Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) is a former White House Communications Director for the President of the United States who has left to start her own crisis management firm, Olivia Pope & Associates. Olivia has decided to dedicate her life to protecting the public images of the nation's elite but is finding that no matter how hard she tries, she cannot leave parts of her past behind.
Olivia Pope & Associates' staff includes Harrison Wright (Columbus Short), a smooth and efficient litigator; Abby Whelan (Darby Stanchfield), the firm's investigator; Huck (Guillermo Diaz), a hacker with a CIA past; and recent recruit Quinn Perkins (Katie Lowes), a fresh faced lawyer with a secret. Another former employee of Pope and Associates was Pope's good friend, Stephen Finch (Henry Ian Cusick), a suave detective who was never really tied down to anything. Cusick, known particularly for his role in the U.S. television series Lost, left the show after only one season.
The first season of the show introduced Olivia Pope and the various members of her firm, as well as President of the United States Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn) and Cyrus Beene (Jeff Perry), his chief of staff. Season one focused on the lives of the team members, the relationship between Olivia and the president (her former employer), and the mystery surrounding Amanda Tanner's (Liza Weil) involvement with the White House, among other cases the team solved.
Several casting changes occurred: Henry Ian Cusick as Stephen Finch exited and both Bellamy Young, as First Lady of the United States, and Joshua Malina, as David Rosen, were bumped up to series regulars. Season two began airing in September in the same time slot. Season two focused on the stress of the upcoming reelection of current President Fitzgerald Grant, and the fallout of dealing with the guilt that he did not truly earn his first term in office. This was in addition to cases that Olivia Pope and members of her firm took on.
ABC is pursuing a split-season schedule for most of their dramas for 2013-14, meaning Scandal premiered its third season on October 3, with a winter hiatus through the holidays and January 2014, along with the 2014 Winter Olympics, returning with a 'spring' premiere February 27. The third season was shortened by four episodes to an 18-episode run ending in mid-April in order to accommodate Kerry Washington's pregnancy, which was not incorporated into the show.
Season 4: 2014–2015
On May 8, 2014, ABC renewed the show for a fourth season.Columbus Short will not return for the fourth season due to personal issues outside the series.
Kerry Washington as Olivia Carolyn Pope, a former White House Director of Communications who is widely regarded as the best "fixer" in Washington. Cyrus was her mentor when she worked on the Grant presidential campaign, during which she and then-Governor Fitzgerald Thomas Grant III began an affair. After becoming president, Fitz and Olivia, then the Director of Communications, continue the affair. Although she still had feelings for him, Olivia knew that it would be best to resign from her position and as a result she started "Pope & Associates", a crisis management company. Throughout Season 1 Olivia demonstrates that she is very dedicated to her work and to the people she helps and that she's surrounded by staff who are very loyal to her due to her saving each of them a problem in their past. At the beginning of Season 2, it is revealed that Olivia had something to do with Quinn Perkins's past and that she made a call that eventually got Quinn's case thrown out of court, saving her from the death penalty. Olivia is shown to have a contentious relationship with Mellie, the First Lady; the two women cannot stand each other, but tolerate each other for the sake of the presidency.
Darby Stanchfield as Abby Whelan, who works as an investigator in Olivia's firm. Abby was married to Charles Putney, the youngest son of former Virginia governor James Putney. She left him when he beat her in a drunken rage. Olivia got a tire iron and broke Charles's kneecap. She also helped Abby get the best divorce attorney in the state to help her get out of her marriage. Abby is extremely loyal to Olivia because she helped her get her life back together, but she gets angry with her when she doesn't act like the Olivia who helps people. In the season 2 premiere, she helps Olivia with Quinn's case, even though she believes that she is guilty. Abby was sleeping with AUSA David Rosen after she found his wall with pictures of Quinn and Olivia all over it when she broke into his house. However, after Olivia found out about their relationship, she asked Harrison to end it. Harrison bribed Rosen's ex-girlfriend to say he beat her up to force Abby to break up with him.
