The Writers' Room (2013) s02e01 Episode Script

Scandal

I read that script and, like, cried the whole way to work.
We fought about it in the room - for weeks on end.
- Weeks.
- Okay? - Really? I wanna be her getting bent over - on the Oval Office desk.
- What? Huh? What? What are we talking about here? Everyone wants to be bent over in the Oval Office.
And we're done.
[Laughter] Tonight, on The Writers' Room Murder, adultery, blackmail, and lots of red wine.
We've got the white-hot political drama, Scandal, a show that's been showered with awards and nominations from the Emmys, Golden Globes, and Screen Actors Guild, so just what makes Scandal television's hottest addiction? Scandal is about Olivia Pope.
She's a fixer in Washington, D.
C.
Olivia Pope is a certified bad bitch.
[Laughter] Olivia Pope gets with the President.
Then they break up.
Then they get back together.
Then they break up again.
Mellie, who's the President's wife, knows all about it.
[All chuckling] On Scandal, there's murder.
There's intrigue.
I love the women on the show.
They're amazingly smart.
They're stylish.
They use leverage, connections.
There's surprises.
Well, the Vice President killed her husband [Laughter] Blood splatter.
[lmitates splashing] Insane.
[lmitates splashing] I wanna be in a scandalous relationship with Fitz.
I'm sorry, but he's like Bill Clinton to me.
And I love me some Bill Clinton.
[Laughter] I usually have a Scandal party at my house.
So all the fans come over.
But if you talk during the Scandal show, you will be kicked out and not asked to come back again.
Somehow, at the end of all of this, the President and Olivia still think they're gonna end up in Vermont making jam and having babies.
Scandal.
[Laughter] Scandal, right now on The Writers' Room.
Outrageous success Horrible mistakes Last-minute changes.
The creators of today's most ground-breaking TV shows tell all in the place where it all starts: The Writers' Room.
Joining me in The Writers' Room, we have creator and executive producer Shonda Rhimes, executive producer Mark Wilding, consulting producer Jenna Bans, executive story editor Matt Byrne, supervising producer Heather Mitchell, and of course, the lovely and talented Emmy-nominated star of Scandal, Kerry Washington.
Thank you all for being here with me today.
- Thank you for having us.
- Oh, thank you.
I wanna just go back to the beginning - Mm-hmm.
- And ask you, Shonda, just about the-- Take us to the inspiration, the moment you decided to do what became Scandal.
I met a woman named Judy Smith, an actual professional fixer in Washington, D.
C.
Betsy Beers, my producing partner, sort of put her in front of me and said, "you really have to meet this woman.
" I thought, "well, we'll do a courtesy 15-minute meeting.
" Oh, my God.
It turned into, like, a three-hour meeting.
And I knew that there was a show there.
When I hit upon the idea that Olivia was this woman who was having an affair with the President, that sort of sealed it for me - and cemented it.
- Mm.
And so I wrote the pilot for Scandal, and I turned it in.
And then, the next day, I got on the phone with everybody 'cause they had a note that they wanted to give me.
And the note was, "we love the script.
We think it's amazing.
Can Olivia Pope not be having an affair with the President?" And I remember sitting on a phone and saying out loud, "this is a show in which "Olivia Pope is gonna have sex with the President "on the desk in the Oval Office.
"That is the show that I am writing.
"If you do not want to see that show, that is awesome, 'cause I have other jobs.
" And they, to their credit, sort of said, - "okay.
" - "Just kidding.
" Yeah.
[Laughter] I've just fallen in love with you.
Oh.
That's beautiful.
[Laughter] And how about for you? You saw it.
You're like, "oh, okay, Shonda Rhimes.
I'll take a look.
" I got this call from my agents that it was as if Shonda had written something for me, but Shonda and I had never met before.
So I said, "that's impossible.
" They said, "no, no.
She didn't write it for you.
You're gonna have to audition and fight for it.
" [Laughter] "We don't mean that, "but knowing you as well as we know you--" - Make no mistake.
- Exactly.
You will have to meet her and read for this.
Yeah, yeah.
They were, like, "this will be a process.
"But it's as if she wrote it for you 'cause you're so right for it.
" I remember watching the pilot, and I was thinking, "this is a great show.
This is a great show.
