[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Thursday’s “I See You” episode of ABC’s Scandal.]
ABC’s Scandal revealed its Donald Trump-like character during Thursday’s episode, where a blast from the show’s past resurfaced and literally stole Mellie’s entire campaign platform.
Billionaire Republican and Texas oil man Hollis Doyle (Gregg Henry) started the hour looking for a candidate who could help him dismantle the EPA. Hollis took meetings with Republican presidential candidates Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young) and VP Susan Ross (Artemis Pebdani) and revealed his Trump-like opinions when he declared: “If you’re some pesky little border-crosser, you won’t be welcome.”
After Hollis realized that neither candidate could do what he wanted and after he was able to get Mellie to share (over booze!) her entire campaign platform — including slogan — he threw his own hat in the ring. For those keeping score at home, Scandal now features three Republican presidential candidates — Hollis, Mellie and Susan — and one Democrat — Francisco Vargas (Ricardo Chavira) — in the race for the White House.
Here, Henry talks with THR about taking on a Trump-like character while, like his co-stars, he supports Hillary Clinton, and more.
How was Hollis’ return pitched to you? Were you aware that he’d be a Trump-like candidate?
No, absolutely not. They don’t pitch it to me; it’s just all of a sudden there’s a call from Shonda. Then you find out when you go to the table read what’s going to happen. I went to the table read for this episode — and it was right before Christmas — and it was all revealed. I kept thinking Hollis would be a powerful donor and back one of these candidates and then comes the switch in the end that he’s running. I said, “What a great Christmas present!”
What was your reaction when you found out that you’d be returning to play a Donald Trump-esque character running for president?
When it came up, we immediately thought it he was the perfect guy to mirror and spoof the running of Trump with his billions and inappropriate speech. But it was a total surprise to me.
Kerry and Tony recently backed Hillary Clinton with a campaign ad. What was the reaction like from the rest of the cast when Hollis morphed into Trump?
It was a big howl of laughter at the table read. With Scandal table reads, every reveal is a big surprise. When it happened, everybody started laughing and applauding and saying it was perfect for Hollis to be Trump.
Why do you think Hollis opted to announce his candidacy for president rather than endorsing Mellie or Susan Ross?
He has big goals — to get rid of the EPA — and that’s what he wants, a candidate to tell him they’re going to do it. And because they don’t — and because of the way Fitz treats him — he decides to throw his own hat in the ring. He is trying to get what he wants and give a little smack to all the rest of the people.
Having already filmed a few more episodes, how similar are Hollis’ politics to what we’ve seen from Trump?
The biggest similarity is the way he talks about immigrants and people coming across the border. In this episode he says, “If you’re some pesky little border-crosser, you won’t be welcome.” His feelings on immigration are in line with Trump’s. Hollis is an oil man, though Trump is a big businessman, so Trump’s tax breaks to the wealthiest people is what Hollis will be for, too, I’m sure.
Shonda mentioned that some of the show’s dialogue had to be changed after witnessing the presidential debates. How much of that was from Hollis? Any examples?
Some of the debate [dialogue]; we have a debate later. I got some pages on those things and there were a few changes in those things. There were no changes in this first episode back.
How much more Trump-like will we see Hollis get?
I have a few more episodes that take us to the end of the season. I don’t know if we’ll be in primary or convention or general-election mode in that last episode. But Hollis is around and I don’t know what happens to him. He might win it all, we’ll see! (Laughing.)
Are you talking about Hollis or Trump?!
Trump is going to get the Republican nomination; I feel quite convinced about that and have for a long time. But I don’t know about Hollis. But I personally stand with Hillary, too.
Hollis has some pretty stiff competition: Susan Ross is backed by Fitz, and Mellie has Olivia in her corner.
But there’s the proxy war: It’s Olivia and Fitz and their war by proxy is through these two candidates. They’re so deeply entangled with an ex-wife and the vice president, it’s all extremely rich stuff. I have no idea how it’s going to play out.
This episode had so many call-backs to early seasons of Scandal — including that it was Hollis who helped put Fitz in office after rigging the election. How will he use Defiance and all the other secrets to his benefit?
It’s his ace up his sleeve. He can use that, as I’m sure he will. He’s not a man to play fair. It always gets me that everybody calls him the devil. Everybody else has killed people! Yeah, Hollis killed someone, but he didn’t do it himself — he had somebody else do it! When he was introduced in this week’s script, the introduction read: “And there stands Hollis with his sparkling eyes and his black-as-coal heart.” They look at him that way. Olivia represented him when his daughter took off and at the end of that, she said, “Even the devil loves his children.” But now she references back and says, “I don’t think he’s the devil; I know he’s the devil.” And Fitz turned on him extremely hard as well. It’s funny that they all turn on him knowing that Hollis knows everything.
Which candidate does Hollis see as his biggest threat?
I don’t think he even considers the Democrats at this point in time. His main competition is Mellie and Susan — and he believes Mellie is the frontrunner. He fears Mellie the most because he fears Olivia the most.
Hollis blatantly stole Mellie’s entire campaign platform. What will their showdown look like?
There is a big showdown. The debates, they’re not quite as low-brow as the actual Republican debates but things about Fitz’s transgressions are brought up as are things about Olivia running Mellie’s campaign. How can your husband’s ex-mistress be handling his ex-wife’s campaign?!
Unlike before when Hollis is around, Rowan is in the picture now. Will Hollis go head-to-head with Rowan?
That would be a showdown for the ages. Joe Morton is so brilliant and Rowan is a great character. I thought they were on a path to go toward each other a couple seasons back and that didn’t happen. Maybe it will now! This first episode, he announces his presidential aspirations and there are a couple episodes that continue on. He has no one who works with him; he doesn’t have a campaign manager or anybody. All these other stories are about who’s backing individual candidates; nobody is backing Hollis. He’s an operation unto himself. We’ll see if he gains any support. He’s got support at the beginning — but it’s paid for and immediate support that brings us up-to-date and up-to-pace with our presidential election.
Will you be back for the Gilmore Girls revival?
Gregg Henry: Yes, I will! I have no idea what I’m doing but Mitchum Huntzberger will be back for an appearance. We’ll do that sometime in April. It’s one episode.
What do you think of Scandal‘s Trump card? Sound off in the comments below.