'Scandal' Will Jump Six Months, Feature Mellie in Race for Presidency

Tony Goldwyn - Screen shot  Scandal video - H 2015
Courtesy of HULU/ABC

ABC's Scandal isn't wasting any time in jumping back into the action when season five resumes Feb. 11. When the series returns from its holiday break, six months will have passed and the race for president will be in full swing.

To hear star Tony Goldwyn tell it, showrunner Shonda Rhimes is finding inspiration from the current election cycle and Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young) is officially running for president amid a roster of "surprising" new faces.

The Hollywood Reporter caught up with the actor on Saturday night at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour party to discuss what his future with the Washington-set soap could be after Fitz (Goldwyn) is no longer in office. Plus, how is the president coping after his break-up with Olivia (Kerry Washington), who was last seen celebrating Christmas after aborting the president's baby?

Will there be a time jump when season five resumes?

We've got a six-month time jump. It's very different. We find Fitz completely alone and struggling with life on his own and sort of viciously estranged from Mellie, although they're trying to co-parent. And Fitz and Olivia are not in contact. It's very difficult for him to be alone. He's leaning very heavily on Abby and really focusing on work. But he's been a bit of a monk for six months and has never been alone — he's not good at it. The show, overall, everybody is pushing in a new direction. Olivia is in a very strange and interesting place. And Mellie is running for president. What we're getting into now is the trajectory of the campaign is heating up.

Mellie is officially running for president?

Yes, and other candidates start to emerge. Susan Ross is someone Fitz is trying to look out for and we get into that and that ambition.

Is Susan running for president, too?

She's thinking about it.

That's almost Trump-level.

We get into the machinery of that, which is really interesting.

Is Scandal taking on Donald Trump a bit?

We'll see. That's not really Susan Ross. Let's put it this way, Shonda is drawing some inspiration from the current campaign in a lot of different ways. I can't say anything else, but it's some really great stuff.

Will any of the other candidates surprise us?

You will be surprised by some fresh faces in the campaign. There are some cool faces.

Could Olivia be Mellie's campaign manager?

Well, they have this strange relationship and Olivia said to her at the end of the first half, "I'm going to make you president." And there's no one better at the job than Liv. Mellie will do what she can to try to get Olivia to work for her, but that's a complicated relationship.

How does Fitz feel about that?

The one solace in Fitz's life is the presidency right now — he's really enjoying the last year and a half of his presidency because, like Obama, he's like, "Screw it, I'm doing what needs to be done." And Fitz is done listening to handlers, which has messed him up so much in the past. He's very focused about work.

Personally, I can't imagine he'd be happy to see Olivia working with Mellie.  

No, it's so upsetting. We haven't dealt with that one yet, but I feel like he would shut down with that and couldn't really deal with that.

Is Fitz aware of Olivia's abortion yet?

No, and I don't know if he ever will be. Shonda must have a plan for that because it was such a huge story point, but I don't know what that is yet. If Fitz ever finds out about it, it's going to be the worst thing that could have ever happened to him, second to the death of his son.

At this point, does he still want to be with her? Is he still pining for her?

Yes. As an audience, we don't know. But for me, he's in love with her. She's the love of his life and he's not over her in any way. And she really ended it. They fought and had mutual issues but she was the one saying, "It's over, I'm out." He's accepted that, but he's not over it.

As far as the future of the series, we're already looking at the new administration and given how fast Scandal burns through story, what would the show look like after Fitz is out of office?

I have no idea. That's the thing that puzzles me. I don't know what my function on the show will be if I'm not [playing] the president of the United States. I'm curious to see what Shonda is thinking about it. But it's one of the things that I think makes Scandal successful: Shonda is not afraid to go to new places. That's what they've done since season one: They get themselves into an impossible situation and then they're not scared of making the characters unlikable, of us doing horrible things or burning up plot — "That was supposed to be the finale and it's only episode four!" — so it will be really interesting. I may not have a job, but we'll see!

But you have a deal through season six, right?

They guarantee you a season at a time. I have committed to them, I think, for more than six [seasons], maybe seven or eight. But ABC or Shonda could decide, "We're done with that character," and Fitz would go away.

But given how you feel about this show, you'd be on it as long as they'd let you.

For me? Absolutely! It's a dream job — but I don't have that choice. I've signed on the dotted line and that's the way it works.

In terms of the longevity of Scandal, Rhimes has mentioned that it isn't a show that goes eight or 10 seasons

I've heard her say six, but I don't know if that's true or not. It's at least to the end of next year because Fitz's administration will last that long. That's my guess. We're just starting, we're not even in the primary campaign yet [this season]. My assumption is that it won't be done this season, so I'm assuming through next season, there will be a new president of the United States on Scandal. Beyond that, I don't know. We'll see!

Scandal returns Feb. 11 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC. What are you excited to see? Sound off in the comments below.