(Spoiler alert: Don’t read this if you haven’t watched Thursday’s episode, “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.”)
If “Scandal” viewers were stunned by the death on Thursday’s episode, so were two of the show’s stars.
Dan Bucatinsky and Josh Malina didn’t know which one of their characters would die after a table read of the previous episode’s script with the entire cast in January. But, the actors had their own takes on who should go.
“Josh screamed out after the table read, ‘Kill Dan! He already has an Emmy,'” Dan Bucatinsky, who won the award for playing James, told TheWrap. “Always the joker — though I was petrified.”
“Nobody knew what was going to happen. The writers didn’t even know,” he said, adding that show creator Shonda Rhimes “said they hadn’t worked it out yet.”
“So, there was this crazy feeling because our fates had not been decided yet,” he added.
During shooting for episode 313, the one before the death was revealed, everyone had ideas. Maybe neither of them would die, or maybe Quinn (Katie Lowes) would turn out to be behind the third gunshot. Or perhaps the third shot was just a warning shot to the two men by killer Jake (Scott Foley).
“So, everyone was speculating. Then, one morning while shooting Episode 313 and after the table read sometime in mid-January, I got a call from Shonda,” Bucatinsky said.
“She let me know that they had gone around and around different scenarios in the writers room and decided that the only one that seemed true to the story they were telling was the one where James would die,” he continued.
Bucatinksy said the writer in him searched for other scenarios. But, he finally came around to understanding the decision.
“It’s true in hindsight,” he said. “If you connect the dots and how much James wanted to take down his husband, how far he was willing to go to do that, how dangerous the game he was playing and how many people who knew” he was the whistleblower “Publius.”
“The threat of death on a show like this, if it doesn’t pay off occasionally, the audience begins to scream bulls–t. I feel like I understand the decision,” he said.
Bucatinsky had certainly done his fair share of tour de force performances on “Scandal,” but the drama was amplified as James’ experienced his last moments with Jake leaning over him.
“I had no idea how I was going to do it,” the actor said. He was able to read the script a couple hours before the group table read.
“When I saw that James was gasping for breath,” he continued, “crawling on the ground still alive, and that speech Jake gives him, and James croaking out the name of his daughter — and I have a daughter — I just lost it.”
Bucatinsky was proud of the way the episode unfolded, including James and Cyrus’ very public declaration of their love during a White House event.
“To their credit it was also beautiful and emotional and very well done,” he said. “I thought that if you’re going to have to die, then you definitely want the episode to tell a story the way that one did. It wasn’t only respectful to me as an actor and my character, but it also tells almost a complete story, like a movie, of Cyrus’ coming out.”
Still, Bucatinsky hates to see one less gay character on TV.
“That’s just personal, you want there to be as may depictions as possible of gay characters,” he said. “But, Cyrus is gay and is still very much alive and kicking in Washington, and it will be very interesting to see how he plays out being a single dad and a widower and how they dramatize that. But, the show has a subversive way of telling a tale that has everyone in the world seeing themselves reflected.”
Bucatinsky said that there are no current plans yet to have his character return in flashbacks on “Scandal” this season, but that the door is open.
As of now, he has signed on for a role on NBC pilot “Marry Me” and is looking forward to shooting the upcoming season of Showtime’s “Web Therapy,” which he co-produces with Lisa Kudrow.