Scandal’s first season may have flown under the radar, but there was no avoiding season two. From social media on Thursday to all forms of social interaction on Friday, there was no escaping TV’s most talked about show — and that cacophony of compliments will only continue to get louder in season three.
With dozens of dangling storylines — Fitz’s affair, Olivia’s dad, Quinn’s blood-spattered face, Cyrus’ heart attack — poised for resolution, or revelation, it’s safe to say no premiere is more hotly anticipated! I caught up with Jeff Perry to find out what he’s excited for fans to see this season and learned of a surprising new alliance that foreshadows lots of exciting new relationship permutations coming our way!
Etonline: What was it like watching Scandal become the most talked about show last season?
Jeff Perry: Heavenly [laughs]. Watching the show find an audience brought up a lot of feelings. I wasn’t surprised at Shonda [Rhimes]’s ability, but I was constantly shaking my head in admiration at all these gorgeous skillsets she has as a storyteller. We saw them on Grey’s and Private, but then she jumped into a political thriller with nuclear twists, turns and operatic-sized shocks per episode. I didn’t know she could do this, and I don’t suppose she knew either. She hadn’t set the task for herself before, but it’s gorgeous to watch. As for the Tweeting, it’s incredible to have that kind of response from the fans, but in really pragmatic terms, that’s the foundation from which ABC can go to sales and show them what a rock solid audience we now have. They’re tremendously faithful. Every single week. That’s been amazing.
ETonline: You got your start in theater, does the live Tweeting experience sort of replicate that experience?
Perry: Absolutely. Absolutely. It does very much mirror that for me. It reminds me of that intimacy and that connection. It’s very interesting. I think some people think social media can be distancing, that it creates a mirage of closeness, but I think this is erasing that gulf that would otherwise be a bit of fanmail a month later. It’s cool.
ETonline: Looking at season three, what are you excited for the Gladiators to see?
Perry: Cyrus has tried like hell to keep all fingers in the dike, and not let this “Romeo & Juliet Dear Diary nonsense” come out, and now it’s come out, but it kind of came out without any names named, so Cyrus and Mellie are in league to turn that truth into an ugly allegation. If that fails, it becomes about trying to repair. Fitz as a cheater is not good, so it’s very much about figuring out how they deal with that. It’s going to engulf Cyrus for the first nine episodes. Oh, and as a result, Harrison and Cyrus are now in league together. And we find out more about Liv’s dad, Rowan — the only person in the world who scares Cyrus.
ETonline: What is Cyrus’ relationship with Harrison like?
Perry: There’s a rather immediate respect of, “Oh, a fellow shark.” I can’t talk about how it progresses, but it’s very Shonda-like. She continues to uncover new permutations of how the characters relate to one another this year.
ETonline: While a whole summer has passed for fans, season three picks up where season two left off, and Cyrus just had a heart attack. Is he capable of slowing down at all?
Perry: I mean, he was fighting with the paramedics so he could stay on a work call, so that’s a good indication of Cyrus’ patience level for all things medical. Characters will remind him early on the in season about his fragility and he won’t take it well.
ETonline: And how does James feel about that considering they just had adopted a kid?
Perry: James and Cyrus adore each other and part of the reason is because they really understand each other in terms of the skill meets ambition equation. James asking for a sliver of a scoop as he puts his head on my chest while I’m lying in the hospital is a perfect example of that. It drives them nuts, and Cyrus gives James one hell of a hard time, but they also love that about one another. They really get one another.
ETonline: What excites you about this season?
Perry: What continues to be thrilling is that Shonda and the writers keep discovering, in authentic ways, how this crisis must be responded to. It engulfs all the characters because the conflicts have massive size and reverberations. At the same time, it’s just masterful at putting characters in new forms of relationships and giving them surprising responses that feel authentic.
Scandal premieres Thursday at 10 p.m. on ABC.