‘Scandal’ Star Darby Stanchfield Teases ‘Major Shift’ in Abby-Olivia Relationship

“The tension between Abby and Olivia can’t sit long without being addressed. So it comes to blows tonight,” the actress tells TheWrap

Following the “yes” heard ’round the world, White House Press Secretary Abby Whelan will have a busy episode on this week’s “Scandal.”

As White House press secretary, not only will she have to deal with the media firestorm following the revelation of the president’s extramarital affair, but she’ll also have to live with the knowledge that her best friend lied to her face about the relationship.

“She’s never lied to Olivia, she never would,” Darby Stanchfield, the actress who portrays Abby on the show said in an interview with TheWrap. “So she feels incredibly betrayed and hurt that Olivia would keep that from her, both as a friend and professionally.”

Stanchfied teased tonight’s episode dealing with the show’s “biggest scandal yet,” how it will affect Abby’s relationship with Olivia and potential developments in her character’s love life down the line. Read the full interview below:

TheWrap: Now that Olivia has publicly outed her relationship with Fitz, that puts Abby in a tough spot as press secretary. How will that play out?
Stanchfield: It puts her in a tough spot in two ways, in two very clear ways. The first way is now that there’s this global media storm surrounding the White House. The biggest scandal yet. And Abby as press secretary has to figure out how to spin it. And there’s a scene in tonight’s episode where Abby storms into Mellie and Fitz’s interview just as they’re about to sit down and talk about how wonderful their marriage is. Abby is racing down the hallway with secret service, taking off her high heels, tearing down the hallway and going into the interview to stop it. She’s been up at the podium saying, “Oh no, Mellie is still in the White House. They’re navigating this as a couple.” So she’s got mud all over her face that she has to wipe off.

The second thing is that her best friend lied to her. On a personal note, she’s incredibly hurt. She’s never lied to Olivia, she never would. She has a very strong moral compass within that relationship, which is where her loyalty probably lies the most. So she feels incredibly betrayed and hurt that Olivia would keep that from her, both as a friend and professionally. It really threw her under the bus in terms of how she had to navigate that as press secretary. So it’s a two-pronged thing that Abby is dealing with this episode. She’s never been busier.

Why do you think she lied to Abby about seeing him?
You find out in tonight’s episode. Very much like the relationships in my life where I’m really, really close to someone, the tension between Abby and Olivia can’t sit long without being addressed. So it comes to blows tonight. It comes to the surface to be dealt with, and you do actually find out why she lied to her. So it’s a lot that happens there for that relationship tonight.

Does her job as press secretary inherently put her at odds with Olivia? Or is that something they can overcome?
It’s sort of a tight spot. Right now with Olivia saying “yes,” it does put them at odds. It’s a complicated situation for Abby, as well for me as an actor in terms of navigating the storyline. Because she is in fact super loyal to Olivia, but she is very, very serious about her job as press secretary and protecting the president. So there’s all sorts of conflict going on inside of Abby.  It makes for really interesting episodes going forward. I would say after this episode there’s a major shift in how they relate.

With Cyrus giving Abby that advice in the last episode, is he trying to use her as his ticket back into the White House?
I get the sense that Cyrus is trying to use anybody as a ticket back into the White House. He’s also working with Mellie. In the last episode he was in Abby’s ear saying, “Be the adult. This is what you need to do.” We know about Cyrus that his reason for living, his whole reason for existing is Fitzgerald Grant in the White House and being the greatest president ever. Cyrus’ identity has everything to do with that man and that relationship. I think he would use anybody to get back in there.

What’s in store for Abby’s love life?
Well, she’s currently with Leo Bergen. But potentially there may be something down the road. Let’s put it this way: There are men who Abby has been really close to who start to have more of a love life of their own, and we’ll start to see how that informs Abby’s relationships.

But right now, Abby is a working stiff. We continue to see her relationship with her work and the power that she comes into. So right now her relationship is with Chinese takeout and hairspray.

“Scandal” airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on ABC.

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