Katie Lowes as Quinn Perkins/Lindsay Dwyer, revealed in the season 2 premiere to be Lindsay Dwyer, on trial for murdering her ex-boyfriend and six other people. She had called her boyfriend, threatening him after she found out that he cheated on her. A mysterious package turning out to be a bomb, shows up at his workplace, killing him and six other people. It is revealed that Quinn ran away to a hotel room, frightened by what happened and that someone broke in and injected her with a sedative; she woke up in Washington, D.C. with a new identity. She is acquitted of all charges after Olivia makes a phone call. Olivia and Huck have something to do with her past, because Huck is shown in front of Quinn's hotel, then getting into Olivia's car and driving away. Quinn is extremely caring and has a brotherly relationship with Harrison Wright. She was dating reporter Gideon Wallace who was murdered by Billy Chambers. In Season 2, Quinn accepts Huck as her espionage and technology mentor, ultimately leading her down the path of embracing her dark side.
Guillermo Diaz as Huck, works as a tech guy in Olivia's firm. He is extremely loyal to her, willing to do anything she asks of him. Olivia found the homeless Huck while she was working on the Grant campaign. She took a shining to him and brought him coffee every day. Prior to knowing Olivia, and after serving in the Marines, Huck was blackmailed into joining a top secret C.I.A. program called B613, where he was trained to torture and murder American "traitors". He discovered he actually took pleasure in hurting people, but was conflicted and tried to avoid the torturing. Olivia, knowing his history, asked him to use what he knew, but only in desperate situations. When she asked him to find Amanda Tanner's body, to return to her father, Huck tortured the man who originally trained him, until he revealed the whereabouts of the body. In the Season 2 premiere, it is revealed that it was Huck and Olivia who left the new identity for Quinn. Huck recently told his AA group that he had begun "drinking whisky" again, meaning that he had started killing again, saying how much he enjoyed "it" and didn't know if he could stop "drinking" again. In Season 2, Huck tutored Quinn in espionage and technology, but much to his chagrin he awakened something dark within her.
Jeff Perry as Cyrus Rutherford Beene, White House Chief of Staff. He is a quiet man but is extremely ambitious, calculating, and extremely loyal to the president, even willing to kill to protect him. He was Olivia Pope's mentor and is her good friend. Cyrus worked on Fitz's campaign and brought Olivia on after they lost Iowa in the primaries. He is shocked when he learns about the affair between Olivia and Fitz. He is extremely upset when he learns about Amanda Tanner and that Olivia is representing her and he goes as far as to wage war with Olivia. It is revealed that he hired the contractor to kill Amanda Tanner so she would not come forward. When Cyrus tells Olivia that the president is giving up the White House for her, he tells her some men can't be normal, changing her mind and helping her get Fitz and Mellie back together. Cyrus is gay and married to James Novak, a journalist. Cyrus and Olivia are on good terms toward the end of Season 1, working together to save Fitz's presidency, although Olivia makes it clear that she knows what Cyrus is capable of when the president "lets him off his leash". Throughout Season 2, Cyrus is struggling with keeping Defiance (a vote manipulation scheme which bent the presidential election towards Fitz based on tampering of the voting machines in Defiance County, Ohio) from coming to light, helping Fitz with his decision-making and keeping his husband James from finding out the truth. He even adopts a baby girl for James, knowing that it is what he wants for their relationship. When Cyrus believes Hollis was responsible for Fitz's attempted assassination, he hires his own assassin to "end the problem", showing that he is willing to go to great lengths to protect everything Defiance worked for. He even goes as far as to nearly kill James for being David's witness to their conspiracy, but calls it off at the last minute. Ten months after Verna's funeral, he is shut out by Fitz for his involvement in the rigging, no longer able to give advice or influence the president's decisions.
Tony Goldwyn as Fitzgerald Thomas Grant III (Fitz), is the President of the United States, a Republican former Governor of California from Santa Barbara. He is in love with Olivia Pope and wants to divorce his wife to be with her. While Fitz does care for his wife Mellie, he is not in love with her and has remained in his marriage at the urging of his chief of staff Cyrus Beene as to maintain his Presidential approval ratings and to help his chances for a second term. He started his affair with Olivia on his campaign trail and has been seeing her ever since, even though their relationship is hard to manage. He sleeps with Amanda Tanner when he becomes upset that Olivia won't see him. He started to lie about it to Olivia at first, but then revealed the truth. They are caught together by Cyrus, who tells him Amanda Tanner is blackmailing him and Olivia Pope is now representing her. When Olivia won't talk to him, he goes to her house and they sit together on the couch holding each other. When the news breaks about what Billy did, Fitz is happy because he views this as a chance to get out of his marriage and be a normal man with the woman he loves, but Olivia stops this and helps him get back with his wife, upsetting and confusing him. While Olivia has tried moving on and tried keeping a professional relationship, Fitz constantly tries to force affections with her and even sneaked away to be at her house. In season 2, he is troubled by whether to invade East Sudan and his wife Mellie's pregnancy. Fitz and Olivia are at a standstill in their relationship because she wants to move on, to do the right thing and he won't let her because he loves her. When Olivia stops taking his calls, he does not handle it well and Cyrus tells him that he is "ticking". Fitz finally tells Olivia that he is ending their relationship when he invites her to a restaurant, saying that he is not being responsible to Mellie, Olivia and America and that he needs to be a better man. After being nearly assassinated on his birthday, Fitz was left in a coma for a short period of time before returning to office. The near-death experience left him a changed man, with some minor brain damage which causes him to lose his fear of doing what he wants for himself. He demanded a divorce from Mellie to be with Olivia, not caring if he loses his position as president and is loathed by the American people. This changed when Verna reveals everything about Defiance and her part in his assassination attempt, all to preserve her legacy. He kills her to preserve his own legacy and shut out everyone involved with Defiance. Ten months later, Fitz has developed a drinking problem and has become more forceful and rash in his decisions, believing that he does not have anyone he can trust.
Bellamy Young as First Lady Millicent "Mellie" Grant (recurring, season 1; regular, season 2-) She is a strong but cold and calculating woman, willing to do anything to stay in the White House. Mellie does love her husband; she was a lawyer and gave up her career to support him. Olivia is shocked to learn that Mellie not only knew about Fitz's affair with her, but said nothing about it. She blames Olivia for the Amanda Tanner situation (reasoning that if Olivia had "played her part" as Fitz's mistress, Tanner would never have gotten involved at all). At the end of Season 1, she is planning to leave her husband after he tells her that he doesn't care about the presidency anymore and just wants to live a normal life. Olivia stops Mellie and brings her back to Washington, D.C. to help Olivia save Fitz's presidency and his marriage. It is possible that Mellie resents Olivia's status, due to her having a career and Fitz's love. In Season 2, Fitz and Mellie hate each other more than ever, with Mellie beginning to overstep the bounds of her position. She now wants to be included in security meetings and is threatening Cyrus to get what she wants, but he's not buying it. After Fitz is nearly assassinated and demands a divorce from her, Mellie induces her pregnancy in a last-ditch effort to keep them together as well as maintain her position as First Lady. After Fitz finds out about Defiance and stays with Mellie, she tries to side with him and keep him from overworking, even putting all the blame on Cyrus for the rigging. When Fitz begins drinking, Mellie tells him that his children didn't want to spend time with him, due to his changing behavior and that she wasn't going to force them to visit if they didn't wish for it. She tells him he needed to get over Olivia's deception.
