Just because Scandal comes from executive producers Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers, doesn't mean it's another Grey's Anatomy.
"The only reason Private Practice is a medical show is because it's a spinoff of Grey's Anatomy," Beers says. "It's not that we were all about writing medical shows. We were expanding that world. This is a different world."
Anatomy of Shonda Rhimes, the busiest woman in Hollywood
In Scandal, the duo takes the audience out of the hospital and into the inner workings of a professional fixer and her rag-tag team of associates. Set in Washington D.C., the series follows Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), who manages the crises and controversies of the rich and famous on Capitol Hill. Pope is based on real-life fixer Judy Smith, whose past clients include Michael Vick and Monica Lewinsky.
Scandal will move case-to-case with new clients each week, but one scandal that kicks off in the first episode will last all season-long. Olivia will step in when the President of the United States (Tony Goldwyn) has an affair with an aide (Liza Weil) who wants to go public. Olivia and the prez also happen to have a romantic past. "We've always been very, very clear to make sure everybody understands that Judy, in fact, did not have an affair with the president," Beers says with a laugh.
Olivia's team includes Quinn (Katie Lowes), a new hire at Pope & Associates, Olivia's right-hand man Stephen Finch (Henry Ian Cusick), charmer Harrison Wright (Columbus Short), ex-CIA operative Huck (Guillermo Diaz) and resident do-gooder Abby Whelan (Darby Stanchfield). They frequently find themselves at odds with the U.S. Attorney David Rosen (Joshua Malina) as they maneuver around the law to help clients.
Grey's Anatomy Scoop: Which doctors will be sticking around Seattle Grace?
Rhimes' signature torrid romances and on-call romps are all but missing from Scandal — and that's deliberate. "It's not really a show where you're watching characters flirt with one another, hoping they get together," Rhimes says. "That's not really what it's about." But that doesn't mean fans won't be frustrated that Olivia and her McPresident can't be together. Really, there is no hope for them! "This is the future of the country!" Rhimes says. Adds Beers: "Nobody can honestly look at this as an obstacle and go, 'No, whatever, get over it.'"
There are plenty of Shondaland faces to be found in Scandal, however. Both of Meredith Grey's parents appear on the series, Jeff Perry as the Chief of Staff and Kate Burton as the vice president, a Tea Party zealot. JoBeth Williams, who portrayed Addison's mom, will also play a client of Pope & Associates. And in a weird coincidence, Goldwyn has directed both series, including an early episode of Grey's called "Damage Control," which used to be the name of Scandal.
ABC orders pilot for Shonda Rhimes' period drama
The first season is only seven episodes, but the team's story will come full circle — and leave you wanting more. Having a shorter season is familiar territory for Rhimes. Grey's debuted midseason with nine episodes that culminated in the jaw-dropping reveal that Derek (Patrick Dempsey) was still a married man, whose wife Addison (Kate Walsh) had ventured to Seattle Grace to win him back.
Scandal's finale makes that moment look tame. "I remember turning in the final episode of the season and having the network executives say to me, 'Spoiler, spoiler! What does this mean?' And me saying, 'Well, when you pick us up for Season 2, you'll find out!'"
Will you be tuning in to find out what happens? Scandal premieres Thursday at 10/9c following the return of Grey's Anatomy.