The Secrets of 'Scandal'

May 3, 2013 3:45:33 PM PDT
For the first time in 40 years, an African-American actress stars in a network TV drama.

Kerry Washington is now at the center of a major cultural discussion, thanks to Chicago native and Scandal creator Shonda Rhimes, who takes political mystery and conspiracy to new heights with 'Scandal'.

WEB EXTRA: Watch more of Cheryl Burton's interview with stars of 'Scandal'
JEFF PERRY: Go behind-the-scenes of 'Scandal' with the Highland Park native

It's more than just a TV show - 'Scandal' has become a social obsession for the audience.

Intrigue, infidelity, murder and presidential secrets: a perfect recipe for the popular hit show 'Scandal.' Olivia Pope is the rapid fire fixer who over sees a team of crisis managers.

"This is the first time I am playing someone who could theoretically destroy my life if I don't get it right because she is so powerful (laughs), I did feel a different level of responsibility," said Washington.

Washington portrays real-life image saver Judy Smith. She's helped many high-profile clients including Monica Lewinsky, Michael Vic and most recently former Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. Smith is a beltway insider who worked in the Bush Administration during the 1990s.

"She is a tremendous resource and knows the inner machinery, and she is amazing and always available and I don't know how she does it," said Washington. "She helps us understand details about a state dinner or what's it like to get that call at 2 a.m. and identify a body."

Washington says there was instant chemistry with Tony Goldwyn, who plays Fitzgerald Grant, the sitting President. Their White House affair and oh-so-steamy love scenes helped turn the show into a multi-screen experience.

"Honestly my wife is very cool about this kind of thing because we have been doing this for a while but she doesn't watch the show," said Goldwyn. "But I'm a little uncomfortable, I don't see any reason for her to watch our love scenes."

Tweeting about the show is just as important as watching it, according to one social networking website. One episode averaged more than 220,000 tweets. Fans refer to themselves as 'gladiators.'

"I would have to say the second best thing we have [are] the most committed and enthusiastic fans and we are very aware we wouldn't have a second season and we are aware we wouldn't have jobs and we are appreciative of our gladiators.

"I feel proud we live in world where Scandal can be a hot show and where our heroes or antiheroes are allowed [to be] lead characters who look like all of us. I feel proud as a society," said Goldwyn. On Scandal, Washington's character is in love with a republican commander-in-chief but in real life, the award winning actress is a staunch supporter of President Barack Obama - something she says she was concerned about before taking the role.

"When Shonda met with me I asked her what race the President was going to be," said Washington. "I didn't want to get into a situation where I was getting into...making comments about the current administration. So when she said the President was going to be white and republican - and told me it was Tony - that was even better."

Highland Park native Jeff Perry plays the president's chief of staff. We went behind the scenes in Hollywood to find out Perry's inspiration for his role and learn the secrets to the show's success.

He is calculating, confident, confrontational and oh so deliciously conniving! It is a character so unlike Perry's personality he almost didn't get the job until an ABC executive gave him this advice:

"He said the audition is pretty good," said Perry, "and I need more Rahm Emanuel and less professor. So I got a different kind of haircut and a different kind of suit. I watched Rahm Emanuel video and read about Rahm. I got the job. So, Rahm, I owe you commission on the job."

Perry shared another reason he got the job:

"My wife is the casting director. Sleep with your wife if you are an actor."

Perry says, when he is acting, much of his inspiration and motivation is rooted in training he received at the Steppenwolf Theater he co-founded with Gary Sinise in Chicago.

"I've never played anything like this," said Perry. "It feels good. Bad guys are fun to play."

His partner in conspiracy is first lady Millie Grant, played by Bellamy Young. She is fiercely loyal and a scorned first lady who fans love to hate. Her and Perry are an odd team fighting for the attention of the president.

"There will be a lot of zigging and zagging and a lot of cat fights with this one," Young said. "We have fun fighting for my man from Olivia and I am fighting for my man with Cyrus. So love will win in the end."

Young says, while the storylines don't reflect the presidential couple presently residing in the White House, she is impressed with the real first lady.

"Michelle Obama blows my mind," said Young. "Form and function, style and grace."


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