Five months ago, Scandal's Mellie was Smelly Mellie — inconsolably grieving her son, living in robes and Uggs, subsiding on fried chicken and vodka, and serving some 1970s realness. Now? She might be the next president of the United States.
"I never could've imagined when the season started that we would go down this path," Bellamy Young tells TVGuide.com. "That's the glory of Shonda [Rhimes] and our wonderful writers. But I think we needed her [grieving]. It was honest in a way she's never been. She usually put protocol above everything. I think that was a real breakthrough moment for her. She was just honest. I think that allowed her to go on the balcony and tell Fitz [Tony Goldwyn], 'I wanna be president of the United States. I wanna run the world.' That sort of honesty couldn't have happened without being forged in that horrible pain and fire."
That carpe diem declaration last month may have stunned some Gladiators or casual fans, but it's a moment long in the making for the sitting FLOTUS, who will prove that she is very serious about moving on up in the White House on Thursday's episode (9/8c, ABC). Though little is known about Mellie's background — that will change in the upcoming episodes, Young promises — we do know that Mellie is a highly educated scchemer and has put her own political dreams on the backburner to get Fitz into the Oval Office.
Now that he's started his second term, Young says it's time for Mellie to plot her future — not the least of which because her part-time evil lover, VP Andrew (Jon Tenney), told her two weeks ago that if he can't be POTUS, he'll see to it that she can't either. But that only spurred Mellie to recruit Elizabeth (Portia de Rossi) to recruit Huck (Guillermo Diaz) to drug Andrew, inducing a stroke.
"The thing with Andrew just shows what she's capable of," Young says. "She sees the next move on her chess board and embraces it. She feels she's paid her dues, is able and is certainly willing and definitely ready in her own mind. She has always been doing the right thing, being the partner to the person in charge and waiting for her moment to come after his term, and she can have her political life. She's trying to get [Fitz] to be the partner to her as she's always been to him, which in her mind is a fair request. I think that's definitely a very familiar thought to women. It's a visceral truth to millions of women out there. I've tacitly put in my time by your side and I thought the agreement was now it would be my turn. It doesn't always turn out that way, but sometimes it does. I think Mellie is hoping it does."
Of course, the big wrinkle in that plan is Olivia (Kerry Washington). While Mellie and Fitz are uncharacteristically in a good place — after she acknowledged that they "sleep better when [Olivia's] lying between us" — Liv chewed him out for declaring war and risking troops' lives to save her, which, little does she know, Mellie basically convinced Fitz to do. With that "hope" for Olitz seemingly back in the negatives, would Fitz consider supporting Mellie's campaign and risk putting his jam-making Vermont fantasy with Liv on hold for at least four more years?
"He definitely tries to win her back and Mellie knows that. I think he wrestles with his angels and demons every day," Young says. "Some days he knows it's the right thing to do to be behind Mellie and other days, he thinks, 'I've just got one life and I wanna do what I wanna do, and that's [to] be with Olivia.' Mellie just tries to catch that wave. It's also about catching him at the right moment and not using him in any way, but also maximizing the opportunity that he has. ... It would be interesting if Mellie ran as a divorcee and a single mother [but] I know she loves Fitz more than life itself, even though they're not in a typical marriage. They're terrific partners, even if they're not lovers anymore."
As Mellie's POTUS aspirations slowly come to light on the show, the reaction will be decidedly mixed. "She can't go very far with the dream without very key people starting to know," Young says. "The fun will be watching how people respond to her. Everybody has a different response as it starts to unfold, whether they support her or mock her or undermine her." Would Olivia dare to do the latter? "All I'll say is, I think Mellie and Olivia would've been the best of friends if it weren't for Fitz," she says. "They have so much in common, especially in that world. They're so drawn to each other, but there's such a chasm between them. But on some level, they do respect each other."
Even if no one in the Scandal world supports Mellie for president, there are plenty of fans who do. "Some Gladiators have made buttons that I love very, very much. That makes me very happy," Young says. "I have no idea [where the story is going] but it'd be great to see her dream come true. ... This is her Vermont. A lot of her harshness is fueled by the absolute frustration at being so close to her dream but also nowhere near it — to be living in the White House but just be ornamental. I'd love to see Mellie in office."
If only to give more screen time to Mellie's snack of choice. Asked to pick between jam and fried chicken, it's no contest for Young. "Fried chicken! All the way! Who wants jam? You can't live on jam. You can live on chicken, even the fake kind that I eat!"
Scandal supercut: Relive every awesome drunk Mellie moment!