January 10, 2013 8:00pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
'Scandal' Case Study: Tony Goldwyn on Mellie's Mess and Fitz's Shifting Love for Olivia
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Thursday's "One for the Dog" episode of Scandal.]
After suffering three gunshot wounds in an assassination attempt on his life, President Fitzgerald Grant's status changed dramatically during Thursday's Scandal.
With first lady Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young) having forged his signature -- twice! -- in order to protect the presidency from wing-nut Sally Langston (Kate Burton), the savvy vice president questioned the president's miraculous recovery and the legitimacy of the documents that evicted her as commander-in-chief. And as if he sensed it, Fitz woke up from his comatose state, calling Olivia (Kerry Washington) immediately and leaving Mellie in a very precarious position, facing potential treason and terrorism charges for violating the law and completely throwing the Constitution out the window.
Meanwhile, Huck stoically survived being water boarded (Guillermo Diaz for the win!) and connects that Fitz is still alive -- revealing that his life was still in danger and appealing enough to David (Josh Molina) to help him get him off the hook and work to help catch his ex, Becky, who framed him as the shooter.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Goldwyn to discuss Fitz's recovery, next week's flashback episode featuring Barry Bostwick as his father, the mess Mellie is in and what a near-death experience will do for his enduring love for Olivia.
THR: Fitz calls Olivia but isn't really moving -- what sort of condition is he in physically when he wakes?
Tony Goldwyn: Not good. Fitz has a tough road ahead. We don't know when Fitz is going to be back in action. In this week's episode, Mellie -- in her anxiety about the whole loss of power and Sally taking over -- got herself into a really bad situation, and Fitz is going to have to help her get out of that. It gets really messy. We can't say if and how I get back into the White House, but I am able to be active and help solve a big mess that Mellie is going to make.
THR: Barry Bostwick was also recently cast as Fitz's father, "Big Jerry." How does he come into the picture?
Goldwyn: There's going to be more flashbacks of Fitz and Olivia leading up to the election, and you'll meet Fitz's father, with whom he has a very complex relationship. He was the governor of California before Fitz and was a senator and a very powerful guy. The next episode follows Fitz's struggle in the hospital and trying to get his brain and body functioning, and you go back and get deeper into Fitz and Olivia's relationship. It's like a companion episode to last season's episode that began on the campaign trail. It goes deeper into Fitz and Olivia's relationship and what that connection is all about.
THR: Will the flashbacks provide more clues on why Olivia and company needed to rig the presidential election in Fitz's favor?
Goldwyn: That is increasingly doled out. You learn more about that, and that's a story line that is going to develop and you'll understand more about that. Fitz is unaware of this whole thing, but you will get a clear understanding about what that's about and what the cabal is doing. It gets messier, and Olivia's struggle really heats up and in the next episode, becomes a crisis level.
THR: Speaking of Olivia, she and Edison split over her involvement in Fitz's cover-up. Is the fact that she's single now of appeal to Fitz?
Goldwyn: Having this near-death experience clears the slate about what's important and what's not. As soon as he can function, the first person he wants to talk to is Olivia by instinct. His attitude toward Edison and Olivia is going to shift again because he gave her up and said, "You go live the life you want to live," and he blessed it and allowed Edison to become the minority leader. Having almost died, Fitz knows that Olivia is the woman he's supposed to be with. How they engineer remains to be seen. He's going to have new clarity once he's well again. It gets more intense.
THR: How much information will Olivia, Cyrus and Mellie tell Fitz now that he's awake?
Goldwyn: They'll tell Fitz what he needs to know. Cyrus and Mellie treat Fitz a bit like the baby king or the special child. Cyrus views himself as the dark knight, the guy who does the dirty work, so Fitz can be the sun king; anything that is deeply or morally complicated, Cyrus protects Fitz from that. With the exception of his infidelities on a moral scale, Fitz has a pretty high moral compass in every department. Cyrus feels as if to include Fitz too much will destroy him and be very problematic. Mellie is more of a mercenary, and Olivia has her own high moral standards. She knows that Fitz relies profoundly on her and Olivia is the only person that he trusts; the only person in Fitz's life he knows is real. He knows Cyrus is complicated but he holds Olivia in the highest regard. When Fitz loses his way, Olivia is the person he turns to and she feels the weight of that profoundly.
THR: Will Mellie learn that Fitz is awake before she confesses to Sally that she forged Fitz's signatures to reclaim the presidency?
Goldwyn: In the beginning of the episode, it will be clear that Mellie knows what's happening. Fitz is going to have to help Mellie get out of the mess she's in with Sally for forging Fitz's signature. Sally has her over a barrel, and Fitz is going to have to get himself together enough to protect Mellie and really push himself physically to do what he can. He will do everything he can to reclaim power and cover Mellie and the only way he can save her is by saying, "I'm the president and I'm not incompetent and this document is real."
THR: How will Fitz help in the effort to stop Hollis? Will he learn of the election rigging in the process?
Goldwyn: He's really puzzled. Fitz can't understand why Hollis would want him dead. It makes no sense to him. It's much more complicated in terms of who actually did it. We know it's Becky who set Huck up, and we think it's Hollis who set her up and that makes no sense to Fitz. Fitz's attention is going to be on getting healthy to make sure the house doesn't burn down in terms of being able to function in some capacity as president --preventing Sally from serving in that capacity. He's allowing Cyrus, the CIA and the FBI to do their jobs but I don’t think he accepts that it's Hollis. He's smart enough to know that it's not so simple that Hollis, on his own, tried to have him assassinated. If he does find out it's going to be terribly shocking.
THR: James and Cyrus were on their way to get their adopted baby when they learn Fitz is awake. Will James' resignation from reporting stop his investigation into the election rigging?
Goldwyn: Of course not! (Laughs) It's going to get messier. The James and Cyrus relationship develops in a really beautiful way. But you can't close Pandora's box. That demon is out of the box and will come out in very interesting ways.
THR: You're directing later this season, marking the first time you're overseeing a show that you're a regular on. How are you approaching it? What episode is it?
Goldwyn: It'll be one of the last episodes of the season. When I first took the job, [exec producers] Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers asked if I wanted to direct and suggested I wait until season two so I can focus on playing Fitz first. Directing will be exciting for me since I never have anything to do with Olivia Pope & Associates, so I get to work with all those great people I only typically see around the set: Katie Lowes, Columbus Short, Darby Stanchfield and Guillermo Diaz. It's exciting.
How do you think Fitz will respond to Mellie's mess? Are you glad to see him awake? Hit the comments with your thoughts on the episode. Scandal airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.