Tony Goldwyn, Dan Bucatinsky, Joe Morton and Jeff Perry chat with EmmyWrap about life and work on the ABC hit drama
This story originally appeared in EmmyWrap: Comedy/Drama/Actors.
TheWrap talked to four of them: Tony Goldwyn, who plays President Fitzgerald (“Fitz”) Thomas Grant; Jeff Perry, as White House chief of staff Cyrus Beene; Dan Bucatinsky as Cyrus’ husband, former journalist James Novak; and Joe Morton as Olivia’s father, black ops commander Rowan Pope.
TheWrap: Is there a special camaraderie between the men of “Scandal” that’s different from the cast as a whole?
Dan Bucatinsky: There’s definitely camaraderie among the men. It’s very interesting with our show, because to some degree this isn’t necessarily exclusive to just men. When we’re all together, there’s just a brotherhood. The common thread is “Scandal.” We’re all guys, we’re all on a show, and it’s extremely heightened, dramatic and emotional, and we’re all in the same boat. We never know from week to week whether we’ll be naked or not, whether we’ll be alive or not, or who will be our love interests.
Jeff Perry: I’ve had a tremendous amount of bonding over a lot of scenes. There’s a lot of, “Hey, what got us here?” from the last event that we were asked to play. And that’s where the actor is in interesting collaboration with the writers — creating all the imaginary backstory and side story and in-between story. There’s a tremendous enjoyment and I have a very special connection to both Tony and Dan. We’ve had the most opportunity to, and the joyful necessity to, create backstory and fill in the blanks in between events in the writers’ stories. So there’s a special actor bond where actors sort of become writers, if that makes sense.
Tony Goldwyn: Well, it’s the whole cast. We just get along great. We just all have a very similar attitude towards the work, and similar backgrounds. Most of us worked a lot in the theater. We just have a lot of respect for each other. I’ve known Joe for 20-some years. You know, we first met in a production of “Oedipus” where he was playing Oedipus, and I’ve just known him for a long time. So it’s a great pleasure to get to have this relationship with him, which is — we certainly don’t like each other as characters, but we do as individuals. [Laughs.]
Joe Morton: The first time I met everyone was at a table read, and the way they conduct a table read and the way they conduct themselves with each other, it’s a family. They’re very supportive of one another. Even before I joined the company, they were going to Jeff’s house often to preview the upcoming episode so they could also be prepared to tweet and all that. It was a very tight company, I’m going to assume, from the beginning. It was a great company to walk into.
You get a lot of attention from the fans on social media. What’s that like?
Goldwyn: It’s new to me. I’ve experienced audience reaction in other roles, but mostly it’s been in movies where it’s over by the time the audience reacts. And obviously, I’ve played some dark characters so you have audiences going, “I hated you,” or they love to hate you. But the thing about “Scandal” is, as with any television series, it’s an ongoing relationship you have with your fans and audience. Particularly in the age of social media, and with the phenomenon that “Scandal” has become with social media, we literally have direct conversations with our fans and with the audience. The truth is, [show creator Shonda Rhimes] knows that, but she doesn’t write to that. She writes what she wants to write and we’re telling these characters’ stories as Shonda wants them. She doesn’t modify what she’s doing because of the fans, even though she loves and welcomes the reactions.
Bucatinsky: I have never experienced anything like it. Even walking down the street — and I’ve done three seasons — if they’ve written an extremely explosive storyline for me, people felt very invested in James in particular. But I have to be honest, Tony Goldwyn as the president — it wasn’t people being invested in Tony Goldwyn the family man, it was Tony, the heart and soul of the show. Fitz is a very complicated character, and people are very divided, saying, “Do we hope he stays married?” At the beginning, people were hoping that he would wind up with Olivia as his mistress, which goes against every possible family value that America has, which is what I love about the show.
Perry: There’s an awful lot of love. There’s a little negative reaction, which is great for the actor ego. And it does remind me of the subscription-based theater that I’ve grown up with, because you end up having a relationship with and a dialogue with the audience. In the theater, it’s hundreds of people. Interestingly, here, it still feels like it’s hundreds of people even though, somehow, the Twitter audience is tens of thousands. I don’t know how that works, but it’s cool.
Shonda loves to write a good, long monologue, and all of you have had to do them. Are those nerve-wracking to shoot?
Morton: Fortunately, the schedule has always given me enough time to spend working on the speeches. So by the time I arrive on set to do them, knock wood, I’m fully prepared for the few hours we’re going to spend shooting all the different angles of that scene. When you have monologues like that, the obvious pitfall is that you don’t want it all to sound like it’s coming from one emotional place. You have to find colors within that particular monologue. That’s the challenge.
Goldwyn: This year, in the episode I directed, I didn’t get the script until very shortly before we made it. And I’m not only in almost every scene, but I had this scene with Bellamy Young — and it was mainly a monologue, when we had this big fight in our marriage. It was after Fitz had found out she had been sleeping with Andrew. So that was a particular challenge, that I had to direct myself in this monologue scene. I had to wear both hats, knowing that I had so much to do.
Perry: I once had this monologue about five pages long, and it was the fourth episode of the series. In that instance, I had six or seven days at least to work on it — to bore my wife with it, to read it in the car, to read it on my phone, to listen back to it from my voice memo on my phone. And it was just such a beautiful architecture of a speech that it was very precious and dear to me. And I remember saying to Shonda, “Shonda, if you don’t like what we laid down, I swear I’ll pay the crew to come back at 3 a.m. and we’ll get it right.” Because I don’t think I’ve ever been the recipient of such a gorgeous soliloquy, of such duration, certainly in my television career, and maybe also in my theater life. And she kind of giggled via text and said, “No, Jeff, that’s cool. It’s looking good. You don’t have to pay the crew.”