Season three of Scandal belonged to Joe Morton. And all of Papa Pope’s yelling, spying, and devious deeds were rewarded this weekend when he took home his first Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor. We talked to him about tough parenting, playing flawed characters, and the weird way he plans to get his Emmy back to New York.
Congratulations on your Emmy win! You’ve been working in television for a while; I know that you were prepared for Robert Morse to win, but how are you reacting to all this?
My first reaction was a deep sigh of relief mixed with a bit of surprise. Everybody wants to win, but you can come up with a million reasons why you won’t. Robert Morse is a legend, and he submitted a musical number, which is what he’s legendary for, and Mad Men is going off the air, and he’s been nominated several times, so there were plenty of reasons I thought it would go to him.
To be fair, your work on Scandal is fantastic. Both of the EmmysScandal has won have come from the supporting cast, which says a lot about the caliber of the actors on this show.
They’re all amazing; everyone on the show is a theater actor, so we all basically speak the same language, which is primarily to serve the script. Because that’s our priority, and we’re fortunate enough to have amazing writers; there’s no ego involved.
Some of the more powerful scenes last season rested on your shoulders; one of the more memorable ones involved you and Fitz in that interrogation box. You’re great at crafting that tension. But I’m still not sure if you’re a good guy, or if that matters.
He’s not a cardboard character, and what’s great about that is that it makes him absolutely human. You can see what’s good about him, what’s not good about him, where his loyalties lie, and why he does what he does to protect himself, protect his daughter, and protect the republic. Wrapped in all of that is a human being who is not very simple — he’s very complex. And it’s wonderful to hear people talk about him like that, because he’s not a cut-in-the cloth villain.
You’re a dad; as Rowan Pope, you say things that a lot of us black kids hear growing up, like, “You have to work twice as hard to get half as much.” How much of your real-life dadness comes through with your parenting of Olivia Pope?
When you raise children it’s not all peaches and cream, so there were some things I could hold on to, and I was able to bring a lot of that to my relationship with Olivia. Olivia has two parents, who she witnessed sitting at the kitchen table with knives in their hands; for most of us that’s a metaphor, but for her that’s reality. Their both flawed characters; Olivia always wants to wear the white hat but she hasn’t always done very nice things, and the same thing is true of Rowan; for all of his being dark and secretive, he’s also said things that were really kind of wonderful.
You’re great on Twitter, and genuinely excited to interact with your fans, which is refreshing.
Thank you! It was a Gladiator thing. I was told the cast tweets live during the broadcast, and I thought, “Oh, that’s a great idea!” I thought that if they brought me back for season three, I’d start tweeting. I think that it’s the closest that a television actor can get to doing theater — you can actually get a live response from an audience during a performance while the audience is watching. And it’s great! Not only can we get that, but we can interact with them. It’s lovely.
You looked fantastic at the Emmys; were you wearing velvet? Are you made of velvet? You were very smooth.
Nope, that was Calvin Klein.
Everyone asks where people put their Emmys. Do you have a spot picked out?
I don’t live on the West Coast, so when I come out to work I rent a house. Right now, it’s sitting in the middle of the dining-room table. Once I get back home, I’ll find a place for it.
How do you transport an Emmy? We can’t even bring full-sized shampoo on a plane.
They give you a box! It’s lined with silk and the statue fits in there perfectly. Either that, or you get a large gold chain and wear it around your neck.
Before season four begins, THR has your refresher handled
Gladiators, rejoice. Scandal returns for its fourth season in a month.
While Shonda Rhimes and company have been back at work preparing for the fall’s TGIT programming block — Grey’s Anatomy at 8 p.m.,Scandal at 9 p.m. and rookie How to Get Away With Murder taking over the 10 p.m. slot — only four more weeks remain until viewers see how the Gladiators will handle the loss of one of their own, how Fitz and Mellie are coping with the death of their son while balancing their political duties and more.
To prepare for Scandal‘s return, The Hollywood Reporter has it handled. Below, take a look back at the twists and turns from season three and what the cast had to say about some of the show’s most shocking (and heartbreaking) moments.
Season three premiere: “It’s Handled”
Operation Remington is born. “It’s a nuclear subject,” star Tony Goldwyn said of the story line.
