'Scandal' Stars on the Shondaland Drama's Long-Lasting Legacy

Kerry Washington, Tony Goldwyn and company talk with THR about how they want the fast-paced Washington, D.C., soap to be remembered.
Richard Cartwright/ABC
Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope on "Scandal."

For ABC's Scandal, the beginning of the end starts Thursday when ABC's Shondaland drama returns for its seventh and final season.

The remaining 18 episodes will pick up with former first lady Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young) as the newly elected president of the U.S., while Olivia (Kerry Washington) serves as her chief of staff — and head of black-ops group B613 — making her technically the most powerful woman in the country.

But before the political maneuvering begins and series creator Shonda Rhimes takes the Gladiators on a fast-paced adventure through Washington, D.C.'s back rooms (and bedrooms), THR hit the Scandal set to ask the cast about how they want their show remembered when it comes to its legacy.

Kerry Washington (Olivia)
I hope that we leave a legacy of groundbreaking storytelling [that's] unpredictable. I hope that people remember being a little bit more alive because of our show. We take you on a ride of intensity, fear, romance and elation, whatever it is, but you feel more alive every Thursday at 10 p.m. when the show is over and you're more connected. That is an important part of our legacy.

Tony Goldwyn (Fitz)
Scandal straddled this line between completely satisfying, escapist fun, popcorn and red wine entertainment and very unflinching confrontational, in-your-face social commentary without even being commentary. And Scandal has done it in a way that is so well balanced. If it ever starts to take itself too seriously, it goes off into just fun territory. When it starts to get too light, all of the sudden Shonda smacks you in the gut with something you were not ready for. That's the legacy. We look at the political times we've been living in, through the Obama years and now the Trump years and Scandal is this bizarre, really interesting reflection of that. In terms of what Shonda and Scandal have done to normalize diversity, things that maybe were the exception — because you see it every week — becomes normal. The fact that Olivia is black and Fitz is white — I remember when we did the pilot that was like, [gasp!] how are people going to react to this? He's an adulterer and there's an interracial love affair. Is that too bold? Now it's like, ha! Or the fact that the chief of staff, who is a Republican, was gay. Now that would be rather unexceptional.

Bellamy Young (Mellie)
Shonda makes sure that everybody has a seat at the table. She hires for a soul and whatever your body looks like doesn't matter. She is committed to everyone's story being told in a way that is whole, complete and complicated. I believe that in the current world context, that part of the legacy that Shonda wants to give is acclimating people to the sight of a woman in power. I hope I can be a small part of people getting used to that. I know what it meant to me to see Dennis Haysbert once a week [as the president] on 24. There have been a lot of female presidents of late on our televisions and I'm proud to be among the ranks of those amazing women. Getting these seven years to watch a groundbreaking — because of the color of her skin — lead woman be complicated and explore her morality in a real way was gift enough.

Scott Foley (Jake)
Legacy-wise, I have a feeling that it's going to be reduced to one of the first shows to live-tweet and one of the political shows in a politically charged climate. But somewhere along the lines, it's gotten a little lost that Kerry Washington was the first African-American woman to be the lead of an hourlong drama on network television in something like 48 years. The show broke a lot of stereotypes and a lot of new ground doing things along those lines and I hope that doesn't get lost.

Joe Morton (Rowan)
On some level, Shonda is the legacy. She broke all kinds of things by becoming the producer of this show, How to Get Away With Murder and Grey's Anatomy and she's moving on up, as it were [with a big Netflix deal]. Here's this black woman that managed, in a very strange time politically, to accomplish a great deal in this business.

Jeff Perry (Cyrus)
Women of true dimension, character and flaws in power — Shonda has explored it as well as anybody has in her generation and I think that's going to reverberate.

George Newbern (Charlie)
It's leaving a legacy on so many levels — Kerry's character is groundbreaking; the style of the show is new and a lot of other shows have emulated that. And the social media aspect is another legacy that is really reverberating. Scandal fully realized that.

Cornelius Smith (Marcus)
It's my hope that if where we are in today's world, Scandal will continue to renew itself in how relevant the stories were and the issues that we touched and commented on.

Darby Stanchfield (Abby)
I'm still processing saying goodbye. I haven't thought about [the legacy] in a large cultural entertainment context. I'm sure that's part of the processing but I haven't let myself go there. I think that would make me sad.

Scandal's final season premieres Thursday at 9 p.m. on ABC. What kind of legacy do you think the show will leave behind? Sound off in the comments section, below. Bookmark THR.com/Scandal for more final-season coverage.