'Scandal' Case Study: Jeff Perry Says Cyrus Has 'Blown Up His Marriage'

The actor behind the president's chief of staff talks with THR about his character's " grievous miscalculation" and what's ahead in our weekly postmortem.
ABC/Eric McCandless
"Scandal's" Jeff Perry and Dan Bucatinsky

As one marriage continued to crumble, another was pushed to the brink during Thursday's Scandal. Meanwhile, Rowan's estranged wife Maya demanded to see her daughter and took things into her own hands in order to make it happen.

During the hour, Olivia (Kerry Washington) attempted to permanently cut her ties to Fitz (Tony Goldwyn), but was unable to after seeing the McMansion dream house that the president had built for the future that he once saw for them. Olivia overlooks the fact that Fitz was responsible for shooting down the commercial airliner with her mother on board, and the on-again, off-again duo are not just back but better -- and hotter -- than ever.

Olivia, riding high after she and the president commit to find out the truth about why Rowan (Joe Morton) ordered Fitz to shoot down the commercial airliner, comes face-to-face with her mother after Maya (Khandi Alexander) escapes custody. As OPA continues to track leads on who killed the last link to Operation Remington, Huck (Guillermo Diaz) figures out that Quinn (Katie Lowes) was responsible and sets up shop -- torture tools and all -- in her apartment.

Meanwhile, Cyrus (Jeff Perry) is teaming with Mellie (Bellamy Young) to out Sally's (Kate Burton) husband Daniel (Jack Coleman) -- and uses James (Dan Bucatinsky) as the bait. Only their plan backfires -- James has figured out that Cy set him up with the cushy freelance gig to protect Fitz. Ultimately, Cy's plan appears to backfire as well after the photographer sends him exactly what he wanted -- and more: James and Daniel breaking their respective marital vows together.

The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Perry to preview what's next for Cyrus and James.

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The insinuation that James cheated on Cyrus with Daniel is a big emotional blow for him. How does he feel after seeing these photos?

I think Cyrus' brain, in a horrifying two seconds, calculates that he has in a single, gigantic miscalculation ruined Fitz's chance for re-election and blown up his marriage. It couldn't be worse.

Does Cyrus really believe that James slept with Daniel?

He believes he did, yes. He's got Mellie's warning ringing in his ears when she says "You can't go back," and Cyrus says semi-sensitively, "My husband isn't yours." He would never cheat is the implication. It's been black-and-white to him: "Oh, my God. He did. And I set it up -- without any contingency plan." That's a major miscalculation for Cyrus because he didn't believe there ever needed to be a contingency plan on that level of the scheme.

What does this say about Cyrus' family values? He risked his marriage for Fitz -- again putting the president above his own marriage.

He tremendously miscalculated and went at least a couple steps too far. Cyrus feeds Mellie this enticement to Daniel Douglas that he and James have an open marriage. If the previous steps of Cyrus' scheme weren't a step too far, that's the Achilles-heel step that went too far because unbeknownst to Cyrus, James hears that from Daniel as well, and it's really a revenge adultery moment: "If you're going to use me like a whore, I'm going to act like a whore."

Knowing what he does about Fitz and Olivia, did Cyrus expect James to be different?

It's a grievous miscalculation. No; it rather completely blindsides him.

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Why wasn't Cyrus honest with James that he'd learned Daniel was gay and have James "discover" that during his interview to use the press to discredit Sally? James is someone he can trust. Why not try a more by-the-book approach to discrediting them?

Your exact question is pounding in his brain seconds after he looks at those pictures. I played this like a sneaky thief and Cyrus realizes that he should not have done that. It was a very cruel underestimation of James. He was someone he used, when once in a while the truth will do better.

What might Cyrus do with the photos now that he appears to have the smoking gun? Will he sacrifice his own marriage in order to keep Fitz in the White House?

The problem for Cyrus on that level is that these [photos] are useless as blackmail, that he can't leverage Sally with them. Whether he will try to or not, I don't know. He almost had his husband assassinated in order to keep president in office but he drew a line there and said, "Forget it. I'm out of work, Fitz is out of work, it'll blow up, but I'm not killing my husband." I don't think Cyrus quite knows how far he's willing to go. That was one demarcation but this is a different one.

James is now aware that his husband was using him to protect Fitz. How might James respond to how little Cyrus seems to value him?

Cyrus is horrified at how he would possibly justify or explain this one within the marriage. We leave Cyrus just horrified; I don't think he knows what to do.

In the past, James has been able to challenge Cyrus -- their naked showdown was legendary. James isn't willing to do that here and plays the same chess game with Cyrus. How will they try to outsmart the other?

When you go down that road, that's a cold war that is getting darker and colder. My guess is that's where they're headed: to a colder and darker war -- if they can even stay together.

Is this the beginning of the end of Cyrus and James' marriage?

Possibly. Cyrus desperately trying to fix stuff has suddenly made it possibly unfixable on both levels -- his marriage and Fitz's re-election.

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Sounds like a job for Olivia Pope. Could Cyrus get Olivia on board to help fix his issues with James, Daniel and Sally? Mellie is ready to bring her back in now that Josie is out of the race.

I have to think that's going through his head, yes. If Olivia came to him the next morning ,or he had a plan that included that necessity and Olivia could fix it. That's a given for me in Cyrus' make up: It's not personal ego that drives him -- he has plenty of it -- but ultimately it's strangely idealistic. Fitz can make a difference as a president if we can get through all the B.S. that he -- or we -- or our opponents have created. As for Cyrus' marriage, it's devastating. Emotionally, he's completely unmoored. James is the love of his life, and it's deeply ironic that he's attacking Daniel for being closeted because he's been closeted much of his life. This is the first and real love of his life and with James, this is the first time Cyrus has been able self-esteem-wise to hold hands in public and say, "I am married to a man."

Despite being fired, James is still a savvy reporter. How will he use the information that Daniel is gay? Could he attempt to sell the story to another outlet?

Yes! James' expertise and ammunition as journalist would include that possibility.

How might Mellie respond to finding out that she may have been right about James betraying Cyrus? Does this make Cy respect Mellie a bit more?

In a bitterly sad way, yes.

In last week's episode, we saw the first time Cyrus -- then married to a woman! -- meet Fitz and Olivia. Could we find out more about his coming out story at some point?

I wouldn't be surprised! I love when the writers chose to go into back history. I wouldn't be surprised if they've got a number of those up their sleeve. 

What did you think of Cyrus and James' story? How do you think they'll handle the betrayal? Hit the comments below with your thoughts. Scandal airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.

E-mail: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
Twitter: @Snoodit