" And then, there's that scene where Kerry walks into the Oval, and it's revealed for the first time what their relationship is.
And I was like, "oh, [bleep].
This is a show.
" You know? And that was the moment where, you know, no-- "A," no show has done that before.
And "B," their chemistry was just so watchable and real that that really goes a long way for the fantasy.
I wanna be her getting bent over on the Oval Office desk.
- What? Huh? What? What? - You nailed it.
What are we talking about here? No, let's leave it at that.
"Everyone wants to be bent over in the Oval Office.
" - And we're done.
- You're welcome, America.
But I do think there's a fantasy element to it all.
I think people, you know, wanna be Olivia Pope, which I think is also a really interesting thing that I don't even know if any of us ever expected was gonna happen.
So often as actors, you don't get the opportunity to play characters that are multidimensional.
You know, you get cast as the good guy or the bad guy.
And on our show, all those ideas are thrown out the window.
All those rules go out the window, yes.
Everybody's a bad guy.
Everybody's trying to do good.
You told me that Bill Clinton - was a Scandal fan - Yes.
Which I thought was kind of the best thing ever.
[Laughs] He was very excited to talk about it, yeah.
I'm a huge Bill Clinton fan, so I was very excited to discover that he was a Scandal fan.
Michelle Obama just recently shared that she's binge-watched the whole 2 1/2 seasons that have come out.
- That is so surreal.
- That might have-- - That is surreal.
Come on.
- The most exciting call my office has ever got was "the White House called.
They want all the episodes of Scandal.
" - What? - Yeah.
To me, the character-driven aspect of your show, the ever-evolving, changing behavior of these characters, that's what's exciting in a good way because you're constantly surprising us.
You're not saying, "this character's like this.
" We talked about rigging the election.
- And Shonda said-- - Oh, we had a fight about this.
We had a big fight about whether or not Olivia was gonna be involved in rigging the election.
And we fought about it in the room - for weeks on end.
- Weeks.
- Okay? Weeks.
- Wow.
And we had this idea, and then Shonda said, "I understand if she does it for the love of Fitz.
"If there's-- if her loving Fitz "somehow motivates her to do it, "and there was a good sort of emotional reason for it as opposed to just, 'we want our guy to win.
'" - Wow.
- Did you know that? No, no.
No, I was devastated.
I mean, it was so funny 'cause I read that script two days after I got home from actually speaking at the Democratic National Convention about the importance of every vote.
[Laughter] And then I came back to Los Angeles and read that script and, like, cried the whole way to work.
- Oh, my God.
- You go, "I'm a liar!" Like, for some second you were like, "me and Olivia are the same.
" [Laughter] Yep.
Literally.
In our dark world of Washington, we play with the idea that everyone's corrupt and that the agreement that they've all made is that America will never know this.
There'll always be a Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny for America, but everybody in Washington already knows that this is not true.
So it's a much darker, sort of battle of monsters.
Have you ever gotten into an argument where one half of the room was like, they-- They just go this way or Shonda, you said, "it's this way.
" - Yeah.
- Yeah.
Oh, yeah.
Jake Ballard, who is played by Scott Foley, he ended up, right now, as the head of B613, this super secret government organization.
But for a while, we were gonna have him be a Vice Presidential candidate.
So that was something that we went back and forth on in the room and argued about for weeks.
- We actually got two scripts.
- We shot, didn't we? Yeah, we shot both versions.
I mean, we couldn't settle that argument for so long that we ended up shooting both versions.
We shot both.
Yeah, we shot both versions 'cause I-- We just couldn't settle the argument.
- Really? - Yeah.
Well, there were good reasons to do it and good reasons not to do it, you know? It was a very-- Like, it was a little - "how crazy is this?" - Yeah.
Yeah, you sort of had to see it for yourself or feel it.
And it wasn't until I saw both versions of it cut into the show that I decided.
- Mm.
- Really? Do you remember that? We'd written a first script for the next half of the season, and I came down to the writers' room, and I said, "I just watched the cut.
"No.
He's not the Vice President.
He's the head of B613.
" And we were like, "oh, God.
" [Laughter] "We have to write that script.
" Are you ever surprised by how the actors might change the way you thought that character might be, or have you ever switched gears because you're like, "oh, this is where we're going with this person.