Other memorable moments: Fitz (Goldwyn) is revealed to have leaked his affair with Olivia (Kerry Washington) to the press.
Episode 2: “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”
Huck (Guillermo Diaz) learns that the woman who plucked him from (bearded) obscurity is the daughter of the man who put him there: B613 command Rowan Pope (Emmy winner Joe Morton). “The moment when he attacks her and throws her up against the car … part of him feels like she deserves it a bit because that was a pretty big secret to keep from Huck — that her father was the one that put him in this hole that kept him from seeing his wife and child again. As shocking as it is to see him become physical with Olivia, it’s a bit justifiable,” Diaz said.
Other memorable moments: Quinn (Katie Lowes) begins to embrace her dark side. Gulp.
Episode 3: “Mrs. Smith Goes to Washington”
Suffering from a wave of bad PR, OPA takes on a client to help pay the bills. Harrison becomes Olivia’s right-hand man with the case, which sadly doesn’t end well for the client. “They need to keep the lights on. They’re going to take on clients that they normally wouldn’t have, or Olivia may bend her normal criteria,” Columbus Short said of the bad decision.
Other memorable moments: Drunk Mellie (Bellamy Young) makes her debut.
Episode 4: “Say Hello to My Little Friend”
The power of two becomes three: Hole survivor Jake (Scott Foley) teams with Huck and Olivia to bring down Rowan and B613. “It’s his job to pull Huck into that belief and make Huck see that Rowan is the problem — the only problem — they have in their lives at that moment,” Foley said.
Other memorable moments: Rowan is (naturally) responsible for covering up Operation Remington. Abby (Darby Stanchfield) says what may be her best one-liner yet.
Episode 5: “More Cattle, Less Bull”
Fitz, flying on a U.S. government-sponsored mission to Iceland, is tasked with shooting down a commercial airliner with 300 civilians on board — including Mama Pope (Khandi Alexander). “I was absolutely stunned,” Goldwyn said of the reveal.
Other memorable moments: Despite Mellie’s best efforts, Olivia declines to return to work for the Grant re-election campaign.
Episode 6: “Icarus”
Olivia goes to work for Sen. Josie Marcus (Lisa Kudrow), who is campaigning to become the Democratic challenger against Sen. Reston (Tom Amandes) to face President Grant. “I thought, ‘Who’s going to believe that!’ ” Kudrow said about playing a woman running for president.
Other memorable moments: Marcus’ daughter, Candy, connects Abby with setting up a fake ad to rally the tentative candidate, proving the Gladiators will go to just about any lengths needed to get the job done.
Episode 7: “Everything’s Coming Up Mellie”
One of the season’s best episodes, the drama flashes back 15 years and reveals the harrowing price Mellie had to pay to get her husband in office: her father-in-law raped her. “It was a sobering table read,” Young said of finding out her character’s back story for the first time.
Other memorable moments: Olivia tells the Gladiators that Fitz shot down a civilian airliner with 300 on board, including her mother. Charlie (George Newbern) sets up Quinn (Katie Lowes), who kills the one person who knew the truth about the flight that allegedly had a dirty bomb on board. Rowan visits a prisoner pulled off the doomed plane: Maya Pope, Olivia’s presumed-dead mother now held in prison. Oh, and Fitz finally learns Rowan is Olivia’s father.
Episode 8: “Vermont is for Lovers, Too”
Oh, what could have been! Fitz built a dream house for Olivia in Vermont and Olitz is back in (steamy) action. (Plus: Jam!) Cyrus (Jeff Perry) teams with Mellie to set up Sally’s (Kate Burton) husband, Daniel (Jack Coleman), and force him out of the closet, using James (Dan Bucatinsky) as bait. Only James figures it out and sleeps with Daniel. “He has, in a single, gigantic miscalculation, ruined Fitz’s chance for re-election and blown up his marriage,” Perry said.
Other memorable moments: Maya brutally and shockingly (and that’s an understatement) chews her own wrists in a bid to escape custody. Olivia’s world is rocked when she comes face to face with her presumed dead mother.
