History shows that whenever a President doesn’t keep his pants on, bad things follow. Yet on Shonda Rhimes’ new show, Scandal, we can’t help but root for Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington)and the President of the United States, Fitzgerald Grant (who happens to be married, and also cheated on his wife with another White House staffer) to get together and live happily ever after. Why on earth would we do that?
Because of Tony Goldwyn, of course. The Ghost actor has not just managed to reduce Olivia Pope to rubble, but charmed us into believing that this is a relationship that ultimately will work out.
At a panel, honoring Shonda, we caught up with Goldwyn about his Scandalous new role.
Wetpaint Entertianment: You’re a naughty, naughty president.
Tony: Yes, I know but I have fun! (Laughs)
Is it nice leading the free world?
It really is. It's a lot of work, but not as much as the real one has to deal with.
What's your oval office like?
It's a really nice set. I've been in the real oval office, and it looks just like it. Just when you look out the windows, you see that it's not.
When you read the scripts for Scandal – especially the scenes that involve you – do you wonder, “How can this end well?”
Yes! Oh, there was a point, midway through the season, when I said, “Fitz is going to get killed.” Like, something terrible is going to happen to the President. They're going to get rid of me. And then as soon as I went to the writers and said, “Is that true, just so I know?“ they're like, “No. No way. Don't ever think that.” And then suddenly, things turn 180 degrees, and the show goes in a different direction.
So this is an arc that's going to continue on for a while?
Oh, yeah, yeah. It gets more and more complicated, and the relationship between Fitz and Olivia Pope gets more and more interesting.
What about the relationship between Amanda and the President?
That gets more interesting too. All I can say is that it's not what you think it is. It shifts constantly. I really can't tell you more. It's just not all that it seems.
When you join a show like this as the president who's having an affair, do you wait for a script where you end up assassinated?
Well, only in the sense I think that Shonda's writing is so skillful, that she doesn't pull any punches in this show, with me or with any other character. Usually, writers are worried to give their character an escape path, like “Oh, but he's really a nice guy.” She doesn't do that with us. So there are several times when I was painted into a corner. I was check‑mated. And I know several other people felt the same way. And then at the same time, you think, [of other characters] “They're perfect. They're wonderful. They're terrific. They're just a great person. They're not flawed.” And then all of a sudden, we all are.
That's what's brilliant about it. Everyone, including Kerry's character, Olivia Pope, is deeply flawed. Fitz is no villain. He's a human being, and that's what makes it so fun. He isn’t perfect. He makes a lot of mistakes, but he stumbles along trying to follow his heart. So you have a lot of super-smart, really messed up people that are really fun to watch.
Kerry said that doing a play with David Mamet prepared her for this. Is there anything that prepared you for Shonda Rhimes?
Well, I've worked with Shonda as a director. I directed Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice, so I was really familiar with her work. I'm a huge fan. I loved working with her, and I knew how smart she was. But the thing about Shonda's writing, that was a revelation to me as an actor, was, there's a certain rhythm to her work. And she asks, once we were sent the script, to say the words exactly as written. We can't ad‑lib. She totally takes notes and wants to talk about everything, but she's a playwright really. It's very literary what she does.
You find that when you hit Shonda's rhythm, suddenly, the scene makes sense and comes to life. And it's playable. You can wrestle it and try to figure it out, but as soon as you hit it the way that she heard it, it suddenly is like magic and easy. And for an actor, that's a really exciting thing. There's not a lot of writers that you can say that about.
Check out all of Wetpaint Entertainment’s Scandal coverage.
Catch the next new episode of Scandal on Thursday, April 19 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.