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Scandal’s Bellamy Young on Drunk Mellie and Why on Earth She Still Loves Fitz

Mellie, for the first time, is really starting to lose it. Things pick up in tonight’s Scandal (on ABC at 10 p.m. Eastern) at a point when America has turned on its First Lady, even while President Fitz has twice been unfaithful to her. The episode will flash back to happier times for Mellie, tracing her moves to the moment she first began making serious sacrifices for her then-doting and rising politician husband. (And by serious, I mean horrifying.) Vulture recently chatted with the excellent Bellamy Young as she was getting ready to film a juicy scene for next week’s episode — Mellie and Cyrus conspiring! — about how unfair this world is to Mellie, and what she believes makes Fitz so darn unditchable.  

When I spoke with Tony Goldwyn, he said the Gladiators at OPA are having way more fun than you guys at the White House.
We have, like, old people fun. It’s like Cocoon. If it’s like Fast Times over there, it’s Cocoon here. But they had fun in Cocoon! I love working with Jeff Perry. It’s like being on the inside of a tornado in the best way.

After Fitz made that offer to Mellie last season to launch her own career, didn’t any part of you think, Yes, Mellie should take it. She should just let Olivia have Fitz?
[Whispers.] I know. But, you know, you can’t help loving the person you love.

But why does she still love him? He’s been awful to her for so long.
We’ve all been in that situation to our detriment. You can make all these great decisions with your head, and I think Mellie does that a lot this year. It’s a lot of figuring out what sacrifices she can stomach. But the tide changes every day, and she still loves him. I think that’s the problem. Fitz could have said, “I’ll set you up to be the next vice president or secretary of State” or whatever, and at the end of the day she’d still go [she wails]: “But I still want you to love me!”

What is it about Fitz that does it for the ladies?
I think it has to be that Fitz just has the almighty pheromones. For real. To be around him, it’s just like, whoa. To inspire that much devotion in insanely empowered women? It has to be something completely ineffable, completely chemical. He is lady kryptonite.

In tonight’s episode, America continues to fall out of love with Mellie, for dissing Josie and for being, I don’t know, wronged repeatedly by Fitz. What the hell?
Again, Fitz is just so lovable. He’s wafting across America and they’re swooning for him. Mellie’s trying to dig her way out of it.

This seems unfair.
Well, in the conceit of this show, this White House has done a lot of shit and someone needs to pay the piper. America is historically more easily disgruntled by the less charming female than by the charming male. But I don’t mind at all, because it’s fun to hate Mellie. She does crazy stuff, equal parts unforgivable and wish fulfillment. It’s both things. Mellie’s her own worst enemy. She’s certainly paid her dues and done the bad stuff and is capable of redemptive acts, but the only thing holding her back is herself.

And we’ll see how she and Fitz were in their earlier, happier days, right? What did Mellie look like then?
I was just about to tell you, I have the cutest fifteen-years-ago wig. Check it out [she pulls out her iPhone and produces a picture of herself with a bob and a serious spray tan].

Why the tan?
She was happier, and when you’re happier, you’re ... tanner? Wait till you see Cyrus. Oh my God. This is nothing compared to what they’ve done to Cyrus.

At the very least, Mellie gets to tell off Fitz again. What’s the secret to taking him down so well?
That’s Mellie’s grail. She’s eternally searching for the best way to tell off Fitz. But the bullets that have landed the hardest are the quiet truths. He can wave off her histrionics. But when she quietly tells him the truth, that is when he most respects her. It’s when things really hit home for him. I think that’s the vestige of what was great about their marriage.

I’m still not so sold, but let’s talk for a moment about this season’s highlight: Drunk Mellie.
Sure! People were very kind about drunk Mellie. I think the world enjoyed Mellie unleashed. It was fun.

Did it make for a fun table read? You guys read the scripts there cold, right?
Well, at the table read, the pit of my stomach fell through my shoes because the biggest actor traps are dying and being drunk. You’re so ready to chew the scenery and be too big, and it can be an epic fail. I got out of the table read and immediately called my acting coach like, “I have to see you. I have to see you tonight, even if it’s at midnight. Seriously, meet me in the alley and teach me how to be fake drunk.” We worked hard on it and I was really nervous about it. It needs to be really specific and focused. The effort to focus, that’s the drunk thing, right? I wound up having a lot of fun with it. I only saw the episode once while I was tweeting it. By the way, do you know how hard it is to watch something and live-tweet?

With Scandal, you’d miss quite a bit.
Normally the cast watches ahead of time together. I take notes on my phone so I have it ready to go.

What was the best feedback you got about Drunk Mellie?
Because I’m such a Luddite girl, I don’t know how to find out what is trending, and someone sent me a picture of “Drunk Mellie” trending worldwide. That was insane.

Does baby Teddy make another appearance? Our recapper awarded him 5,255 points for his performance last month.
He’s in tonight’s episode! Sweet Teddy is played by little girl twins. We hadn’t timed the day well. That scene was shot during their nap time. And while they are the sweetest, most docile babies, that whole scene was them going, “WAAAAH!” Literally, arms outstretched, like someone was shivving them. In that scene, we looked a little crazy because, mostly, we were talking over a screaming child. All the shots of the baby are like [she makes a frowny face] and us really amped. We finally just decided to go with it. When she was screaming for “Marta,” we were like, “We’ll just make it work.” But you’ll see more Teddy. Daddy and Mommy love baby Teddy.

Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty