'Scandal' Star: The Stakes Get So High


Tony Goldwyn has spent the last few years behind the camera, directing everything from Dexter to Grey's Anatomy. But in meeting Shonda Rhimes through the latter, he was able to reinvigorate his love for acting (let us not forget his excellent performances in Ghost, Nixon and countless others) by playing President Fitzgerald Grant on Scandal.

After only two weeks, ABC's latest drama has transformed into one of their signature addictions and a lot of that has to do with the rocky relationship Goldwyn's "Fitz" shares with Kerry Washington's Olivia Pope. Goldwyn recently spoke with ETOnline and revealed why he couldn't pass up this gig and what's in store for the president's heart.

ETOnline: You've spent the last few years focusing on directing -- were you actively looking for an acting job?

Tony Goldwyn: I wasn't really, but I was open to it because I had been missing acting. Last year I did a Broadway show and when that finished I was looking for my next project when Shonda called me out of the blue and asked if I would play the president in her new project.

ETOnline: It's hard to say no when someone asks you to play the president, I'd imagine.

Goldwyn: [laughs] Yea, exactly. Particularly when it's a Shonda Rhimes president. She writes such great characters and when I actually read the script, it was a no-brainer. She wrote a very interesting president.

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ETOnline: How much did you know about the character's journey coming in?

Goldwyn: Shonda writes as she goes and makes changes based on what's happening with the chemistry, so there are lots of rapid changes, which is exciting because we never know what's going to happen – that sense of mystery is fun. But I also had to accept the fact that she may suddenly decide she doesn't want to write for my character anymore. I've had friends who signed on for a project and felt they were sidelined, so that's the risk you take coming to television. But so far, this show feels like a gift that's been dropped in my lap. Hopefully we'll have a second season.

ETOnline: Last week Fitz said that Olivia is the love of his life, but he's still married -- what do you find exciting about that predicament as an actor?

Goldwyn: What could be more complicated – or lifelike? It's the last thing either of them wanted – Fitz isn't a guy who sleeps around. This is a rare, complicated relationship and it presents a great problem because it's almost unsolvable, which is great dramatically. What I really love is you can't really judge these characters because just when you think you've got a pulse for one of them, Shonda turns it and you're constantly surprised. To have something where you're headed in one direction one week and 180 degrees the next, is incredibly fun.

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ETOnline: Tonight's episode is called Hell Hath No Fury -- safe to say that's referring to Olivia?

Goldwyn: Oh yea [laughs] – but what's beautiful is that Olivia is as flawed as anyone else on the show. As brilliant, beautiful and impressive as she is, she makes mistakes and lets her ego and pride and femininity get the best of her sometimes. She's not this monolithic heroine who triumphs over all and it's what sets this show apart from what might be a conventional show, like "Olivia Pope Dragon Slayer."

ETOnline: A recording rocks Fitz's world tonight, what can you tease about that?

Goldwyn: What's brilliant about setting this show in the White House is that it makes the stakes so high -- and this tape makes them even higher. Especially for Fitz and Olivia – but things aren't exactly what they seem. What that tape turns out to be is kind of mind-blowing. I actually thought they were going to kill Fitz off. I didn't think there was any way he could be redeemed after that. He'd been painted into such a corner. I expressed this to a producer and he just said, "Are you crazy? The whole show is Fitz and Olivia – that's Shonda’s obsession!" I couldn't figure out how she was going to redeem Fitz, but she certainly does. A big key to that was when he called Olivia "the love of my life" – in that moment, you see this guy's heart, but obviously it gets much more interesting and involved.

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