Shonda Rhimes & Kerry Washington Scandal With Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes proved she's a master at writing women who are fiercely independent but also funny and vulnerable. With her latest creation, Scandal's Olivia Pope (played by the incomparable Kerry Washington), Rhimes adds ''thrillingly intimidating'' and ''almost absurdly sexy'' to that mix. EW talked to Rhimes, 43, and Washington, 35, about our new favorite fixer on ABC.
Lynette Rice I understand you considered many women for the role of Olivia. Shonda Rhimes I felt like we had a responsibility to see whoever wanted to come in, anybody who had a certain reputation. Kerry Washington My agent said, ''It's almost as if Shonda Rhimes wrote this script for you.'' TV wasn't really on the table for me. I had explored the idea of doing something on cable. But nothing had come along until this. SR After I cast you, a lot of showrunners came up to me and said, ''You got her! She was on the top of our list!'' KW I remember Shonda asking me, ''Do you think you are up for this kind of commitment?'' TV is so different. SR I remember her walking in, this very luminous movie star, and I was thinking, ''Ooh, she's fabulous, but how is she gonna feel about doing this?'' We really talked about what it meant. But she got it. Kerry is incredibly smart. This role is based on real D.C. crisis manager Judy Smith, who is African-American. Was it important that Olivia be black too? SR That's part of what made Judy's job unique and interesting. There was something about it that spoke to me. When did you decide Olivia was going to have an affair with the president, played by Tony Goldwyn? SR I knew what the pilot was when I decided she was sleeping with the president. For a long time I thought, ''What's the hook that's going to keep me fully invested?'' [Turning to Washington] Originally, the president was her father. He was much older...which made it much less interesting. KW Oh, wow! And she worked for him? SR She didn't work for him at all. She worked in New York City and she flew to Washington to do jobs. Her father had her under surveillance. That was pretty much it. KW Not as sexy. SR It wasn't as sexy, and frankly it felt depressing and kind of weird. It's a shippers' show now! SR I don't know about that. It's a show in which you long for these two characters to be together, but it's also a show in which them being together is all kinds of wrong.