Thursday night was the season finale of Scandal, and before they went to a secret underground bunker to live-tweet the episode on ABC, the cast gathered at the Paley Center to dish about being Team Olivia, shocking last-minute edits, and Scott Foley’s sneaky secret fake farts.
Fitz still gets our votes. Mostly.
Although there wasn’t nearly as much sex this season as in years past, the sizzle reel that played before the panel included highlights that had fans in a tizzy. There were some cheers for those scenes with Jake (Scott Foley) and Olivia (Kerry Washington) basking in the sun and, you know, doing other stuff in the sun, but the scenes with Olivia and Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) got the loudest cheers.
Forget Fitz and Jake. Let’s talk about Team Olivia.
After an informal poll of the audience about whether we were Team Fitz or Team Jake (Fitz won by a landslide), Washington said she was batting for Shonda — and for Olivia herself. “I have often said that the team I’m on is Team Shonda,” Washington said. “Whatever she writes, I’m there for. But I will say one of my favorite moments from this season is when I, when Olivia said to Jake, ‘I choose me.’” She added, “I don’t think she can make a choice about her partner is until she works some stuff out.” (Did you catch that Freudian slip?)
Shondaland scripts nearly give the actors heart attacks.
“The script [for the finale] was unbelievably shocking,” Washington said, “and then we all recently found out that there were things that happened in the edit that are going to shock us, so we’re sort of in your shoes!” This is par for the course for the show, where rewrites and edits and last-minute changes are frequent.
In fact, sometimes those surprises come during filming. Foley ended up reshooting the stabbing scene at the end of “I’m Just a Bill,” but found that Shonda had added a lot more stabbing. “Russell just kept stabbing me, and I was looking around, at the director, like, maybe they’re going to tell him to stop … He didn’t!” Foley added, “I sent Shonda an email saying, ‘You know, I know you usually have conversations with people before they’re not on your show. Is there anything you want to tell me?’ And she said, ‘I already killed you on one show. It’s not going to happen this time.’ Very sweet. But there was an ellipsis at the end of that.”
Meanwhile, Josh Malina, who plays Attorney General David Rosen, still reads the last page of every script to see if he’s going to be killed off. Unfortunately, Shonda got hip to his shenanigans and slipped him a fake script that ended with, “David dies.”
According to the stars, Rhimes has a sort of vault of footage that she can pull from for future episodes or to otherwise move around on the fly as she works on the edits. Hence Jake’s flashback to his beautiful time with Olivia on the island when Fitz is beating the crap out of him.
Mellie couldn’t wait to take Command.
Mellie Grant (Young) and Rowan Pope (Joe Morton) share a pivotal scene in the season finale that was teased at the end of the second-to-last episode. The explosive interlude sets off a chain reaction that shocks Mellie and the rest of the Scandal crew — well, most of them. It was also the first chance they had to work together since they’d been on The X-Files in 2000. Young had been chomping at the bit to have a scene with Morton after watching Papa Pope’s poetic monologues. “I want my eyebrows to be burned off!” she said. (Suffice it to say, no eyebrow was left intact after their scene.)
There’s nothing like sharing a beer and a laugh to staunch the blood.
There was a welcome moment of levity in the penultimate episode with Jake and Russell (Brian White) where they share a beer and uncannily imitate their old boss Rowan. Foley received rewrites that included this new scene when he was already in bed the night before an early morning shoot. “Somehow, these two men metabolized that scene and made it so brilliant within hours,” Washington said. Morton, who had no idea about the scene until he saw it on the show, added, “It was like being a voyeur on two of my kids, sort of making fun of Dad. It was a complete surprise. They nailed it.”
Fitz and Mellie have been suspiciously chill this season.
When moderator Lara Spencer evinced some skepticism about just how happy the first couple was this season, Young exclaimed, “Let us enjoy the moment! It’s been great. It’s been great fun to just not be at odds on set and just enjoy [acting]. Fitz and Mellie will always be partners; the love thing they don’t necessarily excel at.” Washington chimed in, “There’s a lotta kind of loves!” Goldwyn added, “I love what Shonda has done with our relationship, because we were so at each other and so negative, and they’re exploring, like Kerry said, a different kind of love, but one that’s very real and complicated.” Mmm-hmmm. But what about Vermont, Fitz?
Olivia and Fitz have a “Game of Thrones brother/sister” vibe on set.
Although onscreen Fitz and Olivia have been on the outs this season, the co-stars enjoy joking around with each other a lot. Washington recalled, “My mom was visiting once when Tony was directing, and she got so angry with me. She was like, ‘Why do you treat him like that? You’re terrible!’” Is their vibe sort of siblinglike? Maybe only in Westeros. “More like a Game of Thrones brother/sister!” quipped Josh Malina. Hey-o!
Scott Foley is full of hot air.
When asked who would be the most likely to break during a scene, everyone pointed to Scott Foley. As it turns out, the former Felicity star feigns farts at any given moment. “He makes farting noises before every scene!” Washington said with fake exasperation. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a love scene … a crying scene or a dancing scene.” (Picture, if you will, the rest of the cast also making random farting noises with their mouths during the panel.) Goldwyn revealed Foley also enjoys sharing this talent in elevators, especially if there are strangers … He’s the best fake farter I’ve ever met.”
Huck gives special gifts.
Well, maybe not Huck, but they love Guillermo Díaz, who is much more affable and charming in person (and was, as Morton noticed, wearing bullet casings in his earlobes). Stanchfield reported that the Half Baked actor, who celebrates Halloween like Christmas, gave them all presents one year with an interesting twist. “He got us all, for one season, a red toolbox like his torture [box], and then you open it up, and inside is, like, candy and lavender essence oil,” she laughed. Goldwyn interjected, “Can we talk about the next year’s Halloween present? It was a dead animal in a jar of formaldehyde!”
Scandal’s coming-of-age moment was its treatment of race this season.
Scandal isn’t a show to shy away from subversive material or political statements, but this season addressed political issues like the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson and the epidemic of rape in the military head-on. As Washington pointed out at the beginning of the panel, Olivia’s kidnapping, which triggered Fitz’s ill-advised attack on West Angola, was an interesting parallel to the Boko Haram kidnappings in Nigeria. “The idea that the life of this black woman was valuable enough that she has become a Helen of Troy was such a subversive way of saying we all have value as human beings,” she said
However, “The Lawn Chair” episode drew heavily on the events in Ferguson in a way that brought Olivia’s race into play like never before. “I feel like in the beginning of the show, we were careful to tread very lightly around issues of race,” she noted, “because I think it was important for everyone that race be one part of who Olivia is. It’s not something that I could walk away from; as soon as I’m onscreen, I’m a black woman.” Although there were more subtle moments that spoke to Olivia’s experience as a woman of color. “We didn’t want to push that as what the show was about or who this woman was. So, for me, I felt like the Ferguson episode was a real coming of age for the show and for Olivia, because it was a moment where another character called Olivia on her racial politics. And we watched Olivia go from the position she normally holds, which is working for the people in power, to crossing that picket line and working with the protestors, and a lot [of it is] because of her racial politics and her empathy that came from her understanding as a woman of color.”
Washington added, “I was very proud of to part of that moment on the show … in the beginning, part of being careful about race was, ‘Will the world accept the lead on a show being a black woman?’ Well, it turns out that people let Olivia Pope into their hearts and homes, and now people are also letting Viola Davis into their homes and Taraji P. Henson into their homes. I think part of it was like, well, okay, now that this is all good and that the reality of television is that inclusivity is the norm, now let’s talk about some stuff.”