" My contract with the cast is everybody will say all the words as they are written.
And we're never gonna tell them how they should play the parts.
And I'll watch a cut, and I'll go, "oh, Cyrus is gay.
" And I'll go back to the writers' room, and I'll go, "you guys, Cyrus is gay.
And I saw it in the cut.
" So a lot of it's that collaboration between-- they go off and act it, and then I get the film back, watch it, and discover something about the character.
Have you ever gotten to a place in the writers' room where you hit a wall? Isn't that what we try and do is back into the wall? Right, I was gonna say the nature of the storytelling on Scandal is, is you back everybody into a corner, and you keep them there.
And then, you watch them fight their way out.
Yeah.
There's not just one cliffhanger at the end of a Scandal episode.
There's about ten.
And, you know, Shonda, I think, always says, "never save story.
" And I think on most shows, you would see them save some crazy cliffhanger until the 13th episode, the end of season.
And Shonda's like, "we're doing it episode two!" And I think that's what people love about the show, and why they know they have to watch it on the night because their friends are gonna be talking about it - the next day.
- Yeah, they will be spoiled.
- Right.
- Yeah.
So going down this little panel real quickly, just give me a log line of a scene that you can think of that would be probably be on the list that fans got most worked up about.
I'd say the wrist-chewing maniac mom showing up.
Yeah.
[Laughs] - Millie's rape - Mm-hmm.
- By her husband's father.
- Okay.
Dad, the big cliffhanger for season two.
Dad.
Yeah.
What's nice is that there's so many.
[Laughter] All right, so when we come back, we will find out what scenes shocked Scandal fans the most.
Plus, we'll dig more into their writing process, and we'll get some insider secrets.
All that when The Writers' Room continues.
Welcome back to The Writers' Room.
I'm here with Scandal.
Before the break, I asked you to guys to sort of list scenes that you thought your fans would get the most worked up about.
Let's take a look at a few of them in a segment we call "Defend This Scene.
" I never thought in a million years that President Grant would kill a Supreme Court justice.
That was just crazy to me.
Yes.
That was crazy.
Yes, it was.
Huck took one of their gladiators, one of his fellow coworkers, Quinn, and tortured her.
Who does that? Who thinks of this? [Laughter] I actually really don't like Huck.
I really like Huck.
[Laughter] Huck is my homey.
An oh-em-gee moment for me this season was when the Vice President stabbed her husband, and then Cyrus had to come in and help her cover it up.
All right.
Well, of all those, we have one that got them worked up the most.
This past season, where Olivia Pope's mom is in jail, and then, it flashes to her, and all of sudden, she's chewing both of her wrists, and there's blood and veins and it's all gross.
Ugh! That was the most graphic thing I have ever seen on this show.
I have to ask, who threw out "wrist chewing"? - Like, 'cause clearly-- - Heather.
[Laughter] Congratulations.
'Cause I remember leaving the writers' room and coming back, and someone being like, "we have this amazing way for her to get out of jail.
" And me being like, "that is so disgusting But so awesome.
" We wanted Liv's mom to be playing the long con and get herself out of that cell.
And then, I was just kinda looking at my wrists, and I was like, I bet you could-- If you really wanted to.
Then, if you did one like-- Would you have the fortitude to do the other one? [Laughter] And then like, if you could only do one, would that be enough? Would they just put a band-aid on it? But that's why the writers' room is so fun 'cause we can go for an hour talking about the most gruesome ways to kill or get ourselves out of a jail cell by hurting ourselves.
How does the network weigh in on some of these things like this? [Giggles] Or do you care? Please tell me you don't care.
They are so respectful of us and our process that they do not step in.
They allow us the creative freedoms - that we wanna have.
- That's fantastic.
And I feel really proud of the fact that we've earned that with them and have not betrayed that trust.
So there are no notes.
- There are no notes.
- In their minds maybe.
No, you know, they're really lovely.
I haven't-- We have not gotten notes on the show.
- Since season one.
- Since season one.
It's not a normal writers' experience.
I mean, we've had writers come on this staff and go, "oh, my God.
"They're not sort of looking over our shoulder at every step.
" And just as we were sitting and starting to talk about writing process, I'd love to get into your writers' room as far as how you attack a new season.
