October 21st, 2011
09:40 AM ET
You might think hit ABC shows “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Private Practice” would keep creator/producer Shonda Rhimes too busy to do anything else, but think again.
The Emmy-nominated producer will soon debut a new drama on ABC called “Scandal,” which is slated to be a mid-season replacement show in early 2012.
During a recent set visit, Rhimes admits that "three shows are hard, and it is much harder than two shows." But, she goes on, "'Grey’s Anatomy' is in its eighth season, and 'Private Practice' is in its fifth. So if I don’t have those shows running well by now, then I never will.”
“Scandal” follows the lives of employees at a crisis management firm. It's the type of PR business that deals with people who find themselves in explosive situations akin to those of Tiger Woods or Charlie Sheen, but with plenty of politics thrown into the mix.
Kerry Washington stars in the new series as Olivia Pope, the head of the firm and a former media consultant to the President of the United States. It’s the first time in a long time that Washington has taken a break from the big screen for a lead role in a TV drama.
“I was not looking to do a TV show, but I read this amazing script with this amazing woman named Olivia Pope, and it happened to be for TV and so I thought maybe I want to do something different,” Washington said. “Once I read it, I wanted to do whatever I had to do to be a part of it.”
Along with Washington, there are eight other series regulars. Tony Goldwyn plays the President, and Henry Ian Cusick, Columbus Short, Guillermo Diaz, Katie Lowes, Jeff Perry and Darby Stanchfield are also cast members.
The TV series and the character of Olivia Pope are loosely based on the life of Judy Smith, who is the founder of crisis management firm Impact Strategies. Smith is a media savvy veteran who has been in the business for 25 years.
“There’s never been a character that does crisis management [on TV] so that was obviously a big draw for me,” said Smith, who is also a co-executive producer. “I think they have done an incredible job of taking that high stakes arena that we deal with every day and breaking it down in a way that television audiences will want.”
Washington said when she first met Smith, she offered to assist Washington in any way she could to help her prepare for the role. That is, until the actress started bugging Smith all the time. Washington jokes, “When I first met Judy she told me to call her anytime. But [after I called her a lot] she was like, ‘What Kerry,’ whenever I’d call her.”
And as much as she loves the show, Rhimes and Smith, Washington still went through quite a bit to get this role. “I know that Judy did a background check on me. She told me she did and I know she did,” she said with a smile.
But in the end it was worth it, according to Rhimes. “You know, we’re talking about a black female lead of a television show, and we wanted to make sure we had just the right person," she said. “Kerry came in and she was just perfect.”
With Rhimes juggling "Grey’s Anatomy," "Private Practice" and now "Scandal," you might think that’s it for her - at least for a while. But just days ago it was revealed that Rhimes is also developing another show to air on FOX and another drama for ABC.
If Rhimes isn’t the hardest working person in TV, she might just be the busiest!
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