'Scandal's' Bellamy Young on Her Flashback Episode: 'Seismic Turns' and Mellie's 'Wrecking Ball' Exposed

The actress behind the ABC political thriller's first lady talks with THR about the flashback episode that explains why "the armor is so tight around Mellie as we know her in the present day."
ABC/Eric McCandless
"Scandal's" Bellamy Young

ABC's Scandal will flash back to a pivotal first meeting between Mellie, Fitz and Cyrus during Thursday's hour in which Bellamy Young's first lady takes center stage in an episode fittingly titled "Everything's Coming Up Mellie."

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With Mellie's approval ratings in the toilet following her very public flub, the first lady -- as she does so well -- will shift to damage control in a bid to restore her image as Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) continues his bid for re-election.

The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Young to preview the flashback episode to find out what to expect from a young Mellie Grant and what the first-lady-to-be's relationship was like with her father-in-law.

The episode is called "Everything's Coming Up Mellie." How much of her backstory will we learn?

You will learn of some pretty fundamental and seismic turns in the road for Mellie -- how Mellie got to be Mellie. You'll meet her [15] years ago, when she was young, fresh, optimistic, naive and so in love with Fitz and he was so in love with her. Then all of the sudden you'll hear one wrong note and then a whole bit of discord. Then we'll be in a whole other terrain that will further explain why the armor is so tight around Mellie as we know her in the present day.

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Fitz's father, Jerry (Barry Bostwick), returns in this episode. Will we see what his relationship with Mellie was like?

You'll learn he was the wrecking ball; he did the big punch that set all these dominoes in motion. In some ways wittingly, and in some ways unwittingly; some things are because of him and some things are in spite of him. He is the wrecking ball, and no one can do crazy better than Barry -- he's a force!

Mellie has found Sally's weakness -- her philandering husband, Daniel (Jack Coleman). How will she and Cyrus (Jeff Perry) work together to address Sally's (Kate Burton) threat to the president when it comes to re-election?

Mercilessly! We'll work without regard for her salvation to bring her down. You don't want to show your weakness to Mellie or Cyrus, much less Mellie and Cyrus together. I feel for her; it's like chum in the water in a shark storm.

Olivia (Kerry Washington) has learned that her father gave the president orders to shoot down a plane with her mother on board. How will Mellie handle that information when and if she finds out?

Mellie finding that out will be earth-shattering for her. Mellie is a survivor, and she loves Fitz -- to her detriment and unconditionally. She would swallow hard and soldier on, even in the face of that, which seems too ugly and upsetting a truth to ever reconcile with. I think weirdly she also believes in the good of people and she understands the system well enough to take into account all mitigating circumstances. The bottom line, as it is in so many arenas, her love for Fitz will outweigh even the knowledge of that horror. Especially in the military, you follow orders and make mistakes. That particular web is too complicated to assign blame to one human, and Mellie is strong enough understand that. It's just crushing when you find out new chapters about people you love and think you know.

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Might that bring Mellie and Fitz closer together romantically?

That's the opportunity: It's either divisive or unifying -- or you put the card in your pocket and hold it until you're ready to play. Mellie seems to be in the third category frequently. We'll see how she would deal with that.

Fitz is up against a very real opponent in Josie Marcus (Lisa Kudrow). How will Mellie help him earn the women's vote considering her approval rating isn't very good right now?

Mellie will be tap dancing as hard as she can go, particularly in this episode, trying to win back the love of America. She's a very different horse than Josie, and they've already clashed. The dividing lines are forming, and they each have their own market and audience: Mellie supporters will stay true and Josie supporters will never be won over. It's always a joy when another female in politics breaks through the glass ceiling. There really is some of that at play; Mellie hungers for that companionship and rivalry -- it's something she mourns having lost the potential of that in Olivia. That workplace frenemy relationship and collaborators could have been amazing between Mellie and Olivia. But life dealt them this strange wrinkle, and I think she feels the same way about Josie. Josie's performance at that debate was jaw-dropping and there was a strength and a truth in that honesty that was unprecedented. Mellie wishes she could have gotten there first but as much a she underestimates Josie, at that point it wasn't just about a rivalry in Mellie's mind; it was also, "Oh wow, she really has a voice." There's as much respect there as there is fear.

Hit the comments, Gladiators, with your thoughts on Mellie's big flashback episode. What do you think will happen? Scandal airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on ABC. Stay tuned to THR's The Live Feed after the episode airs for our weekly postmortem interview.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
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