In other words, do you-- [Laughs] - Oh, oh.
- Oh, boy.
- God.
- What, did you exhale, like, "oh.
If you only knew.
" Was that what that reaction was? It was a little, "if you only knew.
" At the end of season one, I remember sending an email to all the writers as they were coming in for season two.
And I sort of said, "if anybody knows "who Quinn Perkins is, that would be awesome - to hear your pitches.
" - Oh, wow.
Because we had no idea when we left season one who Quinn Perkins was.
- We were, like, "oh, God.
" - 'Cause had no idea.
So on that day those emails came in, was there anything insane - or what were the pitches for-- - Oh, they were all insane.
- Oh, they were all insane.
- Yeah.
One was like, she was a secret-- remember, she was gonna speak Russian? Then there was the one where she was Fitz's daughter.
- Yes, that was fun.
- Yeah.
Or Sally's daughter.
- Sally's daughter.
- Or Cyrus's daughter.
Or Cyrus's daughter.
She was the Lindbergh baby for a hot minute.
- Yes, she was.
- She was.
For a hot minute, she was the Lindbergh baby.
- She was many things.
- Many things.
Has anyone brought something personal to the table? There's a lot about how Olivia works that I feel, like, feels personal to me.
Being in charge, having to deal with difficult people, things that I understand - on some level.
- Being responsible.
Yeah, being responsible for everybody.
- Everybody's sort of-- - Yes.
- That stuff feels personal.
- Take care of.
Okay, so when we come back, we will talk about Scandal's rabid fan base, and we'll talk about what's in store for season four.
All that on The Writers' Room.
Welcome back to The Writers' Room.
I'm here with Scandal.
Let's talk about your fans because they are rabid.
[Laughter] Yep.
Literally.
They create tributes and parodies.
We're gonna take a look at one.
This is actually a guy who animates recaps of each of your episodes.
Let's take a look.
Let me get this straight.
Your dad is head of B613, and he shot down the plane that killed your mom? Yep.
No wonder you drink so much wine.
And Fitz is the one that shot down the plane.
Can she be transported? Bro, she ate her own wrists.
Like, "happy Thanksgiving.
Oh, sorry.
We're out of turkey.
" "Don't worry.
I'm just gonna eat my wrists off.
" Nice.
[Laughter] Come on.
You gotta love that.
- That's fantastic.
- We do love that.
[Overlapping chatter] We have amazing fans.
He does every voice, doesn't he? - Yeah.
- Oh, my God, that's fantastic.
We have amazing fans.
Like, we started the Scandal writers' room Twitter feed.
- And the fans were so engaged.
- Yeah.
And that made it even more fun.
It's such a precious relationship to us.
I love that you're not alone.
I mean, in a weird way, when you're watching TV with Twitter, you're not alone.
You're sitting with, you know, the entire community of other fans.
And you're sitting with the writers, and you're sitting with the actors who play the characters, and our makeup team tweets.
- And our sets deck tweet.
- The props department.
The props tweet.
I mean, you're sitting with the people who made the show, and you're having sort of an open conversation.
I think it opens up the community in a way that's kind of exciting.
Now, on the creative side of things, since you are getting a lot of feedback, does it ever into the room? - No.
- Never? They never-- so they can't influence that aspect.
No, and it's for a very simple reason.
Not that we don't care what people say or what they think.
It's that we're so far ahead that by the time they're commenting on something, we couldn't change it even if we wanted to.
- Right.
Right.
- That makes sense.
It's fascinating to see what people like and what they-- I mean, we can't change it, but it's really neat to see.
I mean, in the sense of even as writers, our goal is not likeability.
When people say, "is that person likeable?" Do you have a reaction to that when you think about that? Yeah, we don't even think about the word "likeable.
" - Right.
- Like, you know, - our goal is true characters.
- Mm.
And so trying to make somebody likeable is to make them a little bit wooden and a little bit two-dimensional.
And it's taking out a piece of their soul because we all, you know, 'Liv says it.
- "We all do terrible things.
" - Mm-hmm.
And the idea that we're gonna present characters that don't, it's a sitcom.
That's what a sitcom is, and that's fine.
And sitcoms are amazing.
But we're not making a sitcom.
We're making a drama.