Joshua Malina as David Rosen, Assistant U.S. Attorney (recurring, season 1; regular, season 2-) He is a stickler for the law, believing that it is his job to uphold it. He often says that he wears "the white hat". He and Olivia have a friendly rivalry going on when she gets involved in the cases he prosecutes. He is a good guy, willing to help Olivia — within the law. In the last episode of the first series, he discovers Quinn's true identity and in the season 2 premiere, he is prosecuting Quinn, even recommending the death penalty. When the judge rules in favor of the defense, David is shocked, because he has a solid case against her. When he spots Olivia and asks what she did, she just smiles and walks away. David was sleeping with Abby Whelan to gain more information on the case he lost against Olivia, though he was actually starting to like her. This ended when Abby left him after she believed that he beat up his last girlfriend. When David finally gathered enough information, he realized that the bombing in Cytron was a cover for the fact that the presidential campaign was rigged. He decided to dig deeper into the conspiracy that was covering this up, even using Cyrus Beene's husband James Novak to help him gather evidence and be his witness in court. However, when James is brought to the witness stand and lies about finding anything, David loses his chance to go forward with his prosecution. Ten months later, David loses his position as Assistant U.S. Attorney and is reduced to teaching an intro course at a D.C. school. He hates Olivia and her team for ruining his life, but turns to them for help when he is framed for murder. He then steals the card proving the election was rigged and gives it to Billy Chambers. However, it is then revealed that the card he gave Billy was fake and that David was just pretending to help him. He proves that Billy is the mole and gets him arrested. President Grant then makes him United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. As a parting gift, David sends Olivia a pure white stetson, reminding her that she must continue wearing the metaphorical and now the literal white hat.
Scott Foley as Jake Ballard, (recurring, season 2; regular, season 3-). A US Navy officer holding the rank of Captain who spies on Olivia Pope at the request of President Grant, with whom he served in the Navy. He was also a member of the elite CIA black ops program B613 and worked under Rowan Pope, the program's director until he defied orders, resulting in his dismissal and imprisonment until being freed by the order of Pope's daughter, Olivia. At the end of Season 3, he replaces Rowan Pope as the Director of B613.
Kate Burton as Sally Langston (season 1-), the Vice President of the United States, is significantly more conservative than Grant. Langston was vying for the Republican nomination prior to the series, but eventually accepted Grant's offer to be his VP. Her self-righteousness and Bible-thumping irritate the moderate Republicans in the White House. She killed her unfaithful husband in a rage and had Cyrus help her cover it up. Despite this, she decided to run as an independent candidate to replace Grant but did not resign from being vice-president. During the third season finale, Sally was projected to win the election, but lost due to the death of Fitz's son Jerry.
George Newbern as Charlie (season 1-), a B613 assassin and rival of Huck who occasionally freelances for Cyrus. He helps recruit Quinn into B613 and develops a relationship with her, but leaves after discovering that she was cheating on him with Huck.
Brian Letscher as Tom (season 1-), a Secret Service agent for President Grant, also secretly a B613 agent responsible for the death of Fitz's son Jerry.
Joe Morton as Rowan "Eli" Pope (season 2-), Olivia Pope's father, "Command" of the elite black ops program, B613.
Khandi Alexander as Maya Lewis (season 3-), Olivia Pope's mother, a self-professed "facilitator" for terrorists, long thought killed in the shooting of Global World Flight 522 that took place when Olivia was twelve. Maya was held in a high-security prison by Rowan until she escaped and was helped by Olivia to leave the country. But she escaped from the plane after killing the pilot and other crew members and stayed in Washington. Alexander's portrayal of Lewis has been compared to Assata Shakur.
Paul Adelstein as Leo Bergen (season 3), a highly skilled political consultant who goes to work for Sally Langston.
Columbus Short as Harrison Wright (regular, seasons 1-3), a litigator who works with Olivia. He is bright and loyal to her. He worked in Takoma Park before he started working for Adnan Salif, making himself wealthy. When Salif went down for insider trading, Harrison received only a sentence of six months in jail because Olivia defended him pro bono. Harrison has a brotherly relationship with Quinn and he looks out for her. He calls Olivia's team "gladiators in suits". In the season 2 premiere, he is working on Quinn's case and although he knows it will be hard to win, he believes in her innocence. He is shocked when the judge rules in their favor and the case is dismissed. He becomes closer to Quinn and the two become good friends, having drinks together in the office.
