It was quite a year for First Lady Mellie Grant and the actress who embodies her on Scandal, Bellamy Young.
While the ABC series regularly bombards us with big moments for its array of fabulous characters, Mellie may have had the toughest year out of everybody.
To wit:, she finally got some decent loving on Scandal Season 3… but also had to remember a terrible moment from her past, as well as deal with a husband who preferred Olivia Pope over her.
But great stories written for you by someone like Shonda Rhimes also bring with them some very nice rewards – such as the Critics Choice Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama, which Young took home last week.
What was winning like and did she remember to thank everyone? And what did the actress share when asked about some of those big Mellie moments we’ve seen over the years? Let’s find out…
TV Fanatic: Congratulations on winning the Critics Choice Award. Did you go home after and watch yourself accept the award?
Bellamy Young: No, I’m sure I don’t want to. I’ve got it taped but I feel like I just really didn’t think that was going to happen. I feel like I will watch myself and cringe the whole time. I got everybody, I remembered, though I wanted to thank my coach if given that opportunity. But I texted her last night and with this great apology and great gratitude. So, I think I remembered to say everybody.
When I sat down [earlier], I was like, ‘it’s for real not me.’ And then they announced me, I stood up and I was like, ‘I can’t even find the stage. I don’t even know how to get to the stage. I don’t know how to get there.’ I got to the stage, I just didn’t even know what I was saying.
TVF: And you thanked your mom, which I always have a soft spot for. I love it when people thank their moms, because I just think moms have a lot to do with all of us.
BY: You know, my sweet mother, she’s buried four husbands. We’ve been through a lot, my mom and I and she could have been much more, she could have loved me in a much more selfish way and kept me near her in North Carolina…I’m an only child. So, unconditionally supportive, and unfailingly supportive. So, yeah, I do, at every turn, my best to share all with her, because it’s a product of her labors in something that is mine.
TVF: So let’s talk Mellie. I’ve got three Mellie moments to get your reaction either in shooting the scenes, working with your fellow actors, whatever comes to mind. The first would be the ‘dying on the vine’ speech with Fitz.
BY: Well, it sounds a little epic, because it really felt like Shonda and our writers were giving voice, in an incredibly entertaining way, because the language in that speech is just poetic. It sort of felt like they were giving voice to the great unspoken frustration of smart, capable women everywhere, and it was amazing to get to say it, you know? Again, I love the way they marry entertainment and content, you know? It wasn’t histrionic, haranguing sort of diatribe. I mean, it was a big monologue, but it was still, it still a joy to watch.
Like, when there’s a bit of hyperbole and hilarity in the process of it so to have this amazing, “I am a rose dying on a vine. Give me a war to run.” It seriously was so delicious to digest and such a joy to say, but it also, I felt this amazing…you know when you’re in the ocean, and then you’re going towards the shore and then you’re caught up with a wave and just sort of buoys you forward?
I felt the energetic sort of energy wave of all the women who had felt that mute frustration. I felt like I could catch that wave, and finally the words were there, and they could just flow forward like a sort of waterfall. It was a joy to say that.
TVF: Talk to me about when Mellie finally gets some action from Andrew Nichols. Everybody was so happy for her when she finally got that first kiss!
BY: The first big kiss. It was such a perfect torture because they gave me such, two incredible flashback episodes this season. And one was the rape, which was torture in its own way, and informative in its own way. And then the next was the sort of, sliding doors kind of life with Andrew Nichols. And my piety with fidelity and then that just all coming crashing down, right? And it was exquisite to live in that tension, for Mellie to have been living on just the crumbs of attention, right? And one kind word can be hers from Fitz can be her sustenance for months.
And then, all of a sudden, to have someone’s complete attention. Andrew was just there, standing solidly on the ground, adoring her. And so, to watch her squirm and cringe and fear the light like a vampire, not even be able to look at him at first and then slowly realize her flesh wasn’t burning. And then, lock eyes with him, and then have to search her own moral compass, and then to shut it down, and then to let it all go.
I mean, it was such a great, fun arc to play. And it’s incredible what, how hard it can be to let yourself be loved. And I was so interested to see, you know, whether Mellie would be able to do it, to allow herself that kindness, even, much less an adoration. Then it becomes like a drug, you know. Then that next step is to, it all blows up in her face, because they can’t control themselves at all. But it was a delight.
TVF: You brought up the rape and that was the other scene I was going to ask about. So hard for viewers to watch but we find out so much in that horrific flashback!
BY: Yeah, you feel that all of a sudden the world makes sense. My whole cast, we’re theater actors and we all like to write our character bios and run our lines so we all had ideas of things but this, of course, wasn’t something I had conceived of but when I read it, the day before we started shooting the episode, at the table reads, as daunting as the week before me was, it still just made it all make sense in a lot of ways.
I mean, I never think of Mellie as a victim. I definitely think of her as a survivor, and I could just all of a sudden see a phantom limb. You could see the possibility of joy and love and softness in her that just got amputated and how the rest of her grew and survived and flourished. But there was this whole phantom limb that got killed that night. And I still remain very proud to be a part of that storyline because I think that sort of incident happens more frequently than gets portrayed on television. And so, to bring that into the light remains a point of pride.
But it was super, super-hard. Barry Bostwick was wonderful so I was in great hands in that regard. We really tried to take care of each other on that night. But the room was narrow and we had to shoot it like a trillion times because of camera angles and we only had that set for one day so we had to do the whole flashback in that day. And I’d been fasting by the time we got to the break. I wanted to feel really open and vulnerable and dazed. And it was just very repetitive and very vicious and life-changing. It was just life-changing for Mellie.
TVF: I really respect Mellie even more that she’s never played that card by telling Fitz about it because she easily could have.
BY: Yeah, I agree. There’s so many times where I just, ‘just tell him,’ but then the words just choke in your throat because you don’t know if he’s going to leave you or hate you or never trust you again or blame you or judge you. It’s a shame that that keeps you quiet. So, I’m not sure Mellie would have ever told him.
TVF: Let me ask you this, because the show is so hot and it gets so much attention and it sounds like your life has changed a lot. But I’m curious, do you feel like your life has really changed? I’m sure you’re busier but what do you think?
BY: Gosh. Yeah, I guess I haven’t asked myself that question. I know that I’m grateful to Shonda, to everybody, for this chance, because I’m super-blessed to have worked consistently before this but never in a way that people noticed. So, I have a lot of casting directors that I give great gratitude to because they kept me in the game. But never have had the notoriety or public notice before. So, it’s certainly different to go to the store, go to the airport and have people know your face. People notice now. So, that seems quantitatively different.
But I don’t know. I don’t feel different. I don’t think it changes you, who you are, unless you’re maybe really young. Then I guess it could be really confusing. But I think what it changes is your internal hope that you might get to do the thing that you love so dearly for the rest of your life, you know? I just love to act so much. I love it and I hope I get to do it till I just keel over.