'Scandal' Case Study: Lisa Kudrow Says Josie is 'In It to Win It'

The "Friends" alum previews a new scandal for the Democratic hopeful and talks working with producing partner Dan Bucatinsky in THR's weekly postmortem.
"Scandal's" Lisa Kudrow, right, with Kerry Washington and Darby Stanchfield

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the "Icarus" episode of ABC's Scandal.]

Lisa Kudrow's Sen. Josie Marcus emerged as a bonafide challenger to Sen. Tom Reston (Tom Amandes) on the Democratic ticket for president during Thursday's Scandal.

While Olivia (Kerry Washington) was flashing back the day of her mother's (Khandi Alexander) death and she, Jake (Scott Foley) and Huck (Guillermo Diaz) were pushing President Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn) for the truth about Operation Remington, the woman with the eyes on the White House shed her "nice" image and used a primetime interview with James (Dan Bucatinsky) to emerge as a real front-runner on the ticket. Marcus, much to the chagrin of her daughter, Candy, accused Reston -- and James! -- of being sexist, turning a corner in her campaign, securing financial donors and setting the stage for another face-off with her Democratic challenger.

But Marcus didn't get there on her own. With Olivia on board as her campaign manager -- the Gladiator turned down returning to the White House after learning Fitz may have been the man who shot down the plane with her mother on board -- OPA creates a fake ad from Reston's camp to fire up Marcus. Worse: Candy -- who worked diligently to protect her mother's image -- connects Abby to the ad and questions the lengths the Gladiators in suits will go to in order to win.

The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Kudrow to talk all things Scandal, reuniting with her producing partner Bucatinsky and what's next.

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What was your response when you found out that your character would be in the running to be the first female president of the United States?

I thought, "Who's going to believe that!" (Laughs.) [Showrunner] Shonda Rhimes and [writer/EP] Mark Wilding were saying the role wasn't Sarah Palin, it was that kind of straight-talking person who captures the attention of the public. She's not a fast-talking politician; she's someone who we think is a good person.

Josie's daughter, Candy, is very passionate about this campaign. Might that create some trouble for Josie?

It feels like she's got propriety issues and she's wondering why Josie invited these people [OPA] into their campaign and life because they're sneaky. It seems like that's bugging her and Candy wants to prove herself as being competent. It could create a problem, but I can't say more!

Candy confronts Abby about the bogus Reston ad and the lengths OPA will go to in order to win. Could that prove an obstacle for Josie's campaign?

It feels more like a competitive friction. Next week's episode is a little more of Candy trying to show she can handle the campaign. There's this other situation that happens next week when one of Josie's staff members' computer laptops goes missing. That starts a whole scandal for the campaign and for Olivia Pope & Associates to deal with. It pushes Josie to the limit on how far she's willing to go in politics because it's a dirty game and you have to sell parts of your soul to get ahead. We've seen that tested with Josie having to admit that she had a child when she was 15. She managed to negotiate that secret and still keep her family in tact. Tonight's episode, Josie was getting pushed up against a wall and she really has to fight and hit hard. We keep seeing her get tested because politics isn't an ethical business, which is the irony of it because it's all meant to be in public service.

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At the end of the episode, Josie goes on the offensive during her interview with James. Is this something she'll continue to do?

Yes. That's what I think this is about: Seeing how much a person can hold on to their personal integrity and stay in the game because the game is not about personal integrity. We saw it anyway with Josie having meetings with the lobbyists that she wasn't going to do but now she has to do it because there's an actual possibility she could win the nomination, and now she needs the money. And she wants to win -- she's in it to win it!

Does Josie really think she can win the party's nomination?

With tonight's episode, she does.

Are we going to see Josie and Reston come face-to-face again?

I'm not allowed to say (laughs).

What was it like filming such an intense scene opposite your longtime friend and producing partner Dan Bucatinsky?

I wasn't looking at Dan, I was looking at James, and Dan is good at being James! It wasn't hard. We worked together on The Comeback and Web Therapy, and I knew I could trust him fully. That part was really easy and then in between takes, when it was lunch, it was business about [TLC's] Who Do You Think You Are? We were working!

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Should Josie's bid for president not work out, could we see her wind up on the ticket as a vice presidential candidate with Reston?

It all depends on how much Josie Marcus can take in that level of political arena. It's a whole other level; it's huge jump going from congresswoman from a district in Montana to this kind of stage and forum. It's day and night. I think Josie feels confident that she has good judgment and determination and could get the right people around her to do things and steer the ship.

You've been getting to flex your drama muscles on Scandal, how does this process compare to a show like Friends?

It's very different. The pace is so different and the intensity is different. I was grateful that this character was by nature not as intense as others just because she's supposed to be someone from Montana who is straight-talking and not too crafty and calculating but still determined. I really loved Josie's rant tonight because I've noticed that when there's a formidable woman candidate or politician and she's being interviewed by a guy who doesn't agree with what she's saying and he's losing the argument, they seem to fall back on, "You look pretty today," or something like that, which you'd never say to Joe Biden.

What do you think of Josie's chances against Reston? Do you think she'd give Fitz a run for his money in a presidential election? Hit the comments below with your thoughts. Scandal airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.

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