'Scandal' Case Study: Josh Malina on David's Growing Loyalty to OPA

Scandal Josh Malina Columbus Short - H 2013

Scandal Josh Malina Columbus Short - H 2013

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Thursday's "Molly, You In Danger, Girl" episode of Scandal.]

RIP, Osborne, we hardly knew you.

During Thursday's episode of Scandal, Olivia Pope & Associates learn that the head of the CIA wasn't really the mole. With help from David (Josh Malina), whose life is in jeopardy, OPA uncovers the truth about Molly -- that she was paid $100,000 to lead OPA into believing that Osborne was the mole.

As the team of Gladiators -- including David, aka a "Gladiator in a helmet" -- works to uncover the truth, Huck is beaten and left for dead inside a locked box in a storage unit. The culprit: Cyrus' personal assassin Charlie (what White House chief of staff doesn't have one of those?!) -- who was just leaving the hospital. There, Olivia (Kerry Washington) has learned that her new boyfriend Jake (Scott Foley) has been spying on her for her ex -- President Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn).

Is David inching closer to becoming a Gladiator full-time? What might that mean for his relationship with Abby -- who still has feelings for the guy whose career she helped ruin? Can he trust her again? The Hollywood Reporter turned to Malina to discuss the burning questions lingering from this week's episode.

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The Hollywood Reporter: David is beginning to see what OPA really does in this episode and starts acting like a "Gladiator in a helmet." How much of that is born out of trying to protect himself since this case directly relates to his safety?
Josh Malina: That is true. In my mind, he's got this self-preservation involved. I like to think that bubbling underneath it all -- even as he needs them -- is some resentment of how he's been treated by the Gladiators and maybe some ulterior motive. He does need their help, but it pays for him to be where he is. The truth of just how wrong they've done him -- is there any way to stick it to them in the future? -- I don't know if that's on anyone's mind, other than my own. I don't know if my future is there but it's starting to feel like it is. He has a place there, and he's a piece of that puzzle.  

THR: After David and OPA help prove that Osborne wasn't the mole, how will we see him work with the team to crack the case?
Malina: By nature, David is a riddle solver and a justice fighter. Even if there are parts of him that wonder, Can I really work with these people? He can't help himself, particularly something he is this close to. David is trying to crack that nut -- he's that close. He will be a part of it to the extent that they'll allow him to be. They have a comfy couch, which I think helps [laughs]; and he does know whatever else they're capable of or responsible for they're pretty good at protecting someone. Being that close to Huck, assuming he's not trying to kill you, he's a good person to be close to in terms of personal safety. There is a skillset David brings to the table in terms of solving things like this. They're wary of him to the same extent that he's wary of them, but they also have a mutual need for each other.

THR: David gets Abby to confess she still has feelings for him. Does he still have romantic feelings for her?
Malina: Pissed is a feeling, right? (Laughs.) He definitely still has feelings for her. Layered in there somewhere are feelings of attraction; they've had more hate sex than they've had love sex. He's very straightforward and says, "I cannot trust somebody who has treated me the way you have." He knows what she's done, and she won't admit it; they're at a real stalemate. It was her last chance to come clean and take a baby step on road to recovering that trust but she won't do it. Olivia commands so much loyalty that she's not going to give it up for David. There still could be some sort of relationship there, but it's not going to be what most people really want: the full trust and loyalty.

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THR: He shuts Abby down after noting that he can't trust her when she continues to lie about stealing his Cytron card -- and the smoking gun to Defiance. Is that the one thing standing between them as a couple?
Malina: It is the one obstacle toward taking that first baby step. I'm not sure that coming clean in that scene would have been a very quick road to a great relationship, but it would have been tiny crack of light to the possibility of one. In a way, too, it was manipulative. He set her up to slam-dunk her; he knew where that whole interaction was headed and it wasn't the nicest thing. He can be a calculating son of a bitch at times and that was a piece of emotional gamesmanship.  

THR: Will Abby ever change her tune about stealing the Cytron card?
Malina: Olivia is the kind of person who -- even if she's been the cause of people's misery -- likes to address it and try to help people. I can see her trying but I don't know how well it will work out.

THR: Molly turns up dead but David doesn't seem overly worried at this point. Why is he so calm?
Malina: I noticed that. He didn't seem upset for her, not that they were close (laughs). Either he's playing things very close to the vest and doesn't feel like he's in the safest environment to emotionally share what he's thinking, or the guy's a little bit dead inside -- there's an element to that. It's got be scary; the guy can't even sleep in his house! He's dispossessed of anything that was his life: He can't live at his house, his job is long gone -- he didn't appear to be showing up to teach his 10th graders. It all seems to be seriously unraveled and David's life is on the edge. The last time his finances were discussed, his nana was paying his rent. Things are not going well for this guy. We're going to get clues, sooner than later about what's emotionally going on. Fear must be a part of it.

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THR: How will we see Abby and David working together to try and find the mole when they're being forced to trust one another as Gladiators?
Malina: It's weird for him to join this team of people that includes Abby and their rather complex history; that's a tough team to work with closely. There are a lot of questions posed by the possibility of David becoming a Gladiator and working with them more closely. They have very different ethical inclinations. David's inclination -- and almost 100 percent through action -- is to wear the white hat and to do things a certain way. He's been schooled a little bit about, "This is why you don't call police; this is why you do things this way." There's always going to be a strong moral problem he has working the way OPA generally works.

THR: David says "There's nobody better" than OPA. Is he on a career trajectory to join OPA?
Malina: Olivia likes a good project -- as long as it's not herself (laughs). She likes to find people in desperate need of help and David seems to be prime Gladiator material. She likes to get you when you're down and offer you all sorts of great things and at the same time, you're working for her and she's got emotional leverage on you. All the ingredients are there but you never know. Every time we live tweet, there 100 tweets about David being a Gladiator. He has a lot of fans.

THR: Olivia learned Jake is working for Fitz at the end of the episode. How will her realization that Jake has been spying on her -- with someone breaking into her apartment -- impact OPA?
Malina: I don't know the answer yet to how that's going to play out in terms of David potentially working for her but he will be a part of that. Things are really brewing and there are a lot of ingredients in that pot and things are about to boil over. We're getting to point where we're going to find out who knows what. When Tony Goldwyn was directing, all the actors had discussions about who knows what about Olivia's personal l ife and everybody else had a different thing. It's clear that David knows the least and there's some stuff coming up that shows that he really has no inkling. Everyone, soon, is going to have to start to grapple with some of the darker aspects of her life.

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THR: How will David help Huck rebound from being "boxed" in?
Malina: Guillermo Diaz is brilliant. He's going to get nominated for an Emmy. I kept asking, "Can't you put David in a box? Come on! You don't need to make the audience love Huck more; everybody loves him! Put David in a box!" But that's not going to happen. David has seen Huck at his lowest and in the most raw, horrific situation to be in: torture. They do have a connection, in that sense. David appreciates Huck for who he is; that he's even up and walking around and a conscious human being is a testament to this guy's will. David would go to bat for Huck in any way that he needed him. Huck is not the kind of guy to ask for help. I'd love to see a situation where David could go to bat for him.

Do you think David is on a path to becoming a full-time Gladiator? How do you think OPA will help Huck rebound? What about that shocker with Olivia and Jake? Hit the comments below with your thoughts. Scandal airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.

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