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'Scandal' Case Study: Tony Goldwyn, Bellamy Young on Mellie's 'Nuclear Missile'

"Mellie's only move is to find a way to make him care," the actress behind first lady Mellie Grant tells THR in our weekly postmortem.

Scandal Washington Goldwyn Young Split - H 2013
ABC
"Scandal's" Kerry Washington, left, Tony Goldwyn and Bellamy Young

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the Thursday, May 2, "A Woman Scorned" episode of Scandal.]

Hell hath no fury like a first lady scorned.

During Thursday's Scandal, Fitz calls what he believes to be Mellie's (Bellamy Young) bluff after the first lady gives her philandering husband an ultimatum to recommit to their marriage or risk her going public.

What she doesn't count on, however, is that President Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn) winds up taking Cyrus' words of advice to seize the day -- only he ends up seizing more than just the day with Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington). He finally lets his actions do the talking and the duo rekindle their steamy romance as time runs out and Mellie goes public with a national interview with the "new Anderson Cooper" -- Cyrus' husband, James (Dan Bucatinsky).

So what does the first lady's confession that Fitz had an extramarital affair mean for the president and his apparent upcoming bid for re-election? Are Fitz and Olivia back on for good? Will he revisit divorce? The Hollywood Reporter turned to the Grants
themselves -- Goldwyn and Young -- to get the scoop.

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The Hollywood: Mellie actually went public with news of Fitz's affair! What was your reaction when you read the script?
Tony Goldwyn: I was pretty shocked. Every time we read the script, something outrageous happens. This time, I got the script earlier since I was directing and had an outline ahead of time to process it. I was really excited because one of the things I love about what Shonda Rhimes is doing is that she makes such big moves and you think to yourself that there's no way they can get out of this mess. That's become my favorite thing about Scandal: She paints the story into a corner. The show makes courageous moves, and Mellie pushing a nuclear button is one of them.

THR: Fitz called Mellie on her bluff and she went through with it. How will we see Fitz respond to the news that she went through with it?
Goldwyn: Fitz is willing to take responsibility for it. He had this epiphany after they gave this bulls--- interview on television about being the perfect American couple with the false story of how they met. He confronted Mellie about the fact that they're a politically arranged marriage and asked if she got tired of the lying. She said marriage was all a lie and all pretend and anybody who thinks differently is a fool. Hearing that, Fitz resolved to speak the truth that living this politically manipulative life has led him so far from himself -- literally to near death and destruction -- and he's not having it anymore. He calls Mellie's bluff because he's going to face the truth. Whatever that is, he's going to fight; he doesn't want to go down in flames. He wants Olivia and to operate from a place that is connected to how he always wanted to see himself. Fitz has becomes someone he doesn't even recognize.

THR: What's Mellie's next move now?
Bellamy Young: Well, Mellie's only move is to find a way to make him care. The stakes are, quite simply, losing her identity. As a wife, as a mother, as a partner, as a politician -- to no longer be Mrs. Grant is to lose life as she knows it. And believe me, she is willing to do almost anything to prevent that. 

THR: Fitz chose Olivia over Mellie. Is it safe to say he's committed to being with her even if it costs him re-election?
Goldwyn: Yep! If Olivia is down with it, she is his priority. That's what that entire scene is about between them in her apartment when she doesn't believe Fitz will ever choose her, and she still sees herself as the mistress. If Fitz can prove her wrong about that, then that's the truest thing he can do. The presidency has become something he doesn't recognize. Fitz is proud of the actual work he's done, but from the manipulations of his father, to Defiance -- which rocked him to the core -- to killing Verna and all the insanity that's happened, I do think he loves being president and he believes he could be a great one but there's real ambivalence there.

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THR: The episode ends just at the beginning of the interview. Will we see more of it? Will Mellie go public with who the president's mistress is?
Goldwyn: Mellie always keeps some cards close to her chest and she's no dummy. She wants to maximize her leverage in every possible way. Mellie is still genuinely in love with Fitz. It seems like political suicide to do it but it's all true. Maybe Mellie is trying to set herself up for her own political career or maybe she's trying to get Fitz to bend to her will; it's not quite clear yet.

THR: Olivia now seems recommitted to being with Fitz. Will they go public with their relationship before Mellie does? Will he look to OPA to help rebuild his image?
Goldwyn: He could, but I can't comment on that! Fitz says something significant in tonight's scene with Olivia where he says, "You can't fix the fact that I love you … I'm going to fix things now." Whether he leans on Olivia, she'll certainly want to fix this but we'll have to see what Fitz does. The degree to which Olivia becomes part of the solution becomes an issue in the next episode.

