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Scandal's Darby Stanchfield on That Abby Shocker: "She's Being Seduced by Power"

What's her next move?

Joyce Eng

[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers about Thursday's episode of Scandal. Read at your own risk.]

What the Huck, Abby?

Thursday's episode of Scandal revealed the extent of Abby's (Darby Stanchfield) involvement in the Vargas (Ricardo Chavira) assassination scheme. The good news: She wasn't behind it, and the Mystery Group used and blackmailed her as well, by mugging Leo (Paul Adelstein) and offering her $300 million. The bad news: In her own self-interest, she may have sacrificed (was willing to sacrifice?) Huck (Guillermo Diaz), whose fate is still up in the air.

Flashbacks showed that the Mystery Woman (Zoe Perry) and Theodore (David Warshofsky) roped in Abby during the campaign by stroking her ego and leaning into her power-hungry ambition, planting the seed that she should run for office one day and telling her they could make it happen. She tells them she's in after another disagreement about Fitz's (Tony Goldwyn) mediocrity, but never did she imagine that the MG would kill Vargas and then force her to replace the bullets in his corpse to frame Cyrus (Jeff Perry).

Abby tries to go to David (Joshua Malina) for help, but the MG is, like, 38 steps ahead of her: MW -- or "Samantha" -- has been dating David. This dude. At this point, he'll never get a win. When all hope seems lost, in walks Huck into Abby's office, in the scene we saw last week, with the info that Jennifer Fields (Chelsea Kurtz) is alive. Off goes a light bulb and, after visiting Cyrus to tell him she believes him and will go to war for him, Abby offers the MG a deal: She'll give them something juicy if they spring Cyrus from prison. They agree, and she tells them that Jennifer Fields (side note: Why does everyone full-name her on every reference?) is alive. And that's how Meg (Phoebe Neidhardt) ended up shooting her and Huck last week.
Scandal's 100th episode to feature an alternate reality

Still unclear though (besides Huck's fate): If Abby actually wanted Huck to be killed. We caught up with Stanchfield to find out Abby's true motives, what her next move is, and what's going down in the alternate-reality 100th episode.

What was your reaction when you found out Abby's role in all this?
Darby Stanchfield:
The most shocked I was this whole time was in the last episode when you found out Abby was the mole. She asks if it's done and "And Huck?" That was the most shocking. A fun fact: Shonda [Rhimes] has never done this my whole time on Scandal, but she actually asked me to read this script, this Abby script, before we shot that scene [in last week's episode]. And that's never happened. ... She really needed me to know what that was. They emailed me an early draft and changed very little actually. It was the first time I experienced the shock and surprises by myself over a laptop as opposed to our infamous table reads where we're cold-reading it all together.

I just couldn't believe that Abby was that bad of a person, so when I got the script, it made sense that there was a level of blackmail that had happened with [the Mystery Group]. But there were definitely shocking elements in that. It was more of a heartbreak, really -- Abby's seduction into power and her grappling with that more aggressively than she ever has. And when you find out that David Rosen is being used and being seduced by Mystery Woman as well, that was when I was like, "What?!" [Laughs]
Poor guy. Getting played and not knowing it.
Yeah, that was the biggest thing for me. I did not see that coming!

The Mystery Group preyed on Abby's thirst for power. What does she actually want to be? She says she's not a politician. Does she want to be president? Or a powerful kingmaker like Olivia (Kerry Washington)?
Stanchfield: My feeling is that it's not about being a public figure; it's about holding the keys not only to the White House, but to the world. I think she tells [Theodore] that's what they [both] really want. Why they're motivated or how they're motivated, what's driving that is revealed going forward, which is cool because I had so many of those same questions. It feels like she gets it in terms of everybody else, like Olivia who gets it that it's more powerful to be in the shadows. It's more about pulling the strings. The puppet master is really what she wants to be.

