Kerry Washington, Khandi Alexander
Mama Pope lives!
At the close of last week's Scandal, viewers discovered that Maya (Khandi Alexander) is actually alive. As part of Operation Remington, a civilian plane containing Maya was shot down by Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) decades prior, but it turns out, Maya was removed from the plane before take-off and imprisoned by her husband Rowan/Eli (Joe Morton) for the last twenty or so years. Why has Maya been locked up? Will she get to reunite with daughter Olivia (Kerry Washington)? TVGuide.com caught up with Alexander to get the scoop:
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How did you getting this role come together?
Khandi Alexander: I got a phone call from executive producer Mark Wilding. He didn't tell me anything. He just said, "OK, you're Mama Pope. Can't tell you anything and you can't tell anyone else. Yes or no?" [Laughs] I said, "Yes, I'm in and I won't tell anyone." And I didn't. I didn't tell my agent, my manager, no one.
When you were first cast, did you ever know that Mama Pope was still alive?
Alexander: No, I had no idea.
Tell us about Maya and what kind of person she is.
Alexander: She's incredibly strong. She's been in prison for over 20 years. Her husband put here there and she hasn't fallen apart. If anything, she's getting stronger in all that solitude. I was more into the actual role than the circumstances around it, but we'll get more pieces to the Remington puzzle as the plot thickens.
Presumably she was imprisoned because she was trying to reveal the truth about her husband's occupation. Is that too obvious of a theory to have?
Alexander: Yes. It's Shonda Rhimes. She's not going to go for the obvious. She's going to write to make sure you're engaged and entertained and that you're not thinking two steps ahead, and if you are, you're going to be wrong.
We saw in the promos that she's demanding to see her daughter. If she's been in prison this long, how does she even have that power to make that demand of her husband?
Alexander: Because she owns a part of him that no one else does. That's one of the things that will be quite exciting to see. Eli has been stoic and a company man, but his wife knows parts of him the audience has yet to discover.
Should we have hope that Maya will actually get to reunite with her daughter?
Alexander: Rowan is not a joke. He's a dangerous man. We'll learn more about Maya's past and her relationship with Olivia.
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Being in prison that long would likely mess someone up. Can the damage of being out of her daughter's life ever be repaired?
Alexander: I, as an actress, was trying to come to terms with all of that and play it in a realistic way as well as be entertaining and exciting. I had to figure out if that was possible. I really looked at people who had been in prison for long periods of time and some people are really able to transcend and find parts of themselves that enable them to remain sane. Sometimes anger can be a motivator to hold on to your sanity and that might be the case with her.
Has it been hard to play Maya not knowing as much about her?
Alexander: At first, I was insecure about it. But the wonderful actors on the show really helped me, especially Joe Morton and Jeff [Perry], who plays Cyrus. They said, "Listen, go with it." One of the things I truly love about being on the show is that for each episode there is a full cast table read. No one has read the script until we all sit down and read it together. So they're discovering things as I'm hearing them for the first time. Now, I love it. It's a sense of discovery. It's the same way the audience feels, which is why I love that we aren't taking that experience away from the audience.
Are you rooting for Olivia to reunite with her mother?
Scandal airs Thursdays at 10/9c on ABC.