THR: How might we see the news that Fitz was unfaithful go over with the country?
Goldwyn: The reaction is pretty standard for a crisis of this type in terms of the way information is controlled and the way the press go insane. The public's reaction and the management of that is going to be a major task in the final two episodes of the season.

THR: James -- Cyrus' husband! -- is the one Mellie handpicks to do the interview. Is this Mellie's way of getting back at Cyrus?
Goldwyn: That's part of it, but Mellie is smarter than that. It's a way of Mellie stabilizing Cyrus to her advantage. Getting back at Cyrus is a nice thing for Mellie (laughs) but she's too clever to do anything out of vengeance. Having James do the interview, she knows is going to defang Cyrus in a significant way. The taste of blood is a pleasant thing for Mellie, but she never draws blood without a purpose.

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THR: How will the fact that Mellie went public -- to James! -- impact her relationship with Cyrus?
Young: It's a chess game really, isn't it? As long as you're powerful or needed, you can't be sacrificed. Mellie is fighting for her identity now, but she's also fighting for her life -- her life as a wife and mother, as well as her life in Washington. Cy can pull the plug on all that -- literally or metaphorically -- at any moment of weakness or obsolescence. But then Cy's not the only one in Washington with that power and he knows a target is always on his back, too. The stakes are high and folks are risking everything with each decision, each play of the board.

THR: What will Mellie and Fitz's next interaction look like?
Goldwyn: It's complicated. Let's just say she's going down and in a sense Fitz has, too. He's not playing games anymore. I don't think Fitz is afraid of Mellie; she just launched her nuclear missile. Before, Mellie was a problem to be contained and now she's gone Def-Con 4. So what does Fitz have to lose?
Young: If I told you, you wouldn't believe me. Let's just say, it will be a familiar tableau but with an entirely new meaning.  

THR: Fitz is committed to being with Olivia. Will we see him revisit divorce?
Goldwyn: For sure, that's Fitz's intention and first on the table. It becomes an issue and something that must be dealt with. It's a political problem and a problem for Mellie and Olivia, but that's what gets Olivia out of the chair in tonight's episode -- she doesn't believe in him and it's implicit in him saying he's going to "choose" and "earn" her.
Young: Mellie and Fitz have a long, difficult road ahead of them that's full of twists even I can't imagine. The one thing I think I can say for sure is that none of it will be easy. With so many hearts involved, with so much history, with the added layer of living in the public eye, it's going to be a very complicated, very human mess for a long while to come. 

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THR: Will Olivia tell Fitz that she was with Jake? Will Jake reveal that to his old friend?
Goldwyn: That's a mess that she has to deal with. Jake is not happy about [her relationship with Fitz] and Jake is going to have to choose. We still don't understand who Jake is and what his relationship with Rowan [Joe Morton] is. Rowan wants him to take out Charlie [George Newbern] and there's this weird relationship. Is Rowan responsible for the attack on Olivia? How is Jake implicated in that? Is he Fitz's guy? No one really knows. That uncertainty about Jake will play out in the next two episodes. If Fitz ever found out about that, it would absolutely devastate him because the two people he felt he could trust -- Olivia again, and Jake, who is someone he took under his wing -- obviously he can't.

THR: Cyrus offered to "take care" of Olivia. Is that something Mellie is still entertaining?
Young: I don't think Mellie ever thought of "take care of" in the darkest sense. Mellie's capable of a lot, but she stops far short of that. Now, would she be thrilled if finally Cyrus would get the Olivia Problem under control? Absolutely! She's entertaining any allies in that fight. And it serves a common goal: She keeps her family, which helps Cy stay in office. As formidable as they are as enemies, Cy and Mellie are unstoppable as friends. 

THR: Cyrus was proven to not be the mole, while Jake still seems very much mixed up in B613. Will who he's working for surprise us?
Goldwyn: It will surprise you (laughs) for sure. It won't all be resolved; it's very complicated, but it will be shocking and really interesting and launch us into our hopeful third season with a lot of energy.

THR: You directed this episode -- the first time you've directed your own show. How was the experience?
Goldwyn: It was amazing and different than anything I've ever done, even though I've directed a lot of television before, because this is like my family. It gave me a chance to work with everyone on the OPA team. It's such a different energy than working in the White House; it's like going to high school over there. We laugh in the White House but we're like the grown-ups, all our scenes are serious, long and intense. Their scenes fly like crazy with tons of revealing plot, a super-fast pace. They keep their energy up by goofing around all the time. I was also nervous about it because I had a love scene. It's ABC and things don't get too revealing but our sex scenes are emotionally graphic and it's pretty intense.

What did you think of Fitz's choice and Mellie's decision to go public? How do you think things will play out in the final two episodes of Scandal's second season? Hit the comments below with your thoughts. Scandal airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on ABC. Check out a promo for next week's episode below.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@thr.com; Twitter: @Snoodit