So this is weird: In a new oral history (lol we’re still doing these?) of Shonda Rhimes’ Scandal in The Hollywood Reporter, TV’s preeminent producer reveals that the ABC brass originally wanted Connie Britton to play the role of Olivia Pope, the D.C. fixer based on actual D.C. fixer Judy Smith, who does not look like Connie Britton.
Nothing felt more important than the sense of outsiderness. I didn’t know that there hadn’t been a drama series with a leading black woman for 37 years. When the show got picked up [to pilot], I got a phone call from somebody who said, “This would be the perfect show for Connie Britton.” I said, “It would be, except Olivia Pope is black.”
“The network was reading us their top choices, and it was Connie and all white women. I panicked,” casting director Linda Lowy told THR. “Somebody finally piped up, ