Scott Foley on Leaving 'Scandal' Behind and Working With His 'Badass' Wife on 'Whiskey Cavalier' (Exclusive)
By Philiana Ng
Larry D. Horricks/ABC
After six seasons playing bad guy Jake Ballard on Scandal, Scott Foley was ready to leave the doom and gloom behind. That's when the idea of Whiskey Cavalier came to fruition.
"This show is something I've always wanted to do. This was sort of a baby of mine," Foley, who is also a producer on the freshman ABC spy dramedy, tells ET. "When Scandal was ending, I was fortunate to have a bunch of producers reach out and say to me, 'What are you looking to do?' And this was one of those ideas we came up with."
In Whiskey, which reunites Foley with Cougar Town creator Bill Lawrence, the actor channels his inner James Bond through his character, FBI Agent Will Chase, a hopeless romantic at heart, who is forced to team up with CIA super-spy Frankie Trowbridge (The Walking Dead's Lauren Cohan) to lead a motley crew of inter-agency spies tasked with saving the world one mission at a time. Only problem? Their path to accomplishing their weekly task at hand is often riddled with comedic and romantic missteps.
Filmed almost entirely in the Czech Republic with on-location shoots in European destinations like Paris, London and Austria), Foley spent a better part of a year -- eight months, to be exact -- criss-crossing across the nation, his wife and kids coming along for the ride. (Foley's wife, actress Marika Dominczyk, plays edgy mercenary Tina Marek.) Ahead of Wednesday's episode, which puts Frankie's leadership skills to the test when Will is held hostage, Foley talks to ET about why he desperately wanted to shed Jake Ballard's skin after Scandal, how much of his true personality is reflected in Will and working with his wife on Whiskey.
ET: When Scandal was ending, why was Whiskey Cavalier the type of show you really wanted to tackle next?
Scott Foley: Scandal was such a great experience and I loved the people and I loved the show, but playing Jake Ballard for 100-plus episodes -- as grateful as I am to have been able to play that -- the show was a much more serious show in tone than I am, than I necessarily want to do and it was perfect for me at the time. But I wanted to do something much lighter and I missed the one-hour comedies that I grew up watching, like, Remington Steele, Moonlighting and Hart to Hart. For whatever reason, television has become like the politics in our country; you're either left or you're right and there's nothing in the middle. Television has become heavy drama or it's a comedy. For me, that's not what life is like. Life is both comedy and drama all the time, and I wanted to show it onscreen.
Because you're a producer, you had the opportunity to construct the kind of character you wanted to play. Is Will Chase a heightened version of you in real life?
I think so. He's a little more [emotionally available], not that I'm not emotionally available. I'm happily married and have kids, but for the television of it all, he's much more heightened emotionally than I probably am. When you're putting a show like this together, there's a vision in your head of who the hero is going to be. There's the CIA agent that we're [used to seeing] -- the Jason Bournes or the Mission: Impossibles where he's the emotionless, insensitive, tough guy. That, to me, is not only not very relatable but it's a little passe and cliche, and I wanted to do something different.
Will and Frankie's will they-won't they tension is central to this show. And over the course of the season, it seems like they're starting to warm up to each other. What can we expect from them moving forward?
It is the central relationship of the show, the Will-Frankie relationship. They're the yin and the yang to one another's personality and you're right, in a show like this, there is the will they-won't they. Whether it's Castle or Moonlighting, you've probably seen it before, but we're hoping that we do it differently and we're hoping, if not necessarily will they-won't they but it might be an on-again, off-again. We haven't really figured out exactly which way we want to go as we're wrapping up the first season, but there are little markers along the way throughout the show where you'll see where they connect. Getting them close to one another is important and getting them to not just work together, but to enjoy working together, is important. We're going to see more of that.
In this week's episode, Will finds himself taken hostage after his cover is blown. What can you preview?
Oh man, this is a good one. This was directed by Jon East; I came across his name when I was watching Killing Eve and I love that show. This is an episode where Will is taken hostage and the team has to do whatever they can to figure out how to get him back before he stops being Will Chase. Before someone kills him. It's a great episode with regards to the team building [rapport] and doing a mission without him. Usually he's the team leader along with Frankie, but she's got to take control here and get these people to respect her as a team leader and that's a big issue they're dealing with in this next episode.
What does Frankie leading the charge without Will look like?
It's hard for her. That's one the main struggles in this episode. The main plot point is her dealing with how to get these people to respect her when her personality, the way she does business, is much more of a lone wolf. She's always been her own person and the only person she's relied on. This is the episode where she realizes she needs a team around her in order to succeed.
Your wife, Marika Dominczyk, plays a key character in Tina Marek, who is quite the badass.
(Laughs.) She's a badass.
What was it like having her on this ride with you?
It was really important to me. When we found out that they wanted to shoot the show in Prague, Marika and I had a long conversation about what that would look like for us and what it meant for our family. And I didn't want to be away from my kids for eight months and they didn't want to be away from me, so we decided to do it. Marika is a successful working actress in her own right and she was like, "Look, I don't just give up my career for a year." I went to Warner Bros. and said, "What if we put her in the show? What if she does half the episodes?" And they loved the idea. My wife is Polish American; she was born in Poland, she speaks Polish and for a show set in Europe, she was the perfect person to have there. And we were nervous. Working together is always difficult; there's your home life and your work life and never the two shall meet. It's tough but man, I wouldn't trade it. I love having her on set; I work so many hours on this show that to be able to see her and the kids -- she sometimes brings [them] on set during my work day -- it means the world to me.
This isn't the first time you've worked together professionally?
No, it's not. (Pauses for a moment before jokingly answering.) This is the first time we've been happy about it! She did an episode of The Unit and that did not go very well.
There are a handful of episodes left in this first season. How would you describe this last push to the finale?
The great thing about this show is that we have a formula that I think works for our audience. We have a big action sequence in the beginning, then we get into the character and mission of it all, and I think you're going to see more of that. But there's a real drive toward these characters bonding in a way that they didn't in the first few missions. They keep getting better at their jobs and as a team. The finale is great. We shot an action sequence in Austria in the Alps -- a James Bond skiing action sequence, which was amazing.
Will there be an answer one way or another in terms of Will and Frankie's romantic status because that seems to be the biggest mystery of all?
That is the biggest mystery and I'm going to keep it a mystery for you. (Laughs.)
It's getting to that time of year where the networks make their decisions about their shows. How confident are you in a second season?
I'm cautiously optimistic. I know that ABC is extremely happy with the creative parts of the show. They love the story. They love the characters. They're very happy with that. Network television is a different landscape these days with all the streaming services out there with delayed viewing and DVRs. I can't make heads or tail of the ratings. I don't understand a damn thing. I was pretty sure my 25 years in this business [meant] I could explain a lot to you but these days, with the numbers, I just don't know. These shows can stay around for 10, 12 years or they can be gone after 13 episodes, so keep watching!