Episode 9: “YOLO”
Huck shows Quinn his dark side. He licks her face and pulls out a few of her teeth, torturing his former apprentice for betraying OPA. In return, Quinn is commissioned to get inside B613 and sleeps with Charlie to gain access in a bid to help Huck and Jake bring down the black-ops group. “I kept saying to the director, ‘I can feel her teeth!’ He kept telling me, ‘Get the pliers way in there!’ Katie was just like, ‘Just go for it!’ She was such a trooper,” Diaz said of one of Scandal‘s most bonkers scenes.
Other memorable moments: Olivia learns that her mother may not have been Rowan’s victim after she and Fitz put the known terrorist on a plane for Hong Kong. Vice President Sally Langston shockingly kills Daniel.
Episode 10: “A Door Marked Exit”
In the midseason finale, Abby learns that Maya — who isn’t in Hong Kong after all, after killing everyone on the plane — was a hired gun who married Rowan to gain access, making the head of B613 the real victim in the relationship. “I was really shocked,” star Washington said of the reveal. “I used to say Olivia is so successful, I don’t understand why in her personal life she’s not more together. It was always a puzzling part of her that I loved so much, but that I always struggled with justifying. Now, I look at her upbringing and the relationship with her parents and think we’re lucky she’s not a drug addict in prison somewhere!”
Other memorable moments: Sally turns to Cyrus to cover up Daniel’s death, with her confession caught on table and now in David’s (Josh Malina) hands. Jake is appointed the head of B613 after Fitz questioned Rowan’s decision-making. Huck tells Quinn she’s no longer a Gladiator.
Episode 11: “Ride, Sally, Ride”
In the midseason premiere, Fitz’s new running mate is revealed: Andrew Nichols (Jon Tenney), his former lieutenant governor of California. Only there’s (naturally) a catch: He’s in love with Mellie. “It’s amazing how swiftly kindness can melt your heart. Even in that moment when Andrew turns to Mellie and says something sweet to her, when is the last time someone said something loving to her? It instantly sends the ice flow that is around her heart into some sort of springtime flood,” Young said of Mellie’s suitor.
Other memorable moments: Sally announces she’s running against Fitz for president — as an independent. Olivia returns to the White House to oversee Fitz’s re-election campaign. Rowan vows to bring down Fitz for booting him from B613. David and James team to bring down Cyrus. Harrison’s former boss Adnan Salif (Nazanin Boniadi) returns.
Episode 12: “We Do Not Touch the First Ladies”
In another of Scandal‘s killer flashback episodes, the audience learns that Andrew knowseverything about Mellie’s past: that she retreated from Fitz after Big Jerry raped her and that she attempted suicide. In the present day, Mellie and Andrew finally hook up after the first lady tells Olivia off when she demands the duo keep it clean in the White House. “We’ve been waiting for that kiss for a long time!” Tenney said. “There was an undeniable connection that wasn’t acted on, so when we come into proximity again, all that is rehashed. That — coupled with Mellie’s current situation and emotional turmoil in her relationship with Fitz — we’re re-meeting her at a very vulnerable time in her life heightens the stakes even more.”
Other memorable moments: Jake and Olivia learn how good Quinn is at not being a Gladiator. Harrison donates Adnan Salif’s dirty money to the Grant campaign — and it’s money she gained by working for Mama Pope.
Episode 13: “No Sun on the Horizon”
Jake is a killer! After David tells Olivia everything about Sally’s role in Daniel’s death — and that James is the leak — the new B613 command employs Quinn to steal the information from OPA’s safe. When Cyrus fakes a meeting between David and James, Jake shockingly kills the reporter the duo had been leaking information to and fires a second shot for one of the show’s most deadly cliffhangers yet. “There’s so much more that goes into being Command and all of the information, the knowledge that he has now and what he’s responsible for. It’s hard not to make it dark. It’s an adjustment. It’s a huge challenge and it’s taking a huge toll on him personally,” Foley said of Jake’s dark turn.
Other memorable moments: Fitz saves Sally’s life on live TV when she nearly confesses to killing Daniel — with a would-be assassin (B613’s White House mole, Tom) ready to take her out had she spilled the beans.
