"Scandal" Season 3 is still, painfully, a few months away, but members of the cast were on hand at the recent ATX Television Festival in Austin, Texas to reminisce about Season 2, talk Twitter and share their hopes for next year.
One of the many shocking twists of Season 3 was the revelation that Joe Morton's enigmatic B613 director, Rowan, was also Olivia Pope's (Kerry Washington) father. The cast members on hand at the ATX panel -- Katie Lowes (Quinn Perkins), Joshua Malina (David Rosen), Dan Bucatinsky (James Novak) -- admitted that they were every bit as floored as the audience when they finally found out. "Joe Morton had been around for months and we had no idea," Lowes said with a laugh. "No one knew. Everyone was completely flabbergasted. I think there was screaming that occurred."
"There's screaming at every table read," director Tom Verica, who was also at the panel, noted. "There were probably five of us who knew when Joe first came on. You wonder, 'Is anyone going to figure this out along the way?'"
As well as learning that the cast members have some famous friends who they'd like to see appear on the show (Malina said his former "West Wing" co-star Allison Janney is "a big fan of the show," while Bucatinsky revealed that "Lisa Kudrow [who he worked with on "Web Therapy" and "The Comeback"] watches every single episode"), here's what else we found out during ATX's "Scandal" panel.
Cast chemistry is integral to the show's success:
"We do all really like each other," Lowes said. "I feel like it's a testament to Shonda [Rhimes] because when she was casting the show and putting everybody together, she called previous bosses and checked up on everyone to make sure everyone was a nice person and normal and cool. I think she really gathered a group of people who work hard and we love being there."
Bucatinsky agreed. "We've all become friends and it's very smart. I've never done a scene with Darby [Stanchfield] or Katie; I've known Josh for a long time; but for all of us to become friends and love each other regardless of whether we act together," he added. "On this show, you never know if you're going to wind up in a scene together for the strangest of reasons. I never thought I'd be in a scene with Bellamy [Young] and then I ended up acting with her a lot ... You build these relationships early on that just last regardless of who you run into on a particular episode, so you have chemistry."
And the cast's social media prowess factors into "Scandal's" success too:
Lowes admitted that, "The majority of the people on 'Scandal' were not on Twitter before 'Scandal,' aside from Josh and Kerry. But we got this email from Shonda Rhimes a couple weeks before the pilot aired, and she said, 'We'd like you all to join Twitter.' I [had no idea] about this stuff. I'm social media not smart at that kind of thing ... So we all struggled together to learn how to do it, and now, we're so thankful that we are." Lowes later revealed that it had been Washington who suggested to Rhimes that the whole cast should jump on the Twitter bandwagon, a strategy that has certainly paid off.
"There's definitely a correlation between our engagement with Twitter and the fans and the groundswell of 'Scandal' this season," Bucatinsky noted. "Around November, it really started to take off and it was a very steady growth all the way towards the end of the season. Journalists would write about it, we had record-breaking numbers of tweets per minute, we were the biggest cast that would live-tweet during the show, both the East Coast and the West Coast. And what's starting to happen is that people are tuning in, appointment television, to watch 'Scandal' live as opposed to watching it recorded, and that's something that the advertisers were worried about for years. I think the live-tweet situation is going to start drawing people to the live broadcast of the show because you're watching with the cast."
"And because people know we'll ruin the episode for you if you don't watch it as it happens," Malina added with a laugh.
The cast enjoys lying to us:
The plots of "Scandal" are closely-guarded secrets, and Lowes admitted that the cast has fun with misleading viewers sometimes. "Sometimes we tweet pictures purposefully leading you down the wrong path. Darby and I were doing this scene where we were breaking into [David's] office and we were dressed in black and all stealth and we took a picture and tweeted it like, 'What do you think we're doing?' and everyone was all, 'Someone's dying!' 'You're dressed for a funeral!' You try to get creative with it."
Bucatinsky's relationship with social media is a little different: "People tweet me more as the character than they do as [me] -- I am spoken to much more as, 'Why are you putting up with that? Why are you letting him talk to you like that? What's wrong with you? Don't tell the world about what he did!' I'm like, 'It's not my fault. I didn't rig a national election.' I find myself responding as if I'm James."
They also enjoy playing their dark sides:
Malina spent one episode on the receiving end of viewers' ire after the penultimate episode of Season 2 made it seem like he was a villan, seemingly betraying Olivia Pope and Associates to work with the unhinged Billy Chambers [Matt Letscher]. "Honestly, I loved it," he admitted. "I wish that villainy had lasted a little bit longer because I enjoyed being hated ... I wanted to do the opposite and prolong it somehow. People for so many months were saying, 'He's a gladiator. When are they going to hire him at OPA?' If you ever think you know where it's going, that's your first clue that that's not where it's going. That's not Shonda's style. She will always surprise you. But I enjoyed the malice."
Lowes got to channel her own dark side when Quinn went nuclear on Billy with a drill in the season finale, and the actress was surprised by how she responded to the scene. "I didn't know if Quinn would be into it or not. I just thought. 'OK, when I get that drill in my hand and I go down, she's either going to be into it or not or scared or not.' And it happened and I was like, 'Oh, Quinn's into it.' That's just what came out naturally -- 'This is a high.'"
They mostly want to be alive next season:
When asked about their hopes for Season 3, the actors were content to trust Rhimes' vision, with only a few small requests ... "Whenever there's a flashback episode, I'm not in it, so I would like a past," Malina laughed. "Or some evidence that David Rosen was alive [before the series started]." Bucatinsky hoped to see "the balance between work and home more, the baby and maybe getting a sibling, and a spin-off series ..."
Meanwhile, Lowes admitted, "I really just have loved everything so far and there's been so many things that I've never done like drilling and whatever. I trust Shonda in all of her ideas and everyone in that writers room is so brilliant ... and I also just want to be alive."
The show continues to excel at portraying realistic gay relationships:
Bucatinsky praised Rhimes' work in making James and Cyrus' (Jeff Perry) relationship about the characters instead of their sexuality. "To me it's the thing that I respect most about Shonda and the shows she creates -- the fact that there is no closet in a Shonda Rhimes show …Everyone in that administration knew, Olivia Pope knows and makes nothing of it. And the issues that Cyrus and James go through -- with the exception of election rigging and taking out hits on each other -- are the issues that a working couple go[es] through ... Becoming a family and becoming parents and how they manage their relationship. It normalizes it, and that fact is almost subversive in its execution so I'm kind of psyched about it."
Not all actors can handle "Scandal"-speak:
The show has drawn comparisons to an Aaron Sorkin series for its fast-paced dialogue, and Malina has been fortunate enough to play in both Sorkin's sandbox and Rhimes'.
"I've been very lucky to exist in both the Sorkinverse and Shondaland. There are definitely similarities -- being able to speak very quickly and enunciate are paramount," he said. "There are definitely similarities -- her world is a bit saucier, a bit racier. In terms of the dialogue itself, both very dialogue-heavy, well-written. It's very easy to act when the dialogue is good. When the writing is good, you just get out of the way of it -- you just say the words in the right order and you look like a brilliant actor."
But Verica noted that it's not as easy as the cast makes it look: "It's a different speed, a different pace, and our guest actors -- there are really good actors, established actors, who come in and can't do it. In the audition process, they really have to ... get 'em going in "Scandal"-speak because we need to know whether they can handle it. Being able to go that quick, Katie, you set the bar for everyone."
"Scandal" will return in fall 2013 on ABC.
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