Kerry Washington is back at work on Scandal, just three months after giving birth to her son, and she’s slowly getting into the swing of things following her maternity leave.
“I’m still figuring it out because we just got back to work. I guess the nice thing is that I did it once before. This is my second child that I’ve birthed,” Washington shared during Scandal’s Television Critics Association press session on Tuesday.
The 39-year-old actress admitted that the way she approaches her character, political fixer Olivia Pope, has changed dramatically since becoming a mother of two -- and she’s had to find new ways to slip into the role.
“It’s been really interesting for me as an actor. I work very physically. How I approach a character often has a lot to do with the physicality of that character,” Washington said. “So the challenge of my physicality changing dramatically two times now in the life of the show and Olivia’s body not changing, I was trying to figure out how to hold onto her posture and her emotion, her physical orientation while mine is different every day has been in a real exercise for me.”
“It has taught me how to grow my toolbox to lean into other areas of grounding her, other than just kind of the walk -- the walk has become more of a waddle,” she confessed. “That’s been really good for me and an exercise for me as an actor.”
Since Scandal debuted in April 2012, Washington’s life has taken a complete 180. Now married to former NFL pro Nnamdi Asomugha and mother to two young children, 2-year-old daughter Isabelle and 3-month-old son Caleb, Washington doesn’t connect as closely to Olivia as she once did.
“We have been gifted with these immense journeys and transformations. The challenge of holding onto the core of the character is still evolving,” she said. “When I first started playing Olivia, I thought of us as very much the same person and our lives have become more and more different in the six seasons.”
For weeks, ABC’s promotional campaign surrounding Scandal’s anticipated return was counting down to a Jan. 19 return, but on Monday, the network delayed the debut one week for a Donald Trump inauguration special.
“I just think that ABC does its programming,” creator Shonda Rhimes said. “I’m not in charge of scheduling. I’m fine with whatever they want to do. It has nothing to do with my job. I like to stay in my lane.”
Rhimes also addressed possible concerns over ratings once ABC’s TGIT lineup returns later this month.
“I don’t and haven’t for, I would say, seven or eight years, paid attention to the ratings because that’s not something I can control. Ratings are not, as far as I’m concerned, real or true anymore, so that’s not a thing that I’ve paid attention to,” she said. “I also feel incredibly grateful that we’re in our sixth season, we’re approaching or 100th episode and we’re just now talking about ratings concerns. We’re doing what very few shows get to do anymore, which is to run this long and do it this successfully. I’m happy wherever we are.”
As for the upcoming 100th episode, Rhimes revealed she and the writers were just now formulating their plan for the monumental milestone, playing coy when asked if they were approaching it as “just another episode” or a special landmark.
“I have no idea yet because we’re in the middle of planning it, writing it now,” she said. “It could change tomorrow.”
Scandal premieres Thursday, Jan. 26 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.