Scandal’s Brian Letscher on Incriminating Twist, Turning Guest Spot into Killer Role via


by Joyce Eng

Is Tom a dead man walking at this point?
Brian Letscher:
I genuinely don’t know. It doesn’t look good! He put himself in a very difficult spot. But who knows what can happen on this show. … I can say that you have not seen the last of Tom.

Why didn’t Tom just say that Rowan gave the order to kill Jerry? It’ll be his word against his, and Jake still has the photos. Or does he think Jake betrayed him?
I don’t think he does. I think he knows that Rowan has all the power in that moment. As much as he would like to finger Rowan, he knows the president’s behind that glass and if Rowan’s in the room, it’s because the president brought him here and Rowan has been able to play the president once again. Tom knows that and he knows his only chance of possibly surviving at least that moment is to frame Jake.

But is even pinning it on Jake a good idea? What motivation would Jake have to kill the president’s son? Rowan already “killed” Mama Pope for Jerry’s death.
Yeah, it’s definitely something I’m hoping to leave to Rowan to explain. [Laughs] It’s clear that I did it physically, but who gave the order was the question. Right now, Rowan is in the president’s ear and the president certainly, based on their past, isn’t going to be inclined to help Jake or believe Jake with what’s going on. Rowan has all the cards here. Tom knows that Jake’s envelope didn’t get to the president for whatever reason, otherwise Rowan wouldn’t be in the room.

I liked the park bench scene before Jake sat down next to you. Tom looked so hopeless. He failed to blow up Jake, Rowan just threatened him and now Jake’s here.
That was a really interesting scene for me because that was the first time Tom had ever said anything back to Command. Essentially what he’s saying is he likes Jake. [Laughs] When Rowan leaves and I’m alone, it’s a moment of, “I’m not gonna win here.” When Jake sits down, it’s “I definitely am not gonna win here.” He’s in a bad spot. It’s the first moment of reflection that I think we see Tom have. He’s really reflecting on his part in everything that’s happened as a person — not just as a B613 robot. It’s the slightest peek into some emotional life for him, which, for me, was really important and really nice to see. I learned quite a bit about Tom in the episode.

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He was almost becoming a triple agent. When Jake said, “You may not trust me, but you know you cannot trust [Rowan],” Tom’s like, “Oh, sh–. He’s right.”
Exactly. Where does Tom run? He’s really put himself on an island. He’s forced to change sides. With Rowan in the room, you’re just dancing from rock to rock. Where can I jump to right now and hopefully not fall into the ocean? I think you’re right. It becomes doubled and tripled, and he’ll always be betraying somebody.

Rowan didn’t cover his tracks well if the Inspector General was able to deduce so quickly that there was a time discrepancy. Or maybe he wanted Tom exposed to cover his ass?
I have to say, I had that thought as well. “You son of a bitch! I thought you told me that you were gonna take care of this. The security cameras would be turned off, I could swipe my card, and it would be erased. We would make this easy for me to get into and you would cover my tracks and you didn’t.” [Laughs] So, [it’s] one more thing that Tom can chalk up in the column of “Don’t trust anybody.”

When did you find out Tom was a double agent? Did they tell you anything when you were cast?
No, goodness, no. They don’t tell us anything! It’s definitely grown and come a long way since [I was cast]. … I don’t know when they decided to make him one, but I didn’t know until the table read for that episode [last season]. It was fun. At the table reads, everyone finds out at the same time except Shonda and the writers. The whole room reacts. That was exciting to get in on this, especially B613. As crazy as B613 is, it’s fun. You’re right in the middle of the deadliness and the double-crossing.

I think that reveal caught a lot of people off-guard. He’s so unsuspecting. What was that like for you to play after you found out?
This kind of evolves as you read the scripts. You want to be careful. You want to invent the character because, in my case, you’re not getting a whole lot to do that with, but you can’t invent things that don’t make sense in the story. My real choice was to play Tom as the loyal soldier to the president and when it was revealed I was in B613, it was, “OK, now I’m loyal to Rowan and to whoever’s Command.” He’s the kind of guy who carries out orders without asking questions, and no one suspects or thinks twice about him that he’s a killer! He doesn’t talk a lot. [Laughs] He’s very different than Charlie or Huck or Jake, the other B613ers. That kind of fits into Rowan’s thing of, “You’re my golden boy.” People love it when you don’t question their decisions! I think that’s what Tom was used to doing. That’s why it’s been so nice to see that little peek into his humanity and him realizing that no one escapes the repercussions of things like that, killing the president’s son.

