your life, your job is his life, and being a wife is a job, so do it and do it well. It's inextricable if you want him to move forward on this path. Mellie discovers a lot about herself in that moment because she might have been living life where to be a "wife" was something she looked down upon. But in that moment, she hears the full resonance of the fact that it takes a partnership and that being the wife is being Fitz's co-partner. You just have to accept that the world may not see that way.
Via flashback, we know that Mellie is aware of Fitz's military black ops experience and shooting down a commercial airliner. Will she use that nugget she's been holding on to? Is Fitz aware that she knows?
I can't comment!
Does Mellie know that Olivia's mother is alive? Will OPA question Jerry's involvement in the crash investigation?
Not as far as I know. OPA took on Maya Pope as a client, and anything Olivia Pope starts, Olivia Pope finishes. It's hard to say where it will end or what she will find out, but she'll be dogged in her pursuit of the truth, especially because it's so close to home.
Is this something that Mellie could help Olivia with, considering she ultimately wants Liv to run Fitz's re-election campaign?
We're in such a precarious moment because Olivia has just rebuked Mellie's desperate plea for aid in the election. I can't imagine at the time that Olivia would come to Mellie. If Olivia needed something from Mellie, what a question! That's what Washington turns on: Someone owing you a favor. Mellie would weigh the opportunity at hand heavily if Olivia came to her, hat in hand, in need. What a delicious moment!
In present day, after Mellie begs Fitz to show up, he defends her during an interview and we see that he still cares. Could there still be romantic feelings between them?
In any relationship that long, there's certainly softness. It's underneath scar tissue -- there's still living, vital tissue but it's hidden. I feel that way about Fitz and Mellie. They have these moments of softness, and there have been glimpses of what used to be. They definitely enjoy each other, but you're meeting them at the worst time in their lives, which is ironic but that's how life is: You're in the White House, you get your dream and it's misery and hardship. But for sure, she still adores him and he still respects her. She's the mother of his children ...
Or so he thinks!
You're hilarious! But there is a very deep and enduring bond between them. If they didn't love each other, they couldn't make each other so angry.
Fitz (finally!) connects that Rowan is Olivia's father. How might Fitz respond?
It's the very definition of walking on eggshells. Sure, he's the leader of free world but he's not the ruler of B613. He has this horrible past that's burdened him daily, and now it's augmented by the horror that he killed the mother of the love of his life. No way it doesn't inform his every breath going forward. Fitz considers things. He weighs it all out before he acts and then acts decisively once he's made a decision. But Mellie is far more rash. All of this will weigh heavy upon him and when his action is born, it will be decisive and it will be simple -- there's always an elegance in what he decides to do. At the end of the day, he comes up with one swift, elegant act and I look forward to seeing what that will be.
Quinn is now mixed up with B613. How will her involvement there impact Fitz's relationship with Rowan?
I don't know, but how fun is it to watch Katie! What kind of crazy character development is that! It's amazing to watch such an evolution. These are not people to underestimate. They wouldn't be where they are if they were quitters or knew fear or if one little hardship can get them down.
Olivia's mother, Maya, is still alive but in maximum-security prison under the name of a prisoner who was presumed dead. How much of the "why" goes back to the White House?
I don't know that either! But anything Olivia is involved in, you'll see Fitz get involved in. That's his heart.
What did you think of Mellie's tragic history? How do you think Quinn will fare with B613? Were you surprised that Maya is still alive? Hit the comments below with your thoughts. Scandal airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.