'Scandal' Surprise: Familiar Face Enters the Race for President

Scandal S05E15 Still 2 - H 2016
Greg Gayne/ABC

Scandal S05E15 Still 2 - H 2016

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Thursday's "Pencil's Down" episode of Scandal.]

Another ghost from Scandal's past resurfaced Thursday, throwing his hat into an increasingly crowded race for the White House.

Olivia's ex-boyfriend Edison Davis (Norm Lewis) emerged to become the second Democratic candidate for president and he has a surprising backer: Olivia's father, Rowan (Joe Morton). Edison's arrival comes as Scandal is looking to depict what would be the first African-American president of the United States, as the Shonda Rhimes drama exists in a world where Obama and Clinton do not exist. The reveal also marked the latest parallel with the country's current political climate after Scandal added a Trump-like Republican candidate in Hollis Doyle (Gregg Henry).

Edison's arrival comes as OPA figures out that Jake is engaged to a woman that he and Rowan are using to financially back their candidate for the White House. While Edison — thus far, anyway — has no blood on his hands and plans to run a clean campaign, Olivia drags him into the mud when she reveals his big secret to fellow Democratic hopeful Frankie Vargas: she helped put her ex in rehab.

It all comes to a head after Olivia's candidate — Hillary Clinton-like former first lady Mellie Grant — has seen her approval rating dwindle and is running last among fellow Republican hopefuls Susan Ross and Hollis Doyle.

Here, Lewis talks with THR about his surprise return, hopes for the White House and those mean tweets about Edison.

Did you know you'd be a presidential candidate on the show when you were asked to return?

No, not at all! When I got the scripts, obviously, yes. But when they checked my availability I said I'd be demoted to a janitor just to be on the show! But when I found out Edison was running for president, that was really cool.

Scandal exists in a world where there is no Obama or Trump, but is taking on both in its presidential race with Edison and Hollis, respectively. How similar would you say Edison is to Obama?

I actually [based] my character around what Obama is. I try to be as elegant, gracious and smart — and have all the qualities that he presents in this world — I try to have embodied in Edison Davis. I hope that comes through subtextually.

What kind of platform does Edison have?

He's somebody who has all the educational credentials to back him up, but for my understanding, he's always been a good guy. He's always been someone to fight for what's right and equal justice. The fact that he's a Democrat — it's serendipitous. I grew up in Florida and Edison is a Democrat from Florida. Fighting that fight in a Red State is a very interesting parallel to Edison fighting for a lot of things in this country because we have a Republican Congress.

Edison is working for Rowan — and, despite Olivia's warnings, doesn't think he's a "monster." Does Edison really believe Rowan has his best interests in mind?

Rowan is a very powerful man with a colorful background. Edison needs help. He's African-American and having that clout behind him as well with Rowan and the history that Rowan has portrayed — even though it is very colorful — it seems he's at least done some good things. Edison needs that extra boost, which is why he said yes [to having him run his campaign].

Will Edison run a clean campaign despite having Rowan in his corner? He's one of the few people on this show who doesn't have blood on his hands.

[Laughing] In Shondaland you don't know what's going to happen. There's a lot of twists and turns. I have no idea where this storyline is going. I'm trying to follow what's being written but seeing other characters do a 180, I wouldn't be surprised [if Edison changed]. But for now, in my mind, I think he's going to try and run a pretty decent and honest campaign.

Who does Edison see as his biggest competition?

I'm just finding out about Frankie Vargas but Edison is concentrating on trying to win the primary and Democratic nomination. But when Edison does win that (laughing) — I'm projecting that right now! — I think Susan Ross because she's so strong. Hollis, is almost a parallel of Donald Trump, is totally going to fizzle out. I don't know this; I'm just saying this off the cuff. But Susan has the credentials, experience and a lot of people like her. Right now, she's feeling a little overwhelmed with this whole idea and people see that. But strategically, there seems to be some amazing things that are going on with her. I think people are going to be drawn to her.

There's a presidential debate coming next week between the Democratic candidates. How will Edison carry himself? Will he sling some mud or continue to take the high road?

In any debate situation — even watching Obama in his very first election with Hillary Clinton — even though they were contemporaries and even though they got along, there still was some mud-slinging and defending of himself and trying to project some things out there as well. That's how you have to do it. Even Bernie Sanders right now started off being someone who didn't sling any mud but then he had to see what was going on and the way to play the game. That might be the way that it might end up for Edison.

How will the debate mirror what we've seen this election cycle?

I'm not sure. What I read in the script was one thing but there have been some twists and turns and changes so I'm not sure yet!

Olivia sold out Edison to help Mellie — and to get back at him for calling her the monster. How might he respond to Olivia playing dirty?

Olivia and Edison have always had this cat and mouse game. Edison still has a thing for Olivia — even though he's been hurt. But he feels that he needed to help her [before]. But with this, it solidifies what she does — her occupation and how she's had to navigate through life so it's not unexpected.

He still has romantic feelings for Olivia?!

I think so! That's my subtext. When you go after someone like that and you name-call and go at them in a very strong way, there has to be some sort of deep feelings. Edison is married now but I really think Edison did that in order to get over his love and feelings for Olivia. 

There was so much vitriol directed at Edison when he was romantically paired with Olivia. Did you keep up with any of that on Twitter?

(Laughing) I did! Edison was the good guy and the good guy doesn't necessarily keep the ratings up, if you know what I mean! If Olivia were actually going to come to me, then there's no drama. So for her to have that love, lust and strong, deep feelings for Fitz, it's totally understandable. It's the tragic love story. So you have to keep the ball rolling in that regard. But Edison was a nice balance to that, but after a while, you need something else to give it a boost! That good time can only last so long for Edison!

This election is getting dirty and Scandal is such a twisty show — how hard will Edison fight to maintain his morality?

He's going to try and fight with every fiber of his being to stay good, but he's also in bed with Rowan! I think there's going to be some major meetings on how to manipulate his way throughout this campaign.

Wrapping up, do you think Edison has a serious shot at winning the White House?

I think so! I feel there's going to have to be a lot of changes to his personality and a lot of changes to the things he's believed in before. He's going to have to do a lot of soul-searching to understand what that job is all about. He can't just keep the idealistic way of thinking that he'd displayed so far. He's going to have to change a little bit. But I think he has a good shot.  

What do you think of Edison's surprise return? Sound off in the comments below. Scandal airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on ABC.