Did your brother give you any pointers on playing a shady double-crosser?
[Laughs] We were raised that way! No, kidding. Far from the truth! When I auditioned, the casting director, Linda Lowy, didn’t know we were brothers. Matt and I talked about it and joked about it and laughed that we’re both villains. We daydreamed that maybe we’ll get to do something together on the show at some point. It was a fun treat for our mom to see both of us on the same show. How rare it is to get a role on a great television show and let alone for both of us to be on the same one. That’s pretty cool.

Especially for you. You thought it was a one-time gig.
Oh, god, yeah! Who would’ve thought? … At the time, they were only making seven episodes. It was the first season. They didn’t know if there would be a second season, and now we’re sitting here with Scandal hangovers on Friday morning.

There’s a small contingent of Tom fans who feel bad for you.
I find the fan responses interesting. There are a number of people on Team Tom. There’s a #SaveTom hashtag. I think Tom built up a lot of goodwill passing the phone back and forth between Fitz and Olivia. That has stayed with people despite everything he has done since then. But I also think it speaks to the character. There’s a sincerity and earnestness there. He’s trying now to do the right thing. He was the ultimate golden boy soldier who is now going to be the scapegoat. … At the same time, as a person, you never want to be pitied. [Laughs] I wanna say, “Don’t say, ‘poor Tom’!” He’s a killer! He did it. He made a decision. He knew what he was getting into. He may have been manipulated by Rowan a little bit psychologically, like all B613 agents have been, but he’s a grown-man killer who did what he did, and now he has to pay the price. But he knows that signing up.

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Do you think or know if Tom started out in B613 and became a Secret Service agent or vice versa?
Letscher: The story I have in my mind is he started as B613 and then was put in the White House. That is not in the script. That is written nowhere, so I want to be careful because who knows what will come down the road.

Do you think Rowan needs to die? He’s fun to watch, but can he keep getting away with everything?
I think the word I used on Twitter, which is probably inadequate, is that inside, Tom is seething. It’s twofold. Tom needs Rowan to save him, but at the same time, I think he wants to end Rowan. Rowan’s certainly done quite a few horrible, horrible things and gotten away with them. He’s a powerful guy. … Fitz knows when he needs something done — he said to Cyrus, “I’m finding out who killed my son” — he knows Rowan is the one to do that. He thinks Rowan is the one to do that because Rowan will be tough enough to get it out of Tom, so he calls him. … This being Scandal and a Shonda show, you feel like, at some point, someone’s gonna get it, you just don’t know who. But he’s high on people’s list.

If Tom and Jake get out unscathed, they can team up and do a B613 offshoot.
[Laughs] That’s right. A half-hour, single-camera B613. Brooklyn Nine-Nine-Nine. I like that! After several seasons of Scandal, that might be a nice change.

Your thunder was stolen a bit by the “Eiffel Tower.”
[Laughs] Yeah, I think that went to the top of the list last night on Google. Someone tweeted that the PR people at the Eiffel Tower are getting all the calls that they don’t want right now! Wow. What an episode. Wasn’t Mary Mouser terrific? … The scene with her and Mellie [Bellamy Young] was beautiful. … They addressed every angle realistically. The bottom line was it came out of her heartbreak. … And then for Mellie to flip it at the end and say, “You’re the president’s daughter. This cannot happen.”

It’s also what Mellie’s had to deal with. She had to dress up and pull herself together for the State of the Union.
 Totally. Their lives are not like anyone else’s life. It comes with a severe price. Last night’s episode was just a great episode. The Fitz-Olivia scene, the Smelly Mellie scene, Fitz with his daughter and Olivia railing at [the blackmailing parents], the end scene. It was fantastic writing.

I hope Tom doesn’t kill Karen. He’s done enough.
[Sighs] Oh, good lord. I hope so too. I haven’t seen that ring around, so hopefully that’s gone.