Scandal: Behind The Scenes SecretsPublished on September 27, 2017. Updated March 25, 2020
Scandal is arguably the most popular political drama on television right now. Starring Kerry Washington as the lead character, Olivia Pope, who’s now become one of the most iconic TV characters due to her impeccable fashion, diet of red wine and popcorn, and of course, being a boss lady who runs a crisis management firm in Washington, D.C. The series is another successful product of show creator Shonda Rhimes, but after over 100 episodes, Scandal is currently in its seventh and final season seventh and final. Before our favorite show comes to an end, here’s a look at 15 behind the scenes secrets!
15. ABC’s Casting Decisions
In an interview with Hollywood Reporter, Shonda Rhimes revealed that the ABC network originally envisioned the leading lady to be white. Casting director Linda Lowy said, “The network was reading us their top choices, and it was Connie [Britton] and all white women. I panicked. Somebody finally pipped up, ‘We’re going to have to redo this list.” Since the show was inspired by famed Washington, D.C. crisis manager Judy Smith, Rhimes really felt the need to stay true to the story behind it all. “When the show got picked up [to pilot], I got a phone call from somebody who said, ‘This would be the perfect show for Connie Britton.’ I said, ‘It would be, except Olivia Pope is black,'” said Rhimes.
14. Where The Term Gladiators Came From
Leading actress Kerry Washington revealed that the series trademark phrase “Gladiators” actually came from a fan. During the very beginning of the series a fan tweeted her and said, “we can call ourselves Gladiators,” after Washington appeared in a scene with Columbus Short in the pilot. Ever since then Olivia Pope refers to her team as the Gladiators, and when fans tweet about the show they use the hashtag “#Gladiators.”
13. They’ve Never Actually Shot a Scene in Washington
As a primarily political show, the entire series takes place in Washington, D.C., but oddly enough the cast has never actually shot a scene there! The scenes in front of the White House or on the Lincoln monument are actually shot in front of green screens in L.A. The illusion of Washington is created through CGI. The film crew will shoot actual footage in D.C. and put it on the green screen, and Scandal‘s film crew is the only crew that has ever been allowed to shoot on the White House’s Truman Balcony. The balcony they stand on while filming is fake, but the view projected in the background is actual footage the crew shot while on location.
12. The Cast Doesn’t Get Details About What’s to Come
Shonda Rhimes and her team of writers for Scandal tend to work dangerously close to the deadline which means no one knows what’s going to happen next until they sit down at the next table read, but according to Rhimes, this is when all the magic happens. “I don’t feel like I know a script until I’ve heard it read out loud by the actors. So a table read to me is really important. Literally the scripts are hot from the copy machine because sometimes I’m typing up until the very last second or some writer’s typing up until the last second. We’re late. Sometimes a lot of magic happens because we’re late and sometimes it’s kind of amazing that what comes out works so well in that way,” said Rhimes.
11. Cast Members Favorite Lines
At the Paleyfest panel in 2015, the main cast members of Scandal all got together for a Q&A and revealed some interesting behind the scenes facts about the show! One of the questions they received was about their most memorable line from the series. Shockingly, Washington’s was not “It’s handled,” but rather “I’m not a little b-tch baby!” Tony Goldwyn said his was “How could I have been such a coward to marry her and not wait for you?” while Bellamy Young’s was “Get over her!”
10. Life Imitating Art
At an early screening panel for Scandal, Shonda Rhimes finally discussed what most of us had already noticed, that this political show seems to be imitating real life. Rhimes assured that life is imitating art, not the other way around. “A lot of the things that we’ve been writing have been actually happening in ways that we have not expected,” she said. In a separate interview with Hollywood Reporter, the cast discussed the topic once again. “We’d shoot stuff with Gregg Henry playing [a Trump-like candidate], and the next day something exactly like it only crazier would happen in the election between Trump and Hillary,” said Bellamy Young.
9. The Role of Stephen
According to Shonda Rhimes in her interview with the Hollywood Reporter, the role of Olivia’s litigator, Stephen Finch, was the hardest to cast. She initially wrote the character for Scott Foley which is why she had his character on Grey’s Anatomy killed off. She thought it would be a done deal, but then the network rejected him. It went to Henry Ian Cusick instead because he had more international appeal and had done such a great job on Lost. Foley went on to star in another show, Goodwin Games, but when it got cancelled, Rhimes brought him back as a love interest for Olivia Pope.
