"I used to know how it ended, and then Donald Trump was elected," Rhimes told The Hollywood Reporter for its oral history of the show. "We had a destination, and I don't know if that's our destination anymore."
The showrunner did not elaborate on what her old plan was or what, if anything, she's currently has in mind for the series, which celebrates its 100th episode Thursday and was renewed for a seventh season in February. (Star Scott Foley tells THR he "always heard Season 7 would be the last. But when they announced the pickup, it was not announced as the final season.")
Rhimes has always said that she has an endgame for Scandal in mind and never envisioned it lasting as long as Grey's Anatomy, which will return for its 14th season in the fall. In 2014, Rhimes said that Scandal is "not a 10-season or eight-season show" and that she has "already decided how long that is and what that's going to be." In 2015, she reiterated that she knows "exactly where [Scandal] begins and where it ends."
But that was a pre-Trump world. And Rhimes admits that it's been difficult trying to "come to terms" with the new real-world order while concocting Scandal's trademark OMG storylines — one of which involved Russians hacking the fictional election this season. "And then the Russians hacked the election!" Bellamy Young tells THR.
"There was a very specific planned progression that was going to be easy to tell because Hillary [Clinton] was going to be president, and we were going to be living in the light," Rhimes says. "But it didn't occur. I'm still trying to come to terms with that. One bad thing after another keeps happening, and the world feels very unstable. So in a world in which all of the things that we would write on Scandal are happening in real life, it's very hard to write Scandal the way we used to, when it was like, 'Let's make Washington the most outrageous, horrifying place it could ever be.' ... Any of the stories we planned now just feel like we're copying what's happening in reality, which is insane."
Though Rhimes is second-guessing herself right now, it's still very hard to imagine Scandal lasting as long as Grey's, let alone hitting double digits in seasons. And to be fair, it can still end with Season 7 — though, to Foley's point, ABC likely would've announced it as such in February. I said last year that it would be beneficial to all parties to lay out a game plan for an end date, because Scandal's fast-paced, heightened storytelling demands that kind of leeway time and is unsustainable in the long run. And even with Trump, that's (probably) still true.
For more on Scandal, including who ABC originally wanted to play Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), and how Rhimes fought ABC on Olivia and Fitz's (Tony Goldwyn) affair and the former's abortion storyline, check out THR's oral history here.
Scandal airs Thursdays at 9/8c on ABC