'Scandal's' Kerry Washington, Dan Bucatinsky on Their Emmy Surprise

"It's wonderful when the stories we engage in with the audience in such an intimate way are inclusive and diverse on a lot of levels," the actress behind Olivia Pope tells THR.
"Scandal's" Kerry Washington

ABC's Scandal has transformed from a record-breaking Twitter sensation to an Emmy darling.

The fast-paced drama about a Washington, D.C., fixer with professional and romantic ties to the president entered a crowded Emmy field with its first two nominations: for lead actress Kerry Washington and guest actor Dan Bucatinsky.

Washington picked up her first Emmy nomination and became the first African-American to be nominated for best drama actress in the past 18 years and fifth overall. The actress behind the show's top "Gladiator" was at the airport, where she'd just arrived in Los Angeles for Scandal's first table read of the season.

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"I'm grateful to be in the company of the actresses I'm in the company of -- including Alfre Woodard and Debbie Allen," an exuberant Washington tells The Hollywood Reporter. "I feel really proud to live in a world where a show like Scandal people can see survive and succeed not just in the U.S. but overseas. I had someone from a Japanese network tell me how exited they are to have a woman of color from the U.S. in Japanese homes. … It's wonderful when the stories we engage in with the audience in such an intimate way are inclusive and diverse on a lot of levels. Our show is inclusive not only with race but also age, sexual orientation and with gender. It's really exciting."

To celebrate, Washington will head to the Hollywood set of Scandal, where she'll celebrate with the cast and her fellow nominee. "People who know me well know how rare it is when I'm without words, and that's how I felt: speechless and truly humbled and grateful," she said of the nom.

Washington credited showrunner Shonda Rhimes and the cast for helping to make Olivia Pope the force that she is onscreen. "I feel like I could spend the rest of my life thanking her every hour on the hour, and it would never be enough," Washington said of the series creator. "I'm excited to see her and all the writers and everyone else today. We truly are a company of artisans who come together to make the show. I'm really excited I get to see everyone today and thank them. When you're doing a show like this, 22 episodes at this level of intensity, there's no way you pull off a character like Olivia Pope without relying on the company of actors you work with. For me, it's clear my portrayal of this character is a reflection of the talent around me. I rely on these actors every single day, and I'm constantly learning and inspired by them. Today we're celebrating this company of actors."

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Bucatinsky, for whom Scandal marks his third Emmy nomination -- joining Who Do You Think You Are and Web Therapy -- admitted he was "flipping out" after learning the news was real and not one of co-star Josh Malina's trademark practical jokes.

"I saw a tweet from Josh and wondered if it was really happening," the actor behind aspiring reporter James tells THR. "Josh is a famous prankster, and a big part of me thought he was teasing me. I tweeted him back and then saw all these congratulatory messages and then knew it was real; Twitter was the one who told me!"

Bucatinsky credited his onscreen partner, Jeff Perry (Cyrus), for his nomination, calling him a "genius of an acting partner." "Every scene is like acting class," he said of Perry, with whom he shared one of Scandal's most heated exchanges -- a naked confrontation about his husband's role in the election-rigging case that served as a major part of season two.

To celebrate, Bucatinsky is on the Grey's Anatomy set today where he's working double duty for Rhimes as a producer on the medical drama. "I came to set today and was met by Sandra Oh and Ellen Pompeo, who both said, 'Mazel!' It was very sweet and affirming. I'm going to try and get someone to cover for me here today so I can head over to Scandal to celebrate with my cohorts."

While mum on any season-three details for Scandal, Bucantinsky did reveal that James has a seat at Thursday's first table read of the new season. "No one has read the script yet!"

E-mail: Lesley.Goldberg@thr.com