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Shonda Rhimes, Bellamy Young, and Others Weigh in on Scandal's Unforgettable Legacy

Here's what Scandal means to those closest to it

Keisha Hatchett

April 19, 2018 marked the end of an era for Gladiators everywhere. Over the course of seven heart-stopping years, Scandalwas the destination for addictive storytelling, operatic monologues and a killer soundtrack comprised of golden oldies. Breaking ground with the first black female lead on a network drama in 40 years, the political soap kicked the door wide open for marginalized communities and created a world where everyone, no matter race or gender or sexuality, could be seen. And thanks to a suggestion from star Kerry Washington, it was also the first show to actively engage with fans through live tweeting and erased the great divide between creator and consumer.

After Scandal officially wrapped in 2018, TV Guide hit up those closest to it, including creator Shonda Rhimes and star Bellamy Young, to get their thoughts on the show's unforgettable legacy.

TV Guide: What has being a part of Scandal meant to you?
Shonda Rhimes, creator: [to a group of reporters] I think I'm most proud of the way we told a story on Scandal which felt different as when we started doing it, which was sort of a high-speed break-neck pace. But mostly because we were telling the story as it felt like it needed to be told to convey what we felt was the level of corruption and mania and insanity that our characters were swirling in. So I'm most proud of our style of storytelling.

Betsy Beers, executive producer: I think there's always been something really inspiring about the show just because it's people struggling in an incredibly complex universe trying to do the best jobs they can and figuring out how to navigate their emotional lives and get over old wounds and sores. For me, I'm gonna miss my friends on television. I know, it's funny. I'm like the biggest fan. But I'm also gonna miss my friends in real life. I'm gonna miss the actors and the crew and the particular chemistry and magic that happened with the show. I'm gonna miss the weekly dose of some of my favorite music. From the get-go, Shonda was absolutely adamant about the kind of music she felt like was the soundtrack of the show. I'm gonna miss being surrounded by people who talk really really fast because I talk very fast on a lot of occasions and I always felt very at home when I watch Scandal. But I'm gonna miss everything about it.

Joe Morton (Rowan Pope): It's been heaven. I'm given these wonderful, very theatrical speeches to do on television that have to do with life and living the pursuit of happiness according to someone [who ran] a black ops operation to make sure all that happens and that the country stays safe. There has never been, as far as my recollection goes, any black male character like that that I can think of on television. Also, to be a part of a show where it's the first black female to be the lead in a drama in 45 years. That's important stuff. And to work for a woman named Shonda Rhimes who has completely turned upside down what it means to be a showrunner in this town. So I think it's just been a wonderful rollercoaster to ride on and I'm certainly glad to have been invited.

Bellamy Young (Mellie Grant): What I was drawn to as a fan when Grey's Anatomy came on, was that it looked like the world that I lived in. These are people I understand. And that's because Shonda just wants everybody to see themselves represented on television. There's no need for it always to be white male patriarchal narratives. As an actor, you can get a script and it'll say, "Christy, 40s, blonde." That doesn't happen in our scripts. It's just Christy and she might be 80 and black and she might be 17 and Asian. It's just gonna be the person who walks in the room with the right soul.

Having Kerry [Washington] as the lead was seminal and long-overdue in terms of moving that bar forward. [I'm proud of] everybody having a seat at the table, of never doing a special episode. When we introduced that Cyrus was gay, we didn't have some talk about it. We just let his husband answer the door and got on with the story.

I also have loved the mindful way that Shonda and our writers have contributed to the national conversation over the past seven years. [The "Lawn Chair" episode] makes me bend over at the waist and lean on a counter to say how proud I am to even be associated with a show that isn't just ripped from the headlines, not in a reductive or parasitic way but in a whole-hearted expansive way. Wanting to participate in the conversation that's going on in America from all sides. Not telling you what to think but asking questions that make you find your own answers. It's been an honor to be a soldier in Shonda's army. We're just really loving and respectful and in it together. When I first got [to Hollywood], the more difficult a person you were, the more people respected you which never made sense to me. I hope that we helped move the idea along that you can be kind and prepared and respectful and loving and make a good narrative.

TVG: What sort of legacy do you hope Scandal leaves behind or believe has left behind in television?
Rhimes: Hopefully, we've created a world in which we've stopped seeing these characters on television and it's a magical anomaly that they're there and that there's an otherness to them. Getting to be a three-dimensional character on television isn't something that only happens to white people. So straight white people, and it's likely straight white men because for a long time, white women were still asked to just be nice. Hopefully, we've made a dent in that.

Beers: The first aspect of this in that obviously there had been a very long time without an African-American woman in the lead of a TV show. The legacy to me is, I think it's an amazing show about a complex world with wonderful, intricate, flawed, terrific characters and engaging relationships. I hope the legacy is that people keep watching it because I think there are things about Scandal that will always be relevant. There were so many things that we were ahead of in terms of storytelling. And at the core of it, a show that endures is a show that tells stories of real human beings in difficult and sometimes extremely, almost larger-than-life situations. I hope the legacy of the show is that people keep wanting to watch it because they just wanna see what Olivia Pope would do again.

TVG: How has being a part of this show changed you? What have you learned from this experience?
Beers: I think that there's something really interesting about watching a crisis manager on television. I think in a lot of cases, I handle trouble better. When you think about it, don't you sort of have a sense now if something happens in real life, that the best way of handling it is to handle it? The people that I know on an everyday basis that say, "What would Olivia Pope do?" If we faced the problem, it's so much better than if we don't...What a big gift to the show of being able to channel Olivia -- the White Hat Olivia -- in your daily life because we all have a little bit of Olivia in us.

TVG: What has been your favorite thing about playing Mellie?
Young: My favorite thing about playing her has and always will be that she never ceases to surprise me. Both in terms of the range of her emotional life but also in terms of her tenacity. I watch her fail, I watch her succeed but what she always does is march forward steadily. I'm so given to self-doubt and overthinking. But Mellie just always moves forward like the Terminator so I really enjoyed that.

So what has Scandal's legacy meant to you, Gladiators?