Darby Stanchfield, Scandal

Darby Stanchfield, Scandal

John Fleenor, ABC

Does she actually want Huck murdered? That's what was implied, but it's vague. And we still don't know his status.
Yes, we don't know his status. My Twitter feed is going to be really mean again this week! [Laughs] ... You're right. It's not fully answered how much she's involved, but I will say from this episode, it's pretty clear that she isn't really like the Darth Vader. She's not this force of all evil and doesn't want this guy dead. It's really that she sacrifices Jennifer Fields for power for herself and she doesn't know what's going on behind the scenes. She's never been in that cabin in the woods. She doesn't know the Mystery Woman has her claws in everything. She certainly didn't know about her using David. Let's put it this way: The mess is not cleaned up after this episode and if anything, it gets worse for Abby.

Is Cyrus going to be released from prison? It's weird she didn't make them hold up their end of the bargain first.
Well, I hope so! It's so funny -- I said the same thing while we were shooting it. Why would Abby just sort of give this thing away without any sort of guarantee? I was kind of worried about that for my character. We don't see Cyrus. We don't see release papers or anything like that. To me, that's one of the great tensions about the end of this episode, like, wow, Abby really got blindsided by that greed. She's not thinking clearly. She's being seduced by power. That seems like a pretty elementary mistake of like, "I'm not giving you the money until you give me the drugs." [Laughs] Abby just gave away all the cash! But that is addressed.

What is her next move? She needs to tell someone. Does she tell Cyrus? Can she go to Olivia?
You're absolutely right that Abby needs to tell someone. You're onto something there. That is something that is completely weighing on her. Abby feels at this point that she has absolutely no one to turn to, especially because the person she thought she could turn to was David. Abby does need to tell someone and that's very much what happens going forward. We just don't know who yet. But it's messy.
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How does she reconcile her role in this whole ordeal with her ambition?
That's not an easy one to answer. We're only a few episodes ahead of [the airing schedule] and I can't fully answer that. That question that you asked is pretty drawn out over the next few episodes. It is something that Abby grapples with and is coming to terms with, as well as all the people around her. There are surprises in there and it doesn't necessarily go the way I thought they would.

The Mystery Group used Leo to blackmail Abby. Do they have anything else on her? Will they abuse anyone else in her circle?
Well, she does give them Jennifer Fields, so she's given them something. The war is not over, let's put it that way. It's like chess: She gave them Jennifer Fields. It's not all buttoned up. [The Mystery Group] continues on with wreaking havoc.

Do they have more tasks for her? In the Rowan episode, it sounded like they wanted to use him to carry out orders when they told him "the real work begins." Do they have anything else for Abby to do?
We'll see. Oh, gosh, I don't really have a good answer to that one. [Laughs]

Rowan and Abby should team up. They're both being used by the Mystery Group.
Exactly! [Laughs] You need to be in the writers' room!

Tell Shonda. I'm assuming Olivia will eventually find out about this, especially given what happened to Huck. She and Abby have had a lot of differences over the past two seasons, but they're also very similar. How will Olivia react?
She does eventually find out. It's something that, as of right now, changes their relationship. I think it's sort of like a bridge too far. It's different. They've gone from college girlfriends, mentor-mentee, BFFs in college and law school, she saved Abby from her divorce, Abby saved her when she was auctioned, so they became more equal and then competitors. And yes, some ups and downs. What I think it speaks to is, Olivia has been grappling with this for a really long time and she's become really, really seduced by power and has turned more into wanting power. She doesn't fix things so much anymore and just really wants the power of the Oval. That's been a big change in Olivia. And Abby's changed too. She's grown more powerful, more accomplished and more inside the White House, so because of who they've become and you add on what Abby did, it's not pretty for either one of them.

Where do we find Abby in the alternate reality in the 100th?
It's a really unique episode. Olivia has this daydream: What if life was different if we hadn't rigged the election? Way back in the day, if we hadn't been on the airplane and hadn't rigged it, what would life be like for me and all these people in the Scandal world? Abby's definitely in it because she's in Olivia's life. What's fun about it is you see a little bit of what flashback Abby is like but in a different reality, for each character, really. It's not exactly like Abby post-divorce and pre-Olivia Pope & Associates. You see some similarities and some themes but in a totally different way. That episode is really wonderful for original Scandal fans who've been there since the beginning. There are some callbacks, but fans theorize what would happen if life went differently and there's a lot of that. It's incredibly satisfying and really, really funny. You'll be giggling a lot.

Scandal airs Thursdays at 9/8c on ABC.