8. Making History
Scandal became the first drama series in 37 years to have a black actress as the leading lady. “In my lifetime, I had never seen a black woman at the center of a television drama. There was a void to fill a hunger, and we were able to fit that need,” said Kerry Washington. When Shonda Rhimes came up with the idea for the show she didn’t even realize that she was about to make such a huge impact on television through her casting decisions.
7. Strangest Fan Encounters
One of the perks of being a celebrity is having a fan base, especially when you’re starring on one of the most popular shows on television! During the Paleyfest Q&A, the Scandal cast members shared the strangest encounters they’ve had with fans and oddly enough, a lot of them involve fans licking their face! Guillermo Diaz said, “People have asked me to lick them! To lick their face!” Katie Lowes then chimed in and said, “I get that too. There’s a lot of teeth checking going on [as well].” Talk about an invasion of privacy! We’re pretty sure Tony Goldwyn’s takes the cake though when he shared this story: “I got licked by a fan. They stopped me on the street to take a selfie, and as they were taking the selfie, she licked my neck. Then she took the camera and walked away!”
6. Huck’s Distinct Way of Talking
Guillermo Diaz revealed that Huck’s soft way of speaking actually came to be by mistake. It was something he just came up with on the spot that the producers ended up actually really liking it. “I remember the first scene I shot was in the bathroom with Quinn, and I remember I started talking that way, and our director went back and talked to Shonda and Betsy and said, ‘Look, he’s acting a little bit off,’ but they came back and said, ‘Yeah, it’s cool.’ It just kinda happened,” he said.
5. What the Cast Eats on Set
Filming a hit show requires long days on set which means there’s not a lot of time for healthy eating! Bellamy Young likes to snack on Pop chips in between takes, while Katie Lowes sticks to pickles and hummus. Scott Foley somehow stays in shape even though he revealed his go-to snack is chocolate, and Darby Stanchfield has a poppy-seed bagel every single day.
4. The Network Wanted to Remove Olivia’s Relationship with Fitz
When the show got picked up, then-head of ABC Paul Lee called Shonda Rhimes and asked if they could “remove the part where [Pope] is having an affair with the president.” But Rhimes was not going to give into pressure and during that phone call (which included 10 people) she responded, “In episode six or seven, this woman is going to have sex with the president in the Oval Office on the desk. So if everyone can’t get behind that, then we shouldn’t make this show.”
3. Olivia Pope Nailed her Audition
Of course, casting the character of Olivia Pope was one of the most important decisions for the show. Once the network was on board with casting a leading black actress, they tested Jill Scott and Anika Noni Rose, but when Kerry Washington came in to audition she nailed it. “It was Kerry from the moment I took her to meet Shonda,” said casting director Linda Lowy. Even though she wasn’t what Shonda Rhimes had pictured, she was smitten with her. “She could talk Washington more than I could talk Washington…We were all like, ‘Oh my God,’ because she’s tiny, cute, pretty and younger — and because she was all those things, she was aware that people would underestimate her,” said Rhimes.
2. Olivia Pope’s Abortion
Similar to the affair with the president, ABC wanted to cut out a scene in season 5 that showed Olivia Pope getting an abortion. “I said, ‘Go ahead, alter the scene. We’ll just have a lot of articles about how you altered the scene,'” said Shonda Rhimes. “We had done an abortion on a military woman who had been raped earlier on, and we were doing nothing different than we did in that scene — they just didn’t like that it was happening to Olivia. It was a Christmas episode, and we played Christmas music.” To top it all off, “Silent Night” was playing in the background during that scene, but Rhimes did her due diligence before the episode went to air and checked with Aretha Franklin was okay with it, which she was.
1. The Cast Members Are Really Close
In an interview with Los Angeles Confidential, Katie Lowes, who plays the character of Quinn Perkins, revealed she and her Scandal cast mates are really close! She considers them family. “When the cameras aren’t rolling, me, Kerry, and Guillermo [Diaz] dance and sing and run around like idiots. We joke around a lot. We’ve been on the show for five years, so we all know everyone’s significant others and they’re also in our lives. We get to see each other at events and we watch episodes together at Jeff Perry’s house on Sundays. We have potluck dinners. It truly feels like a family,” she said.