'Scandal's' Tony Goldwyn on Fitz in Season 3: 'He's Under Assault'

"It's becoming more intricate and the characters are deeper and more complex," the actor tells THR of the third season of ABC's addictive drama.
"Scandal's" Tony Goldwyn

President Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn) is going to have his hands full when the third season of ABC's Scandal returns on Thursday.

Following a massive bomb that came in the sophomore season finale of the political thriller from Grey's Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes, the president's affair with Olivia (Kerry Washington) is now public knowledge, much to first lady Mellie Grant's (Bellamy Young) chagrin.

Beyond that, the president also has to contend with the mysterious B613 -- which is headed by none other than Olivia's dad, Rowan (Joe Morton) -- as his re-election looms in the not-too-distant future.

The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Goldwyn to discuss the big mysteries heading into the addictive political thriller.

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Season two ended on a cliffhanger: Who outed Olivia as Fitz's mistress. How big of a surprise is it going to be in terms of who did it?
I had a few candidates in mind at the end of last season for who I thought it was; some of them were a little obvious. But I was shocked when I found out the engine behind Olivia and Fitz. I was startled. It's really unbelievable what Shonda Rhimes engineered there.

How can we expect whomever outed them to impact Fitz's role as president?
He's under assault. He's trying to figure out how he can survive. It's definitely a substantial threat. We're still early on, but I don't know how he can get out of it. It creates huge problems for Fitz.

What about personally -- Mellie has long known about Olivia, but what does this now being public information do to what's an already strained relationship? How is she going to respond?
Mellie is a survivor and it's one of the great problems with her relationship with Fitz. She goes into default survival mode, "How do we win?" She has continued to become a very political animal since the end of the first season. But she doesn't have the whole story of how Fitz feels. He's a very complicated guy, and it's certainly not going to make things easier for Mellie. We still are very much head-on at each other.

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Is a presidential divorce something that Mellie and Fitz can't avoid at this point?
From a storytelling point, clearly we're avoiding it so far. Fitz proposed that idea last season and was ready to go; he wanted to pull the trigger. Mellie is going to fight tooth and nail for that not to be the case because if she divorces Fitz, she loses her power. They could never survive that politically. Fitz was willing to take that risk but I don't see how Mellie lets that happen. I think she'd die first.

Last season, we found out Rowan (Joe Morton) is Olivia's father. How much does Fitz know about Olivia's family? Will we see Rowan and Fitz interact much early on? 
I can't tell you about Fitz and Rowan because it gets very complicated. But Fitz has no idea that he's Olivia's dad. The phenomena of the B613 has some impact as a covert area of the government, so there's a dark, remote affiliation between Fitz and Rowan in the bureaucracy.

How much is B613 going to be a central role in season three?
You get into the whole of it; B613 is very prominent. We've really come to understand the under-pinning of what's going on there -- and it's a very dark force. It does impact Fitz in a serious way. What's great about this season is that Shonda is working with the groundwork that she laid out in terms of character and story and she's beginning to pursue it, and those lines cross as opposed to concocting a whole new story. Every season we see something completely new, which actually could be a danger in terms of repeating patterns. She's pursuing the threats that she's already laid down. We're going to a whole other level with Scandal. It's becoming more intricate and the characters are deeper and more complex. You get deeper into Olivia and Fitz and deeper into each of their characters. You get deeper into Mellie and Fitz, Rowan and Olivia, and Jake is very involved in that. It gets deeper and darker and more entertaining.

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Are Fitz and Olivia past the point of no return considering how much they've hurt each other?
Never. Not as far as Fitz is concerned. Never.

Can we expect to see Fitz help Olivia through everything after she's outed?
Yes, but I don't know how. It's his impulse to save, protect and love her. You'll never get Olivia out of Fitz -- even if she never speaks to him again, even if they never see each other again. I think Fitz will pursue her to the end. She means that much to him.

Looking at Fitz's priorities this season -- what does he put first, being president or Olivia?
It is Olivia. Fitz can't be himself in any authentic way without Olivia. That's a complicated answer because there are a lot of things going on where Fitz is moved to help Olivia, to protect Olivia, to explain. It's not just where it was early on, when it was just, "I want to be with you." "Be with me." It's gotten so much more complex than that. And it gets way more complex in the first seven episodes of this season.

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We've heard that Fitz's re-election might be on the table this season. How will we see Scandal start to integrate Democrats and party lines?
Thus far in the season, it's been focused on the personal issues between the characters because we're still pretty far out from the election. We're more in the moment of getting our production line in terms of strategy and who the teams are going to be and things like that. I don't know how much policy we're going to be getting into yet; I think that will be later in the season when they're actually campaigning.

Scandal returns on Thursday at 10 p.m. on ABC. Hit the comments below with what you're looking forward to seeing and come back to THR's The Live Feed for our weekly Scandal Case Study after the episode airs.

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