The Scandal Cast Talks Olivia's Abortion & Spoilers At PaleyFest

Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images.
Kerry Washington and Shonda Rhimes
When a fan at Tuesday’s Scandal panel at PaleyFest Los Angeles asked the question on every viewer’s mind — “When is Fitz gonna find out about Olivia’s abortion?” — creator Shonda Rhimes had a follow-up of her own.

“Does he need to?” she shot back. “A woman made a choice about her body that she legally has the right to make.” Truth be told, Rhimes and the writing staff have yet to decide how to address the elephant lurking in the Oval Office since the controversial winter finale. “I wonder sometimes,” she said as “Olitz” shippers’ heads threatened to explode across the Dolby Theater. “We talk about it a lot.”

Midway through Season 5, Scandal has been renewed for a sixth season. And although Rhimes sees “a where and a when” for exactly how the series should end, she refuses to follow a “paint-by-numbers” formula in the meantime. Trust her, if she let the fans’ input guide her decisions instead of her own intuition, she would’ve flat-out stopped writing by now. “The gaze and the attention — sometimes it’s too much,” she explained.

Kerry Washington (deliberately not seated next to Tony Goldwyn, a tragic sign of trying times) expertly towed the line between viewers’ wishes and her boss’ needs when a fan wondered what she herself wants for her character, who’s been languishing under a harsher concoction of wine and the terrifying static of her own brain space than usual. “At no point in these five years has any decision about Olivia been something I wanted,” Washington assured fans. “I feel like my job is to witness her and hold a space for her — a very nonjudgmental space. I want her to be happy and whole and peaceful, but I don’t have any attachment to what that looks like,” she said. “Really, she has a lot of work to do on herself.”

When a question about why the show finally put Fitz and Olivia together only to brutally tear them apart within weeks drew the loudest applause of the night, Rhimes countered that since the start, she’s never seen this show as a romance. To her, Olivia Pope’s primary story has always been one of self-discovery. When she left the White House, Rhimes explained, it wasn’t necessarily because Fitz isn’t worthy of her love or because Olivia doesn’t love him. Rather, she escaped to avoid a miserable First Lady existence, one she knew deep down she could never handle. Olivia couldn’t risk “surrendering every piece of herself to become a prisoner…an appendage of him,” said Rhimes. “None of you do that,” she warned the crowd, twice.

In other words, disgruntled fans should feel free to sit back and let all the characters’ capital-J Journeys peacefully spill out in all directions like stray sips of Madam Mellie’s mason jar moonshine on Lady Liv’s carpet. As for the Olivia whom fans loved with Fitz? “That’s not who she’s supposed to be,” said Rhimes.

Also, no one should discount Liv’s monstrous manipulator of a father, newly named series regular Joe Morton, as potentially the strongest guiding force in her life instead of Fitz. “Her father, who many of you think represents evil, also represents a lot of truth,” Rhimes insisted.

Speaking of a hazy distinction between truth and evil, the writers have both drawn upon and heightened the absurdities of the actual U.S. primaries while scripting debates for upcoming Season 5 episodes. Look for a devastatingly Trump-esque candidate (he’ll be a familiar face and a welcome source of giggles for devoted Scandal fans) to pop up this Thursday and give Mellie Grant and Susan Ross a run for their much-less-than-he-has money.

Meanwhile, Shondaland stars Washington, Ellen Pompeo, and Viola Davis, along with Rhimes herself, appeared in a last-minute, Tony Goldwyn-directed “I’m With Hillary” ad campaign pegged to Tuesday’s election. “There was no order from Shonda up above,” promised Washington, who said the three working moms decided on their own, over email, to put their reputations out there and fight for a common cause.

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