Episode 14: “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”
Jake’s last shooting victim is revealed: The B613 Command killed James to protect the republic and ensure that the Grant administration — including Sally — doesn’t go down for the vice president killing her husband. “There wasn’t a dry eye in the room as we read that script at the table,” Bucatinsky said of reading about James’ death with the cast for the first time. “It played out as such a beautiful episode about Cyrus’ coming out as he loses his first authentic love and remembers how he loved a man for the first time.”
Other memorable moments: Cyrus’ sweet coming-out story is played out in another amazing flashback. In present day, Olivia and David frame an innocent man for James’ death. Mellie and Andrew hit the campaign trail — and the sack.
Episode 15: “Mama Said Knock You Out”
Fitz — and the Grant children — learn that Mellie is sleeping with “Uncle Andrew.” “Fitz’s goal is to get through the election and try and hold his family together in an honest way. It doesn’t diminish his feelings for Olivia or his intentions to marry Olivia and move forward with her. But there’s been a permanent wound opened up even further between Mellie and Fitz,” Goldwyn said of the storyline.
Other memorable moments: David joins the fight to bring down B613. Quinn and Huck make out as the latter works hard to bring her back into the OPA fold and out of B613. Jake and Rowan go head to head. Harrison gets OPA to help Adnan — who drugged Harrison to get all the information about Fitz’s re-election campaign.
Episode 16: “The Fluffer”
Where to begin?! Abby takes over as Olivia’s proxy at the White House, tasked with overseeing the campaign while the bid to bring down B613 heats up. Mellie breaks things off with Andrew, who, much to Fitz’s chagrin, remains on the Grant ticket. Olivia continues to shut Jake out romantically. Rowan helps Olivia bring down B613 after promising not to harm Fitz. Reston is eliminated from the campaign, leaving Sally to go head to head with Fitz.
Other memorable moments: Maya targets Fitz with the mother of all bombs.
Episode 17: “Flesh and Blood”
Realizing that Mama Pope is targeting Fitz, OPA and B613 team to bring her down with the election only days away. Adnan holds Harrison at gunpoint and reveals the bomb isn’t at the rally at Defiance High School. (Remember Defiance?!) Instead, the bomb is at a senator’s funeral, where Mellie, Sally, Andrew and company are all headed. Olivia learns Fitz’s father raped Mellie. “I’m voraciously Team Mellie,” Washington said of the first lady’s story.
Other memorable moments: Mama Pope leaves her former husband on the floor of OPA to bleed out.
Season finale: “The Price of Free and Fair Election”
In the season-three finale, Olivia tells Fitz that Big Jerry raped Mellie. Mellie confirms Jerry Jr. is Fitz’s son. Huck learns that his wife and son are alive. Jerry Jr. is murdered, presumably by Mama Pope, with his death helping Fitz win another four years in the White House. Fitz teams with Rowan to bring down Mama Pope, who kills Adnan. Rowan tells Fitz that Mama Pope is dead. Harrison learns that Rowan was responsible — via Secret Service double-agent Tom — for killing Fitz’s son and Adnan. Rowan orders Tom to kill Harrison. Mama Pope survives — and is in the hole as Rowan reclaims his perch atop B613. Jake sends David B613’s classified files. Said Goldwyn of the jam-packed episode: “You don’t recover from that. The reality of losing a child is just devastating.”
Other memorable moments: Drunk Mellie memorably demands a refund from Olivia for her election services. Olivia realizes that she is the scandal and quits OPA, boarding a plane to go stand in the sun with Jake.
As for season four, Rhimes says to expect the focus to shift back to the core cast — and a return of the case of the week. What are you looking forward to seeing? Hit the comments with your thoughts — and burning questions.
Kerry Washington. This twinkling gray-blue color was a mix of two different products: first, a layer of Dior Diorshow Fusion Mono Eye Shadow in Cosmos, a midnight blue, that makeup artist Carola Gonzalez (@carolagmakeup) topped with Neutrogena Crease Proof Eye Shadow in Forever Platinum. “My inspiration for the look was the navy-blue skirt that was under Kerry’s orange dress,” said Gonzalez. “It was a very beautiful blue, and we agreed it would look great to complement the skirt with a matching eye.”