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Monday, Sep 25, 2017
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'Scandal' revolves around presidential affair

When "Scandal" debuted last spring, its premise seemed clear-cut and comfortable. This latest melodrama from Shonda Rhimes ("Grey's Anatomy," "Private Practice") starred Kerry Washington as boss of a Beltway crisis management firm that fixes sticky problems for the D.C. high and mighty. Clearly, Olivia Pope was well-connected: She had been the communications director to the president of the United States and, before that, helped put Fitzgerald Grant in the White House. But a certain scandalous detail gave the show a surprise punch: Olivia and Fitz had been locked in a torrid love affair since the campaign, right under the nose of his first lady and the rest of the nation.
For the Grant administration, this could mean big problems — the sort of problems Pope is typically retained to fix, not play a role in creating. Meanwhile, it's a blessing for Tony Goldwyn, who plays the smitten chief executive. "When I was signed for the show, Shonda indicated that she had big plans for Fitz and Olivia," says Goldwyn, "but you never know." He knows now. So does the addicted "Scandal" audience. The juicy saga (airing tonight at 10 on ABC) has this season found Olivia and Fitz ever more deliciously and dangerously entwined. Fitz survived an assassination attempt plotted by a Supreme Court justice (Fitz paid her back by killing her). He resolved to dump his wife and wed Olivia. Then he learned Olivia and other supporters of Fitz conspired to rig the vote for an election he would likely have lost otherwise. "I'm so grateful the show has gone where it's gone," says Goldwyn, savoring the problems dogging Fitz's presidency. "It's beyond my wildest expectations." Fitz, who, as portrayed by Goldwyn, is charismatic, statesmanlike and (in scenes with Olivia) sizzling hot. Now 52, Goldwyn first caught the public's eye as Patrick Swayze's villainous best friend in the box office smash "Ghost." He went on to appear in "The Pelican Brief," Oliver Stone's "Nixon," "The Last Samurai," and as astronaut Neil Armstrong in the HBO miniseries "From the Earth to the Moon." "On 'Scandal,' " he says, "I wanted to avoid playing a generic TV president. And I wanted Fitz to be a modern president, so I spent a lot of time watching Clinton and Obama, who have this ability to connect with people. I saw Fitz as a Republican Obama who is very purpose-driven and wants to get beyond party politics. "And, of course, he's got a very complicated personal life," adds Goldwyn with a hearty chuckle. "The saving grace for the character is that Fitz is desperately in love with Olivia, and she with him. It isn't just a dalliance. And whatever bad behavior he exhibits — and there's a lot of it — he's always competent in his job. That's priority No. 1. If Fitz were to fall down on the job, I think you'd lose the audience like that," he says with a snap of his fingers. No profile of Tony Goldwyn can fail to mention the film dynasty he springs from. His grandfather was the legendary mogul Samuel Goldwyn, a party to the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio empire. Despite being shielded from the business by his TV producer father, he was still bitten by the acting bug and found work for several years on episodic TV. Then came "Ghost," the romantic fantasy that became the highest-grossing film of 1990. "Suddenly, after all the struggling, I was in this huge hit, and I didn't know what to do next," Goldwyn recalls. Eventually, he produced and directed the acclaimed 1999 drama "A Walk on the Moon," starring Diane Lane and Viggo Mortensen. In 2010, he directed Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell in "Conviction." "Directing takes the pressure off as an actor," he explains, allowing him to be more selective in the acting roles he takes. With that, he shares his criteria for which acting jobs he accepts: Does the material interest him? Who else is involved that he might like to work with? How much does it pay? "If an offer satisfies any two of these three, I'll take it," he says. So which two conditions does "Scandal" satisfy? "It's a trifecta," he replies hastily. "Thank God, this really is a dream job!"
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