Bellamy Young: 'Scandal' Flips The Script in S3

by Jarett Wieselman 12:36 PM PDT, October 03, 2013
Photo: ABC

A bitch. A shrew. A women you absolutely cannot root for.

Those are just a few of the things First Lady Mellie Grant could have been in the hands of a lesser actress. But as created by Bellamy Young, First Lady Mellie Grant is not only of TV's most tragic characters but also the source of much internal conflict for fans who struggle to justify our dreams for Mellie and our hopes for Olitz.

That struggle will take center stage in the third season according to Young, who cites Fitz's reelection campaign amid an infidelity scandal that promises to alter the always-amorphous world of Scandal in new and shocking ways. That was just one of the exciting teases the actress shared when we talked season three, Mellie's heart and her stunning rain-soaked photoshoot!

ETonline: Before we get to talking about season three, I need to discuss Scandal's rain-soaked photoshoot!
Bellamy Young: Next level, right? They told us the concept, but until we got there, they hadn't decided if we were going to get wet because there's just so much wig-age involved, but we were all so game. We were excited because the idea is so boss, but the execution is insane! You can see every rain drop! Also, have you seen the fan-art that has come from it? We have the most talented fans. It's crazy. I marvel at it all because I can barely send an email [laughs].

ETonline: How long were you under water for?
Young: Like two songs -- one with the umbrella and then one without. What's funny is, it looks so flashy, but in reality, it was a guy on either side of me, standing on a stepladder, holding a hose over my head [laughs]. The behind the scenes pictures are hilarious. Hilarious! I loved every, every second. I mean, when do you get to do something like that? But then again, that's what this job is like every day. Just another day of magic at Scandal.

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ETonline: The cast is as big a fan of this show as the fans are, so what was the experience like waiting for the first season three script?
Young: I always get worried because we get these incredible scripts every week, so I wonder how they could possibly top themselves every single week. It worries the pants off of me. All summer long I was like, "What are we gonna do?" Well, let me tell you what, we're only a half dozen episodes in and this season is unparalleled. The fans will love it so much. We come back, like 20 minutes later, but right after season one ended and Olivia isn't the fixer, she's the client, and that shift in the dynamic allows everyone to find new strengths and weaknesses in themselves. It tilts the axis of the whole story and everyone's just finding their way in the moment, and it's so much fun to play. It's going to feel new; there's a new visual style. You know the jazzy snaps? The clicks of the camera? It's a little different this year because it's got a more archival feel, like those old photos of John John [Kennedy] at The White House. I mean, that iconography helps us tell the story this year. Everyone's look has also evolved this season because all the characters are at a different place in their life, but it still feels utterly fresh. Tonight I get to take part in a little three-person one-act in the middle that's unlike anything I've ever done before, and I can't think of a time I've seen that on TV before.

ETonline: When we last saw Mellie, Fitz was laying his head in her lap after being rejected by Olivia. Tony Goldwyn admitted to finding that moment confusing, what was your take on it?
Young: I don't think she believes it completely because I know in her heart she knows that he has true love with Olivia, but I think Mellie was happy to get whatever she got. I'm not saying she trusted it, but I will say that she gratefully accepts any bit of softness or contrition from Fitz. Those tiny moments of intimacy, physical reminders of the love they used to share; that's her air. It's what she lives for and what she lives on. That tiny act gave her fuel to face whatever is ahead. Just a moment of his love. And it's sort of pitiful, to be honest. But it's not rare; it's just deeply human. Did she believe it? No. Did she need it? Fundamentally yes. Did she take it? Absolutely. Gratefully.

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ETonline: Fuel for what?
Young: To face whatever comes. I know that I don't have his heart, I don't for a minute believe he's coming back to me or that we'll get back what we had, but it's a reminder of we once had, what we once were. This will be a season of compromise as we face reelection and whatever compromises come, no one can take away from me the fact I had his love, and, on some level, still do have his love. That is my everything.

ETonline: In Mellie's ideal world does she want to continue the charade or actually win him back?
Young: I don't think it's either. I think she's pragmatic enough to realize it's going to be a mitigated solution. She's looking for the grand compromise. She wants him to choose their life and she's willing to accept whatever form that takes. She just wants him to choose their life, choose their family, choose the presidency and, all things being equal, choose her as his wife and partner. I think she's trying to stomach that she'll have to release hope on the rest of it.

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ETonline: Is Mellie on the outside looking in still or has she been welcomed back to the inner circle?
Young: When we return she's in the thick of it. If Olivia is the client, then Mellie is the fixer and she wants heads to roll. She wants to know who told and have it pushed under the rug. She's in handle-mode. Mellie is pursuing every lead.

ETonline: How mad is Mellie that their secret is out?
Young: She is hopping. I think the script even said she's in a blind fury. She is immediately on the warpath, on the offensive. She loves him and she wants to handle it for Fitz, not for Olivia. She wants it put to bed and wants them to move on because the real fire at our feet in the first part of this season will be Fitz's reelection campaign.

ETonline: Looking at the first half of this season, what surprised you the most?
Young: We have spent two years learning and growing with these people and it blows my mind that our beautiful writers can still reinvent everyone. Everyone will still surprise you at every turn this season, and that surprises me. Some of what you learn about Olivia's past makes my Most Surprising List for season three. Personally, some of the colors I've gotten to play in Mellie have surprised me in the most thrilling way. There's a huge thing I want to say but can't because it's just so huge. Like, huuuuuuge. But, truly and earnestly, the way they allow us to be ever-evolving humans with passions and needs and foibles and drams without jumping the shark, blows my mind.

Scandal airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.