'Scandal's' Darby Stanchfield Warns of "Huge" Midseason Finale Cliffhanger: A "Big Bomb Is Dropped"

The actress talks with THR about a romance between Jake and Abby and playing the "most evolved" character on the Shonda Rhimes drama.
Michael Desmond/ABC

ABC's Scandal is proving that getting what you want doesn't always work out the way you want it to.

It would have been hard to imagine that Olivia (Kerry Washington) and Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) could be anything but happy with Mellie (Bellamy Young) out of the way and their love accepted by the public. But instead, Abby (Darby Stanchfield) has emerged as the "most evolved" person on the drama — according to showrunner Shonda Rhimes.

Here, Stanchfield talks with THR about Thursday's midseason finale, Abby's motivations, parallels with Jake (is romance a possibility?!) — and if there's anything Olivia could do that would ever jeopardize their relationship.

Abby has such an interesting relationship with Olivia this year. They've been sworn enemies, and worked together to protect the White House again. Is there anything that Olivia could do that would permanently alter their relationship?

I've thought about that a lot throughout this season. Olivia seems to be the one person that Abby really considers her family. She's fiercely loyal, and they do have their ups and downs and their bumps in the road, but I'm not sure there's much. Their friendship seems to be on this level of family, where there's not a man who could come between them — that type of thing. Knowing Scandal, their relationship may continue to be tested, but there has been a real shift, just in this last season.

Olivia seems to now be treating Abby as an equal now.

Yes! There was a crucial turning point when Olivia lied to Abby [about still romantically seeing Fitz]. That was pretty big betrayal. Abby called Olivia out and they had a big blowout — and there's a mutual understanding between them and Abby forgives her on some level. There was a turning point. After this last confrontation, I feel like there's just been this huge shift for the rest of the season of Abby earning Olivia's respect; she's realized that Abby is good at her job and has been learning from Olivia. Abby has proven she's good at her job and we'll see more of that. … Abby's definitely returning Olivia's [early season] favors and is coming into a power of her own. It's not this typical competitive and threatening women thing. There's a mutual respect; they support each other and they continue to need each other.

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Jake (Scott Foley) has had a similar relationship with Olivia: he was her protector when the news first came out about Olivia's relationship with Fitz and now holds her responsible for the death of his wife. Jake and Abby have both been tortured by Olivia in a way. Do you think there's a world where Jake and Abby could work, romantically?

You should join the Scandal writing staff. I have not thought about their parallel. There is something really interesting about that. I don't know what is in store for Abby's personal life. It seems to be on the backburner quite a bit this season and I love that. I love that the bulk of the storyline for Abby has been her love of work and her love of her job, and her coming into her own as a powerful woman, and being able to outgrow the past. The only reservation I have about [Jake and Abby together] is I feel like Olivia and Abby have found a place again where they're really strong in their relationship and they're really loyal — and Jake's is the other guy. I don't see Abby touching Olivia's solar system of love interests.

What's Abby's ultimate goal? She's so driven, but what is she striving for, aside from doing a great job and helping the president?

Abby doesn't seem like someone who wants to take over the world or take down B613 or kill a bunch of people. I was shocked — both times — when she had information to blackmail Cyrus (Jeff Perry) with and all she does is say, "I've got this information so you behave." And she does it again when she finds out Elizabeth North (Portia de Rossi) leaked the photos of Olivia and the president. I was sure when Abby figured that out she was going to say, "OK bitch, you're mine." But instead, she just said, "I just want equality, I want you to treat me as an equal, we need to work as a team, you need to stop doubting me and ordering me around." I'm left scratching my head a bit about Abby because she's so different from the other characters in this world in that she's not trying to get out of a scandal or cover up a scandal. She doesn't have a lot of mess to clean up or hide, or run from. I was at dinner with [showrunner] Shonda Rhimes the other night and she said, "Abby really is the most evolved person on the show." So what does a highly evolved Scandal character want going forward? I don't know.

Rowan has traditionally been the force of all evil on the show and now he's being hunted by Jake and has been captured by Huck. Are we rooting for Huck to go dark once and for all and take Rowan out, or for Rowan to survive and save Huck?

Rowan does seem to the be the Darth Vader of the show. Huck has all these motives [to take Rowan out]. Everything that's happened with him not being able to see his family and they're always in danger if Rowan's around. It's good and bad mixed up together. Having him on the dark side, yes, you know maybe it would be for the greater good of saving a bunch of people's lives.

How would you describe the midseason finale? Will there be a cliffhanger?

There is a huge cliffhanger. Huge. The Scandal writers really blew their wad with this one and it sets up a question of where are we going to go from here because they just blew out this big plotline, which I wasn't expecting to see until way down the line. There's big plot stuff that happens with some of our most beloved characters, so there's an absolute cliffhanger and it happens in very Shonda Rhimes style, at the end of the show. It will have all the fans talking until we come back in February. Everybody's going to be debating what that means.

Any deaths?
Not directly linked to the big bomb that is dropped. There might be one or two little side deaths, but it's hard to count! (Laughing.)

Scandal's midseason finale airs Thursday at 9 p.m. on ABC.