“And then Donald Trump was elected.”
That’s how the prolific creator breaks it down in The Hollywood Reporter’s extensive oral history of the ABC political drama, which airs its 100th episode on Thursday.
Although Rhimes wouldn’t spill the original ending she’d had planned for Olivia Pope and her gladiators, she revealed that Trump’s election made her go back to the drawing board to develop a fitting conclusion in the current political climate.
“We had a destination, and I don’t know if that’s our destination anymore,” Rhimes explained. “The day after the election, the whole landscape changed.”
Since the series’ beginning, a Republican has been president, which Rhimes said was a choice she made to humanize the political party under Obama’s administration. With Trump in office, portraying Republicans in the world of “Scandal” has been considerably more challenging.
“We had a Democratic president [when ‘Scandal’ premiered], so I wanted to take a Republican president and make him human,” she said. “Then our stories would be about what would happen if the wheels came off the bus and nobody was driving the bus. The problem now is the wheels have come off the bus, and nobody’s driving.”
Over the last two seasons, writers have had to scrap storylines that veered too closely to real headlines ― such as a Russian hacking scandal that compromised a presidential election ― and now the show’s approach has changed entirely.
“There was a very specific planned progression that was going to be easy to tell because Hillary [Clinton] was going to be president, and we were going to be living in the light. But it didn’t occur,” Rhimes said. “I’m still trying to come to terms with that. One bad thing after another keeps happening, and the world feels very unstable. So in a world in which all of the things that we would write on ‘Scandal’ are happening in real life, it’s very hard to write ‘Scandal’ the way we used to, when it was like, ‘Let’s make Washington the most outrageous, horrifying place it could ever be.’”
To read the full “Scandal” oral history, head over to The Hollywood Reporter.