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This story originally appeared in The Hollywood Reporter‘s special Emmy stand-alone issue.
It’s a hot March morning on the Hollywood set of ABC’s hit Scandal, and with a script rewrite the night before, there’s an air of urgency around the show’s D.C.-based crisis management firm Olivia Pope & Associates and its so-called Gladiators. Today, co-star Guillermo Diaz, who plays the ex-killer Huck, is center stage as his character has a breakdown and Olivia (Kerry Washington) and her team members each try — with lengthy monologues — to pull him out of his state of shock.
“There are days of laughing and joking as one family, and others where we’re honoring the intensity of the work. And sometimes that means locking yourself in a corner and listening to sad music,” says Washington, whose character is based on real-life crisis management specialist Judy Smith (Smith is a co-executive producer on the show). The cast — which also includes Tony Goldwyn, Bellamy Young and Josh Malina — notes that typical days consist of singing, dancing and practical jokes between takes. That’s a far cry from the seriousness of this day, as the fast-paced Shonda Rhimes drama is filming two episodes at once, with scenes at Pope’s office and on the White House set next door.
“We joke about how there are two cultures at the office: Olivia Pope & Associates is the high school kids and the White House is the grown-ups,” Washington says with a laugh. “I’m always balancing the two cultures and worlds, and it’s one of the great things about the show.”
In its second season, Scandal became a bona fide hit, averaging 8.5 million total viewers and a 2.9 rating among adults 18-49. Perhaps more important, the series ranked as Thursday’s most social broadcast this season — out-tweeting American Idol with more than 4.2 million total, a phenomenon that helped attract viewers, including Oprah Winfrey and Lena Dunham.
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