The characters on ABC's Scandal are constantly juggling multiple life or death decisions and putting out raging fires without ever breaking a sweat. That work ethic is not lost on Dan Bucatinsky, who plays the reporter turned stay-at-home dad James Novak.
In addition to working on Scandal, Bucatinsky is a consulting producer on Grey's Anatomy, an executive producer of Web Therapy (he also co-stars) and Who Do You Think You Are, a newly published author and an equally new dad.
Needless to say, his time is just as precious as Olivia Pope's and Bucatinsky recently carved some out to chat with ETonline about tonight's shocking Scandal and what it was like to stage network TV's first all-male nude screaming matching.
ETonline: Twitter lit up last week during James and Cyrus' naked argument. What went through your mind as you read that script for the first time?
Dan Bucatinsky: You know, we were actually given that script literally seconds before the table read, so we were all going through that episode without knowing anything that happened. Shonda [Rhimes, creator] wrote that scene and she's really proud of it -- she didn't cut a word of it through all the drafts that episode went through. She has told many that it's the favorite scene she's written in her career. I feel so honored to have been a part of that, but I was scares sh*tless to film it. So not only was it horrifying slash exciting slash ... horrifying to find out we'd have to be arguing naked, but I can't believe how close my character came to death! I really thought I was going to take a bullet in that episode.
ETonline: Do you think Cyrus could have ever forgiven himself if he actually went through with it?
Bucatinsky: I don't know. I think people have come to really love that couple. I think we're among the few "normal" stable marriages on TV. Cyrus and James actually have a marriage based on love. Yes, they'd go to extreme lengths to fulfill their ambitions -- and we already know what Cyrus is capable of. I love that this show is constantly questioning and pushing the boundaries about how a person can be ethically challenged while fighting for what they believe in. It's caused a lot of interesting debate. How do you wrap your brain around all these characters being felons?
ETonline: On that tip, when do you think James decided to perjure himself?
Bucatinsky: That was actually a big debate on set. When James walks in the building, is he walking in there to testify or does he plan on lying? In the script there was an additional line that got cut where I'm talking to the grand jury about being a dad and he makes eye contact with one woman -- it's like this parent-to-parent connection. To me, in that moment; the overwhelming drive to protect his family, to protect his daughter, to not send his husband to jail was what motivated the lie.
ETonline: Scandal has proven time and again that the sins of the past come back to bite the sinners. Should we worry that this lie might resurface?
Bucatinsky: Well, I mean, he gave David Rosen that memory card that proves the voting machines were rigged. There's a lot of evidence. Whether James can be linked to it or that David can prove he lied -- who knows. But it was a huge risk.
ETonline: Tonight's episode jumps ahead 10 months. What do you think the show gains from doing that?
Bucatinsky: In TV, when you have an uberarc where you're telling a continuing story, as we did with the rigged voting machines that involved Hollis and Verna and Cyrus and Olivia and Fitz and myself, you can only ramp it up for so long before the audience says, "Come on!" It has to end at some point and last week's episode, which would have been the season finale if we didn't get the back 9, represents the end of that uberarc. The footprint of the show changed a bit in the last five episodes. The scandal of the week went away and it became much more about the uberarc. I think this little reset button allows the audience to find what's center again as we get introduced to the new uberarc for the next set of episodes.
ETonline: Where do we find James and Cyrus?
Bucatinsky: It's in keeping with the James and Cyrus you saw at the end of [last week's episode] where they're side-by-side at Verna's funeral. For all intents and purposes, we are intact as a couple. I don't know where James' ambitions go now and how long it takes for the itch of work to come back -- we're only filming episode 16!
ETonline: Oh wow, so the show is only two episodes ahead of us. With that said, what are you excited for the Gladiators to see in the coming weeks?
Bucatinsky: I'm excited for everyone to get invested in the new surprises -- as explosive as the voting machine scandal became, I believe that the new time bomb is going to whip the fans into an even bigger hashtag frenzy.
Scandal airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.