Early on in Scandal’s PaleyFest LA panel Sunday, moderator Jimmy Kimmel remarked that creator Shonda Rhimes was not present at the Dolby Theatre “because she’s writing 12 shows probably right now.”
Kimmel was joking, of course, but he wasn’t too far off. Rhimes also created Grey’s Anatomy, its spinoff Private Practice and executive produces freshman drama How to Get Away with Murder. On Thursdays this broadcast season, ABC aired three consecutive of hours of programming from her ShondaLand production company.
“Just the idea of being Shonda for a day is pretty intense,” said Scandal star Kerry Washington, who was asked about switching places with her boss for a day.
During the Q&A portion of the panel, Washington and her castmates talked about the secrecy around the scripts and plot twists of the show.
Washington said she has gotten strange emails from Rhimes such as “Are you OK running barefoot?” or “Do you have any negative history with this person?”
“One time the first season I sent a question back to her,” Washington said. “She never responded. So I don’t do any followup questions.”
Tony Goldwyn, who plays the president on the series, has also received “cryptic” emails from Rhimes. She asked him what sports he plays. “I said, 'anything but basketball,' and two episodes later…”
Jeff Perry noted that the cast has never been allowed in the writers’ room. Except for Goldwyn, who was allowed in once because he was directing the episode. “Shonda said, ‘I’m very uncomfortable with Tony being here,’” he said.
Washington said she’s not sure if the network even sees the scripts before filming. “It’s not called ShondaLand for nothing.”
“We’re not involved in any of the decisions,” Goldwyn added. “Shonda makes the decisions. Honestly, we trust her.”
The cast was also asked about the show’s most episode, which was inspired by the events last summer in Ferguson, Mo., and Washington praised Rhimes’ writing.
“I was very moved that Shonda had a lot of feelings about what’s been going on,” Washington said. “Her form of protest, her form of expression, her way to contribute is to write. And so for all of us to be able to tell this story was such an honor.”