Mark Wilding, executive producer and writer on Scandal, dishes on the hardest scenes to cut, the characters he misses and his all-time favorite Olivia Pope lines.
SundanceTV: Are there any scenes that were written that you really liked but which ended up on the cutting room floor?
MW: Several. But the scene that I miss the most was at the very beginning of Episode 314, when Cyrus hears that the Feds are in the White House. He assumes that James has spilled the beans about Sally killing her husband. He lays out for the President and Olivia how he, Cyrus, will take the fall in order to protect Mellie and, thus, Fitz’s presidency. And how they can still beat Reston despite this setback. The Feds come in on the heels of Cyrus’s strategizing. For a moment, we think they’re there to arrest Cyrus but it turns out they’ve come to tell him the devastating news that his husband, James, has been killed. Mark Fish wrote the scene and he did a beautiful job but, sadly, we had to cut it because the episode ran really long. So now that story line begins with Cyrus having just learned the news and Olivia comforting him.
SundanceTV: How is it writing love scenes for Mellie who, for a while, was “romantically challenged”?
MW: It was like writing a really dirty scene for a Jane Austen novel. It felt a little out of place! At least at first. We realized that we had to start the story line out very chaste because Mellie’s very chaste. She doesn’t want to give in to her sexual desires because that’s what elevates her, in her mind, above her cheating husband. But even her steely resolve can’t stop her in the end. So, to play that conflict, from a writer’s standpoint, was super fun.
SundanceTV: Is there any client you’d like to bring back from a previous episode?
MW: Believe it or not, there’s actually three former clients I’d love to see come back! The old guy from Season Two, JP, who married the bimbo, Jenna. Those two were a hoot. And, despite the age difference, there was a real connection between the two of them. Also, Hollis Doyle, who also became a client in Season Two when his daughter tried to extort millions from him by pretending to be kidnapped. Hollis is a snake but he’s so charming that our writing staff can never get enough of the guy. Finally, I’d like to see the military hero from the pilot episode return. OPA cleared him of the murder but we never did find out who killed his wife. That might be a fun mystery to finally solve.
SundanceTV: Has the casting of Jon Tenney influenced the way you’ve written that particular role?
MW: I think so. He’s a good-looking guy but he also looks like someone who also has some life experience to him. Beneath his good guy exterior, we thought we might go a little darker with him. And we were right. I love his face-offs with Olivia when he accuses her of being a hypocrite, and then later on, when he asks her what it’s like to destroy people. He’s vulnerable and tough at the same time.
SundanceTV: Is it more fun to write for Olivia Pope’s mom or Olivia Pope’s dad?
MW: That’s a toss-up. She’s a crazy mom who loves her daughter. So it’s fun to write a borderline personality like that. But it’s also fun to write a character like Eli Pope, who is extremely righteous and just as dangerous as Olivia’s mom.
SundanceTV: What’s your favorite Olivia Pope line?
MW: Another tough question. She has so many good lines. Two that I love a lot from this season are “Don’t sell the house” and “Ethan! STOP CRYING or you’re fired!” Those represent the two sides of Olivia — her desire to be with the man she loves and the fierce, practical side of being Olivia Pope. Both come as a surprise. Especially the second line. We think Olivia’s going to console Ethan, who’s just learned about James’s death and, instead, she rips him a new one!