You can like someone who does horrible things.
- Mm-hmm.
- Absolutely.
Or you can hate someone and still wanna watch.
You can hate someone so much they're fascinating, - you know? - Right.
Absolutely, there's love/hate.
There's all these things.
Okay, well, there is no better time than the present than to put your talents to the test.
I want-- Shonda and Kerry here, why don't you guys tweet to your fans that you are sitting here on the panel at The Writers' Room [Laughs wickedly] And ask your fans to shoot us a question that we can answer.
And if you happen, in the 140 characters to have a little compliment about me, go for it.
Okay.
In the meantime - Request for full frontal? - Yes, please.
Please #fullfrontal.
[Laughter] Now, let's look at a few of your celebrity tweets.
Mariah Carey said Scandal.
She love explanation points.
Lena Dunham [Laughter] Classic Lena.
Okay.
Jessica Simpson says Oh, there you go.
Best friends.
- That would be awesome.
- That's pretty great.
You know? Well, when we come back, Shonda and Kerry here are going to answer some questions from their fans, and we'll find out some of the tweets - that they just got - After the break, yeah.
When The Writers' Room continues.
Welcome back to The Writers' Room.
I'm here with Shonda Rhimes and star of Scandal, Kerry Washington.
And we're going into a segment we call "Fan on the Street.
" If you could hire Olivia Pope to handle one thing in your life, what would it be? In other words, what scandal do you have that needs to be fixed in your life? What dark secret that I don't want anybody to know about? I know.
It's a very personal question when you really come to think about it.
Well, I was really grateful when I read the pilot that I didn't know that people like Olivia Pope existed 'cause that, to me, was a sign that I had never been in enough trouble as an actor to know - about Olivia Popes.
- Right.
'Cause I've since learned that a lot of my peers are like, "oh, yeah.
Those people exist.
" So another fan.
What will Olivia Pope do for a living when she retires as a fixer? - Shonda? - What would she do? Well, I think that she thinks that she would go to Vermont and make jam - Yes.
- And have babies with Fitz.
I think that's what she thinks.
How long that would last, however-- Right, I think that would last about ten minutes, yeah.
Or she uncovers a scandal in the jam-making business.
- Jam is scandalous.
- Jam scandals, yeah.
The jam scandal.
That's later.
It's later when stories have run dry.
- Right.
- And we're in trouble.
So earlier, I asked you guys to tweet.
Can you get your favorite tweet? Okay, I have one that says [Laughs] - Why? - Why? Why? The answer to that is really simple.
Olivia wouldn't be who Olivia is if she had grown up in a whole, happy, healthy home.
And Olivia' journey is really dictated by the fact that she's never really had a family, which is what those stray dogs that are the Olivia Pope associates-- Those are the people that she's taking in and trying to build herself a family.
And I think that there's something beautiful about that.
Kerry, what'd you get? Um - Oh.
- Oh.
I think I'm very close to Olivia in a lot of ways, but also, I'm very close to the David Rosen character, the-- Our D.
A.
, because he is much more of a play-by-the-rules kind of person in a way that feels more like me.
Do you have in your mind how Scandal could come to an end? - Yes.
- You do? - Mm-hmm.
- Okay.
So I got that spoiler.
How we will get there is what's most interesting 'cause I have no idea how we're gonna get there yet.
[Laughter] So I wanna talk about season four.
Once again, at the end of every season, we've played all of our cards.
And we always walk away going, "we've got nothing left.
" And then, we come back together and hope for something new.
So you've finished the season up against the wall.
- Mm-hmm.
- And then, we come back, and we try to break that wall down? - Yes.
- Or pull 'em away - from the wall, you know? - Yes.
So that's what makes it so exciting.
So I wanna thank Shonda and Kerry for being a part of The Writers' Room.
- It truly was an honor - Oh, no.
Thank you.
- This was wonderful.
- To sit with you.
You clearly have a wonderful family here, making a show that so many people love.
So that's all for today.
We'll see you next time on The Writers' Room.
In the meantime, in the spirit, I'm just gonna keep switching spaces for no reason.
[Laughter] To see what all the views look like.
And feel free to join me if you'd like to feel what it feels like.
You can sit in the host chair.
Does that feel good to you? [Laughs] And over here.