If you’ve never been to a PALEYFEST event before, it’s both incredibly neat and surreal to see so many people gathered at a venue to listen to writers and creators and actors talk about their art. Surreal but exciting and inspiring, of course, and although the SCANDAL panel didn’t deliver any significant nuggets of information, all of the actors spent a lot of time not just expressing their gratitude for one another and for the writers, but their gratitude for the fans.
Jesse Palmer, the moderator, had a really easy job. The cast of Scandal is clearly very close, and so asking one question often lead to various side conversations and jokes between the cast members, making it feel like a very comfortable conversation instead of an interview. It was definitely for the best, because after six season, the actors of Scandal know how to keep mum when questions they can’t answer come up. The only bit of information we got that isn’t even really new is that the 100th episode of Scandal will be set in a sort of alternate universe, where we see where the characters would’ve been had different decisions been made at different points.
When Palmer brought up the 100th episode, he asked Kerry Washington what the first thing that came to mind was when she thought of it, and Washington immediately said, “thank you.” She continued to explain her gratitude for the fans, and how wonderful it’s been to see the show grow from a midseason replacement barely scraping through with a renewal to what it is today. She was very genuine and sincere, and speaking in a theatre full of mostly fans, it was obviously well received. What was maybe the most emotional point of a surprisingly emotional panel where all of the actresses at some point had tears in their eyes was when, after some of the cast was discussing how they all really are very close, Tony Goldwyn stopped the conversation to talk about how it’s Kerry Washington who really sets the tone on set. He talked about how she’s a wonderful “team captain”, and credited her with the positive environment and closeness of everybody who works on the show — and this did, actually, make her cry a bit. Not that it’s nice to see anybody cry, but it was sort of, because there’s clearly a lot of genuine love and appreciation amongst the cast.
The actors were also generous with their praise of the writers. At every possible point they gushed about their “professional surprisers” (said Jeff Perry) and how they, like the audience, are shocked and entertained at every table read. Making it clear that they as actors don’t really get a road map for their characters’ lives, however, had the fringe benefit of getting them out of answering a lot of questions about what was to come for them, which they couldn’t really answer even if they knew.
Joshua Malina was a surprise star of the panel — his character on Scandal, while frequently funny in his earnestness, doesn’t get a whole lot of comedic moments, but Malina was pretty hilarious and got a lot of laughs, especially when he poked fun at how he has to say “I am the attorney general” in every episode. He also had a standout moment when Palmer asked all of the actors to share their favorite moment from the show. While most of the actors chose to go with more emotional beats — this was where a lot of the tearing up happened, including a sweet moment between Darby Stanchfield and Kerry Washington which once again just highlighted how much everybody in the cast adores Washington — Joshua Malina’s favorite moment was when James died.
After the laughter died down, he explained that that was the moment he knew that he knew his character would be around for a while longer, and also expressed that if you get killed off the show after winning an Emmy, Malina knew he’d be around for a while.
The other paltry info we got about the 100th episode also came from these reminiscences. Katie Lowe said that the well-known gladiator-in-a-suit line was her favorite moment, but that Quinn does get a moment in the 100th that she also ranks as one of her favorites. Kerry Washington and Bellamy Young both lost their minds in agreement at this, so it seems like we’ve got some cool stuff in store from Quinn.
There wasn’t much time for audience questions, with only three being asked. In a panel that was so saturated with appreciation for the fans, it would’ve been nice to spend a little more time hearing from them, but two out of the three questions were highlights of the panel.
One woman asked Kerry Washington what playing Olivia Pope taught her, and Kerry Washington answered glibly first by saying, “running in heels.” But her real answer was especially nice, and offered a great insight into how a show about terribly maladjusted people manipulating the government manages to retain a lot of heart and humanity: she said Olivia Pope taught her about the importance of surrounding yourself with people you love.
The last question was the one that made the actors who hadn’t already been visibly emotional choke up — a woman told her story of being diagnosed with colon cancer, and how discovering Scandal kept her spirits up and basically saved her life. It was an emotional and poignant way to end a panel that had revolved a lot around gratitude and love, and a good reminder that while the shows we love are fiction, the impact they have is very real.
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Alyssa Thorne | Contributor