Dozens of new TV shows will be fighting for audiences' attention in the coming weeks, but you'll want to save some DVR space tonight as ABC premieres the best new show of 2012: Scandal.
Brought to you by Grey's Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes, the series offers a fascinating look inside Washington D.C.'s most prolific crisis management firm, led by the charismatic Olivia Pope -- played by the Kerry Washington, in her first TV role. Kerry recently sat down with ETonline to talk about the appeal of this addictive series and what it takes to brings this ferocious TV character to life.
ETonline: Was a TV show something you were actively looking for?
Kerry Washington: I wasn't looking to do television, but my agents told me I had to read this script. I was scared to though because I knew it was Shonda. I thought, "Oh no, this is going to be really good and I have four movies coming out this year," so I really had no business doing a TV show [laughs]. I read it and it was so good I threw the script across the room. It was tremendous. It just happened to be half as long as most of the scripts I read. Which is kind of fun. So I wanted this. I asked what I had to do and it turns out I had to beat out a lot of other actresses [laughs].
ETonline: The show is based on crisis manager Judy Smith. How much time did the two of you spend talking?
Washington: We were talking constantly. One of the really important things I had to learn was how to play somebody that freakin' smart. I'm not an idiot, but Judy Smith is so intelligent. I don't know how to play chess but she lives her life like a chess game. She's always thinking five steps ahead of the client, six steps ahead of the media and seven steps ahead of the legal system. It's such a brilliant way of thinking and looking at the world. It was really fun for me to learn that from her as an approach. How does a person with that level if intelligence walk in the world? Because most often she's the smartest, most powerful person in the room – except for one: which happens to be the oval office.
ETonline: What are you excited for people to see?
Washington: I'm excited for people to grapple with the complexities of these characters. We would have knock-down, drag-out arguments in the hair and makeup trailer about these characters – my hairstylist would scream, "The president doesn't love her!!!" Like, people became so invested in these characters – and there are so many that tug on your heart. It really makes you think about right and wrong. I'm excited for people to let themselves into these complicated worlds.
ETonline: Shonda notoriously writes tricky dialogue -- you just filmed a Quentin Tarantino movie and did a David Mamet play. Whose dialogue is the hardest to memorize?
Washington: Oh man. It's all tough. I had the perfect training ground for Quentin and Scandal because I did that David Mamet play on Broadway for a year. They're all brilliant, prolific writers who have such a respect for human language and want their actors to have that respect. Theater is athletic in the same way TV is. So it works out.
ETonline: Olivia Pope is a very stylish lady and you have become well-known for your red carpet looks -- when did your love of fashion begin?
Washington: I came to fashion very late in life. I grew up the daughter of a professor, so the focus was never on the external growing up. I come to fashion as an artist. I have a real value for the aesthetics of fashion. The artistry that goes into creating a garment – and the artistry that goes into creating a look – is fascinating to me. I'm so lucky to my team, we all want to create a magical moment. It's a feeling. It's about putting something on. I've started to think about it in my work as fashion is something I do to honor the work. If I have a red carpet moment that gets talked about, it means more people will talk about Scandal. That's what I'm here to do. I get dressed up because I'm honoring the project and I want to stand behind it proudly.