Henry Ian Cusick as Stephen Finch (regular, season 1). He was a litigator who worked with Olivia and is one of her good friends. He is Scottish-born and became a U.S. citizen in 1995 shortly after graduating first in his class from Yale Law School. He was a top litigator for a firm called Chase and Howard, but suffered a nervous breakdown in the middle of defending a client in a class action lawsuit against Bromquest, a chemical manufacturer that poisoned children in West Virginia. He spent two months recovering in a facility in Florida before quitting the firm and then began working with Olivia. He is shown to be a womanizer, even though he gets engaged to his girlfriend, Georgia, in the first season. By the second season he left the firm and moved to Boston, "married Georgia and is living a normal life".
Liza Weil as Amanda Tanner (recurring, season 1), a former White House intern who claimed she had an affair with the President of the United States. It was eventually revealed that she was pregnant.
Brendan Hines as Gideon Wallace (recurring, season 1), a reporter for the tabloid newspaperThe D.C. Sun, who seeks to expose the details of the Amanda Tanner story.
Brenda Song as Alissa (recurring, seasons 1-2), David Rosen's assistant.
Debra Mooney as Justice Verna Thornton (recurring, season 2), an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court who was nominated for the bench by Fitzgerald Grant shortly after becoming President. She had prior served as a member of the 'Defiance' group and as a friend/advisor to both Fitzgerald Grant II and III.
Gregg Henry as Hollis Doyle (recurring, season 2; guest season 3), the CEO of Doyle Industries, an oil company and major financial donor to the Grant presidential campaign. He was responsible for the Cytron bombing and was suspected to be behind the attempt on Grant's life. In season 2, Doyle turns to Olivia and her associates for help when his daughter goes missing.
Kurt Fuller as Grayden Osborne (recurring, season 2), Director of the CIA in the Grant Administration.
Norm Lewis as Senator Edison Davis (recurring, season 2; guest, season 3), a former boyfriend of Olivia Pope who once asked her to marry him before ending their relationship when she declined. He is a Democrat and serves as a US Senator from Florida and eventually the Senate Majority Leader.
Barry Bostwick as Jerry Grant (recurring, seasons 2-3) father of Fitzgerald Grant and former political player; raped daughter-in-law Mellie.
Lisa Kudrow as Josephine "Josie" Marcus (recurring, season 3), a U.S. Congresswoman from Montana, war widow and Democratic candidate for President of the United States.
Dan Bucatinsky as James Novak (recurring, seasons 1-3), the husband of Cyrus Beene and father to Ella Novak-Beene. A former Pulitzer Prize nominated print journalist in addition to also being a former television interviewer.
Nazanin Boniadi as Adnan Salif (recurring, season 3), Harrison Wright's mysterious former associate and an accomplice of Maya.
Conception and development
In early 2011, it was announced that Shonda Rhimes was developing a new pilot. In February, Kerry Washington was cast in a leading role. Actress Gabrielle Union auditioned for this role alongside Washington before Washington was officially chosen. Henry Ian Cusick also landed a role in the series. On February 28, 2011, it was announced that Tony Goldwyn landed the role as the president. In May 2011, ABC picked up the pilot as a mid-season replacement, During the Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour, it was announced that the show would premiere April 5, 2012 after Grey's Anatomy, relocating Private Practice to Tuesday nights.
The program was renewed for a second season on May 11, 2012, in the same Thursday timeslot, while Private Practice remained in the new Tuesday evening timeslot to finish its final season. Rhimes had stated at the time that the second season would likely be thirteen episodes or less, but the renewal of the series after the fall meant that the second season would have two arcs through the season; the first covering the main 13-episode order, with the second arc taking place during the "back nine" order.
