‘Scandal’s’ Joe Morton on Playing TV’s Most Hated Dad and 6 Other Emmy Contender Quickies

“No matter how far you run, no matter how white the knight, all men are exactly like your father,” the ABC star tells TheWrap of the show’s patriarchal subplot

From the moment he first appeared on Shonda Rhimes‘ eventual juggernaut “Scandal,” Joe Morton, a.k.a. Rowan/Eli Pope became TV’s most popular villain.

After snagging an Emmy last year for his performance on the ABC show, Morton has turned up the “twisty-crazy,” as they say in ShondaLand.

His portrayal of Olivia Pope’s (Kerry Washington) conniving father culminated in his imprisonment at the end of last season, leaving many fans wondering what will happen to his character next season.

Morton talked to TheWrap about what it’s been like playing TV’s most hated dad, who he would give an Emmy to if he could and whether winning an Emmy last year helps or hurts his chances this time around.

TheWrap: What was the toughest thing you had to do this season?
Joe Morton: The three things that come to mind are the one scene where Olivia picks up the pistol thinking she’s going to shoot me and she actually pulls the trigger. That scene had a lot of emotions going back and forth. The other scene is when I go to her apartment and discover that she’s willing to throw Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) under the bus. That was particularly difficult because the monologue changed earlier in the morning. I was ready to go and I looked at my computer and there had been a whole addition to the scene. And the last one was the very last scene of the season for me, which was calling out Olivia’s name in jail. My character finds himself in a situation that for the moment seems untenable and his daughter is walking away from him.

What was the most fun thing you got to do this season?
Not a lot of fun when it comes to Rowan. Maybe the scene I mentioned before where he realizes Olivia might be willing to throw Fitz under the bus. There’s a portion of that scene where he gets really excited because it’s clear that no matter how far you run, no matter how white the knight, all men are exactly like your father. He breaks out in a way that you don’t usually see him break out. He’s realizing that his daughter could become the woman he would like to see her become, which is independent.

Let’s assume that somebody has never seen your show. What would you say to persuade them to watch it?
The show has been written and produced by a black woman (Rhimes) who now owns Thursday nights, which is spectacular all in itself. It stars a black female and we haven’t had a black female lead on TV in 45 years. And the actual storyline itself, which takes place in Washington D.C., about a fixer who deals with Washington scandals.

Who else on your show really deserves an Emmy, and why?
Kerry Washington, first of all. I think her work is spectacular. She brings a lot to that character. I think Jeff Perry (Cyrus Beene) deserves an Emmy for his work on the show. He was one of the reasons I wanted to be on that show. And Bellamy Young, who really broadened and deepened the role of Mellie (Grant).

Are you a binge-watcher, or a once-a-weeker?
The last show I binged watched was “Breaking Bad.” I don’t watch a lot of television, which sounds strange for someone who works in TV. But usually when I turn the TV on I watch a movie or the news. But “Breaking Bad” was just an exceptional show. I think I watched about four episodes at a time with my girlfriend.

If you could add any new category to the Emmys, serious or silly, what would it be?
I think it might be interesting to give an Emmy to an outstanding background performance in either a comedy or drama series. And, also, a production’s most hilarious blooper reel.

Did winning an Emmy last year take the pressure off this year? Or does it turn it up?
It adds the pressure because this year they changed the rules. Last year I was up for outstanding guest performer in a television drama. This year … if a guest performer does more than half the number of episodes per season they have to compete as a supporting actor. So that sort of ups the ante.

See coverage from TheWrap Magazine’s Emmy Comedy-Drama Issue: