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Scandal – Tony Goldwyn, director or actor?

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Scandal, 1.01 - Kerry Washington
Pilot Episode 1.01 "Sweet Baby" - Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) © 2011 American Broadcasting Companies

Since his role as the villain in the blockbuster movie Ghost, Tony Goldwyn has successfully carved out a name for himself as an actor and director on stage, films and TV.

In Shonda Rhimes new drama Scandal he portrays President Fitzgerald Grant, who has had a long-running affair with Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), the head of a crisis management service in Washington DC.

When did Shonda start talking to you about playing President Grant? You’re her go-to director, didn’t she want to keep you for herself?

Scandal, 1.01 - Henry Ian Cusick and Kerry Washington
Episode 1.01 "Sweet Baby" - Stephen Finch (Henry Ian Cusick) and Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) © 2011 American Broadcasting Companies

I think I’ll be wearing two hats eventually, but I just got a call one day and they asked me if I would do it. When I heard the combination of Kerry Washington and Shonda Rhimes I was sold. And then I read the script and thought it was great.

How do you see the President, is he a good guy or bad guy?

That’s what’s great about what Shonda is doing, nobody is good or bad really. Everyone is human. I got a little bit worried for Fitz, because I thought she was going to paint him into such a corner that I literally went up to one of our writers, and  said, ‘Is she going to write Fitz out of the show?

He’s going to get assassinated or something?’ He said, ‘No, that’s totally wrong.’

What was great was in the next episode all of a sudden there’s a whole other side that’s revealed of the person that you go, ‘Oh, I see.’ The contrasts are what make it interesting.

The dialogue delivery in this is similar to The West Wing, and done at a rapid-fire pace. What’s that like?

Scandal - Kerry Washington
Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) © 2011 American Broadcasting Companies

It was something that was very important to Shonda, and she kept stressing it from day one. We keep needing to make it faster and the scenes tend to work better. We’ll be trying to figure out a scene, and as soon we go like a bat-out-of-hell, suddenly we figure out what the scene is about, so it works that way.

But also in terms of some of the [scenes between Olivia and Fitz] she wants those to be slower. But when we saw the way the show is and what the style of it is, I said, ‘Oh, I get it.’ It makes you have to think fast. It is stressful.

Even though it is set in Washington DC, there’s a lot about the series that isn’t about politics.

So far, I don’t know where it’s going to go, and I don’t think Shonda knows. That’s what’s great about it, the way she works is her instincts just take her over.

In one episode we’re dealing with an immigration bill, and we’re talking about the politics of that. We meet my Vice-President in a later episode and she has a very specific point-of-view. And there’s a whole flashback episode where we go back into the campaign and show how Fitz and Olivia met.

Scandal starts on ABC on April 5, 2012.

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