Jenna Bans, Matt Byrne, Severiano Canales, Mark Fish, Zahir McGhee, Heather Mitchell, Raamla Mohamed, Peter Noah, Miguel Nolla, Peter Nowalk, Shonda Rhimes, Richard Robbins, Chris Van Dusen, Mark Wilding
Tom Verica, Oliver Bokelberg, Steve Robin, Allison Liddi-Brown, Mark Tinker, Jeannot Szwarc, Randall Zisk, Stephen Cragg, Michael Katleman, Ron Underwood, Roxann Dawson, Tony Goldwyn, Paul McGuigan, Bethany Rooney, Jessica Yu, Ava DuVernay, Julie Anne Robinson, Debbie Allen, Paul McCrane
To be perfectly honest, after watching four episodes of "Scandal", I'm not 100 percent clear on what it is that Olivia and her team (most of them fellow lawyers who don't practice law) do, nor on exactly what the show is. I'm also not entirely sure that it matters. "Scandal" is a good example of what a show is about being far less important than how it's about it.
IndieWire, a daily news site reviewed the first season of Scandal, comparing it to the FX show Damages. Stating that the premise was similar and that "'Damages' is a hell of a show, and worthy of all the accolades; but it's what Scandal could be, if the envelope was pushed a bit more, and if the show took more risks."
Newsday's Verne Gay called the series "fun", but added:
All the tropes, cliches and (especially) soap conventions series creator Shonda Rhimes has poured so generously into "Grey's Anatomy" and "Private Practice" over the years have been poured right back into this Beltwaypotboiler. The hairpin plot twists. The whiplash character reveals. The bumptious moralizing. The Strong Woman/Wronged Woman character type, and its direct corollary, Weak, Middle-Aged, Married Man Who Secretly Likes Hookers. It's all here!
The show however received many more positive reviews during its second season. AV Club's Ryan McGee compared to the show to House of Cards
But Scandal has quite a bit to say about how people in general operate. By extension, it also has a lot to say about the type of television people respond to in this ever-splintered viewing environment. In a year in which almost all ratings are down, Scandal has gone up. Its insane storytelling really isn’t insane at all. Many want to dub House Of Cards the future of television as a whole. In terms of distribution, this may be true. But by giving audiences what they want, and then giving them so much more than they ever expected, Scandal is the show those looking toward the future of television should be aiming to actually produce, regardless of the medium in which it is viewed.
When "Scandal" debuted last spring, I wasn't sure what to make of it, beyond recognizing that Kerry Washington had the goods to carry a series and Shonda Rhimes had fashioned an excellent role for her. This season, though, Rhimes has kicked the show up to another level by ditching the Crisis of the Week procedural format in favor of reinventing "Scandal" as a gonzo hybrid of conspiracy thriller and high-stakes soap opera, involving election rigging, a presidential assassination attempt, a failed internal White House coup, and all sorts of other crazy shenanigans. It's ludicrous on virtually every level; it's also an enormous amount of fun, thanks to the writing and the performances.
On July 15, 2013, BET and ABC announced an early syndication agreement, which saw BET carrying a marathon of the first two seasons on August 10 and 17, 2013, then in two-hour blocks on Wednesdays before the show's season three premiere on October 3. BET will then air new season three episodes after an eight day delay, similar to how Fox allows adult swim to air new episodes of Seth MacFarlane's animated series Family Guy on a two-week delay after their network premieres.
In season 2, Scandal's ratings gradually increased and the show started winning its time slot on a regular basis. The show ranks as one of the highest rated dramas on television. On October 3, 2013, Scandal achieved a series-high 3.6, 18-49 rating, and 10.52 million viewers during its season three premiere, rating higher than its lead-in program Grey's Anatomy, beating its competitions, Elementary and Parenthood, and placing second overall throughout the night in the demographics. The show has done well among African American women ages 18–34.
DVD releases and online availability
The series's DVD releases currently consist of the first and second seasons, and were released by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment under the ABC Studios label. Additionally, Netflix currently streams seasons one, two and three in the US, and the show is available via traditional by-episode purchase by most online video retailers.