Kerry Washington Was Not ‘Scandal”s Original Olivia Pope


By Victor Trammell

As Scandal reached the 100th episode milestone yesterday evening, show stakeholders engaged in press runs to promote the popular ABC drama series.

A recent media pit stop for some of Scandal’s key players was The Hollywood Reporter (THR). Shonda Rhimes, the show’s creator, casting director Linda Lowy, co-star Tony Goldwyn, and lead actress Kerry Washington all talked to THR about the experiences they have encountered on their illustrious television expedition.

There were even a few surprising revelations about Scandal’s existence that were previously unknown. Rhimes and Lowy discussed one of those revelations, which was the fact that Washington was not the first choice to play “Olivia Pope” on the show.

This seems odd because according to Rhimes, Pope’s character is loosely based on Judith Smith, a real-life crisis manager whose client list has contained household names from all walks of life, such as former NFL star Michael Vick and the infamous Monica Lewinsky.

Smith is a black woman (as is Washington). However, the first shortlist of actresses to play Pope was topped by a white actress, not a black one.

“Nothing felt more important than the sense of outsiderness. I didn’t know that there hadn’t been a drama series with a leading black woman for 37 years,” Rhimes told THR.

“When the show got picked up [to pilot], I got a phone call from somebody who said, ‘This would be the perfect show for Connie Britton.’ I said, ‘It would be, except Olivia Pope is black,'” Rhimes went on to say.

Lowy was an early advocate for Rhimes in her quest to push the envelope and break the color barrier in prime time television. “The network was reading us their top choices, and it was Connie and all white women. I panicked,” Lowy said in her interview with THR.

“Somebody finally piped up, ‘We’re going to have to redo this list,'” she continued.

You can read the full transcript of the Scandal team members’ interview with The Hollywood Reporter by visiting the link to the research source given for this article.






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