They say all roads lead to Fitz (Tony Goldwyn), but when Scandal returns for its third season on Thursday (10/9c, ABC), all roads lead to Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington). That's because she was named as the President's mistress in the Season 2 finale. How will the professional fixer handle being the focus of a scandal? More importantly, how will Fitz and the White House deal with it? TVGuide.com hit the set of the ABC drama to get the scoop from the cast:
Olivia Pope is the First Mistress! An as yet unknown person released her name to the press, who bombarded her in the closing minutes of the Season 2 finale.
Kerry Washington: We pick up minutes after the season finale. So we see her immediately in the car with her dad (Joe Morton). That's what the first episode is about. It's about who told and why, and it's shocking. I think it's good because it's a real test of her resilience. It's a test of how well the people around her are able to support her or not, and whether everybody's able to do that in concert.
With Olivia Pope now being the most infamous name in the world, OPA — Quinn (Katie Lowes), Abby (Darby Stanchfield), Huck (Guillermo Diaz) and Harrison (Columbus Short) — will face some backlash as they attempt to help their fearless leader through this scandal.
Katie Lowes: She is the mistress of the free world. We got [the script for the] first episode back for Season 3 and we realized, "Oh my gosh, we don't know anything about Olivia Pope and her past! Who she is?" This is the biggest thing ever. You think about election rigging and you can't get any bigger, right? But it comes out that she's sleeping with the President and everyone knows and now she's like Monica-freaking-Lewinski.
Guillermo Diaz: They're just thinking, "Protect her. We got to make this OK for Olivia. We got to make this OK no matter what." Especially for Huck, he's got this protective stray dog instinct.
Washington: It makes it hard, because they go from being people who manage other people's crises to people who have to manage their own crisis in a big way. It's one thing when it's Quinn's crisis or any other Gladiator, but when Olivia herself is at the center of it, it challenges things. It's hard for everybody to figure out their roles. If she's the client, how can she be the boss?
Lowes: It becomes a huge conflict of how we do our jobs. All of a sudden our boss is the biggest scandal. How do we get clients? How is anyone ever going to trust us? How are we going to have Olivia Pope fix other people's problems when she's the biggest problem? How do we survive as a business?
Darby Stanchfield: There are huge consequences, even just keeping the lights on. It affects all of us on a very deep level and affects our livelihood. The Gladiators really get back to Gladiating. It really comes back to them fixing things right and left and they're also super loyal. It's an incredibly complicated situation, so it's not as simple as us throwing her photo up on the board and doing steps A-B-C and it's done in an episode. Quite simply, the fans are going to love it because it's the Gladiators at their best.
But OPA won't be the only ones dealing with this scandal since it has direct ties to the White House and President Grant.
Tony Goldwyn: It's like a tsunami. It's like a Pandora's box being opened up. It's a disaster. Suddenly the White House is in crisis mode. They need to find out who the hell did this. Who leaked this information? Why? Fitz gets really calm while Cyrus is running around like a chicken with his head cut off. Mellie's freaking out. So you're coming into this season and it's like the house is on fire
Jeff Perry: Cyrus gave himself a heart attack trying to make all his colleagues behave in a way that he would like, and he's been unsuccessful.
Bellamy Young: Well, Olivia's the client now, right? So Mellie then assumes she is the fixer and Mellie's deciding heads need to roll and which heads will roll. Mellie knows exactly who she wants to throw under the bus. She will manage the situation and get us all back on track and into reelection, because we're staring down the barrel of reelection now. This cannot happen. This cannot be going on right now, so Mellie knows how to fix it.
Perry: Mellie and I find ourselves on lockstep on how we fix this. Find the source. Destroy the source. That's what we intend to do, [but] something happens. Then Cyrus is on an almost kind of lone wolf [mission] and is about as conflicted as we've seen him — in someone who can be pretty ruthless — about the necessary agenda for the presidency. For the republic, am I going to have to compromise Olivia? Am I going to have to go after her?
Young: Mellie had very particular ideas on how to manage Olivia's name out there and they will likely be at odds with everyone else's idea, because that just seems to happen when Mellie has an idea. I know Mellie has so much respect for Olivia and definitely sees her as an equal as she's a strong, capable, flawed woman who's being held back by her love for one man in particular, so we have a lot in common. But primary in her focus is Fitz and their second term.
Now that Olivia has been named Fitz's mistress, it seems likely that one of the steamiest couples on TV are done for, especially since Fitz went crawling back to Mellie in the finale.
Washington: I only have an idea what [their relationship] looks like in the first few episodes, and it continues to be really complicated, but they continue to be two people who care for each other very deeply and continue to navigate that in a complicated world.
Goldwyn: Fitz still has Olivia very much under his skin. His return to Mellie is very complex and you find out more about that early in Season 3. Mellie and I continue to have this very bizarre partnership where she's an extremely effective business partner and strategist. There's this love-hate relationship — not really love-hate — he has compassion for Mellie, but at the same time, he's repulsed by her and her impulses. Fitz and Olivia can't get each other out of their systems at all.
Washington: I think they go through periods of really trying. Especially Olivia really tries to let it go. I think we'll see her struggle with that.
Olivia's dad may be happy to hear that, but Rowan will also be the source of a lot of Olivia's problems early on this season.
Washington: It's really complicated. There's a lot of history there. It doesn't all get explained in that premiere episode. It gets explained over a few episodes in a way that is enlightening and confusing at the same time.
Scandal returns Thursday at 10/9c on ABC. Will you be watching?