Khandi Alexander Talks Secret 'Scandal' Role


A single episode of Scandal has more mysteries than the entirety of Lost and Twin Peaks combined, and in last week's still-buzzed-about episode, Everything's Coming Up Mellie, we got a massive answer to one of the year's biggest questions: Is Olivia's mother alive? (Spoiler Alert: YES!)

And now that we know actress Khandi Alexander will be playing Maya Lewis in the show's present day timeline, ETonline caught up with the actress to talk about the incredibly secretive casting process, what she's excited for audiences to see in this week's episode, titled Vermont is for Lovers, Too, and what it's -- maybe -- like to work with Kerry Washington!

ETonline: Not to use a bad pun, but your casting on this show was like the mother of all secrets – what was the casting process like?

Khandi Alexander: Mark Wilding, the executive producer, called me and he said, "I can't tell you anything about her, but you are going to play mama Pope. But you can't tell anybody. Yes or no?" It was a yes and I told no one. I was thrilled they called, I'm elated to play this role.

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ETonline: Were you surprised that it took so long for your casting news to break?

Alexander: I was surprised that it broke at all because I know everyone on the show respects the audience so much that we don't want to take away from the excitement of finding something out; they're very particular. I didn't even tell my agent or my manager about the part [laughs]! I didn't tell my guy, I didn't tell anyone. So everyone was shocked I had kept this information to myself for so long. But we do it out of respect for the audience because the fans deserve to have the thrill of that moment, which is taken away when it's leaked.

ETonline: What do you like about Maya as a woman?

Alexander: I think it's pretty amazing that she has been incarcerated for over 20 years and hasn't absolutely lost her mind, which you'll see she really hasn't. I think maybe she's running on anger; single-minded anger against Rowan. She's quite a fascinating woman

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ETonline: How much of those 20 years will we see over the coming weeks?

Alexander: Lots. We will learn more about Maya's past and her relationship with Olivia. We get more pieces to the Remington puzzle and we'll see how Olivia deals with it as well. The plot really thickens.

ETonline: Whether or not you work with her, what do you like about Kerry Washington as an actress?

Alexander: I just think she’s so lovely. I enjoy her in this role because I believe her. She's well-educated, carries herself well and I believe Olivia's strength -- that's about Kerry as a woman.

ETonline: What are you excited for fans to see in this week's episode?

Alexander: They're going to see parts of Rowan that they haven't been exposed to yet. He's very stoic, a company man and to have the opportunity to see him with his wife is pretty exciting because she brings out a different color in him that people maybe didn't think he was capable of feeling.

airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.