It’s not easy playing the most powerful man of the free world, but “Scandal” star Tony Goldwyn has put a spell on millions of fans as the handsome, charming and manipulative President Fitzgerald Grant III. The “will they or won’t they” love affair between Fitz and crisis manager Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) is must see tv” on Thursday nights.
Born into Hollywood royalty (his grandfather Samuel Goldwyn was one of the founders of MGM Studios), the talented actor and director is blazing his own trail in Tinseltown by helping to bring a more diverse vision of the world on the small and big screen.
We caught up with Goldwyn to discuss being the other half of primetime’s most controversial couple, scoop on Season 3, working with Shonda Rhimes and why cultural diversity is so important in Hollywood.
TUD: In the season premiere, we found out Fitz leaked Olivia’s name to the press. What was your reaction when you read the script and how hard was it to keep secret?
Tony Goldwyn: I was totally shocked. The obvious choice was Mellie, but I thought that was too obvious a choice. The way we tend to read our scripts, we do our table reads a day or two before shooting, so the cast doesn’t see the script until then. So it’s become this ritual at “Scandal” where we experience the script collectively. Everyone was shocked but I was really pleased because last season was really tough for me; Fitz had worked so hard at committing to telling the truth about Olivia, only to to end up crawling back to Mellie with his head in her lap.
Even though Fitz has repeatedly said Olivia’s the love of his life, he is still with Mellie. It does seem Fitz gets a perverse pleasure from this power play with his wife. Could it be that Mellie is Fitz’s soulmate and not Olivia?
Absolutely not! It’s very complicated because Fitz has love for Mellie, I think he feels a deep responsibility for her since she’s family. He respects her intelligence, but they have this love/hate relationship where sometimes he loathes her but also wants to take care of her. She’s the mother of his children and has compassion for her, but there’s no comparison to what he feels for Olivia. For Fitz, there’s not a doubt Olivia is the love of his life.
We’ve heard about Jerry and Karen, Fitz and Mellie’s two older children throughout the series. When can we expect them to drop by the White House?
I have no idea, I’m not sure Shonda does either. What’s so fantastic about this show is that the writers are so open. I know about as much as you do.
In the first season of “Scandal” Fitz was presented as this fantasy-type, romantic hero, but in the second season we saw a darker and more manipulative side to him. Was there ever a point where you wondered “Fitz has gone too far, I don’t think the fans will forgive him for this”?
For Season 1, it took Shonda a long time to decide whether Fitz actually slept with Amanda Tanner. When I read the script about the sex tape Cyrus found, I thought they were going to write me off the show because I thought Fitz’s character would never recover from sleeping with this woman. But one of the executive producers told me “No, it’s not true!” Then in Season 2 when Fitz kills Verna and rejects Olivia at the funeral, that really shocked me and I could barely get the words out at the table read.
When you first signed on to play Fitz, did you have any doubts that people would tune into a show about a White married president having an adulterous affair with a Black woman?
Actually this is what I loved about the show. Frankly, my only concern when Shonda asked me to do it, was that it wasn’t just about me having an affair with an intern. That’s not all there is to Fitz and I suspected that Shonda would write him more complicated than that. I loved the idea of Olivia and Fitz’s relationship, that they’re in this adulterous affair but actually in love with each other. I thought it was genius. I love how the writers can make a character do something totally reprehensible yet you find yourself rooting for them.
While the majority of “Scandal” fans are rooting for Liv and Fitz, there were criticisms comparing them to Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings, which Shonda addressed in Season 2. Were you concerned about the comparison?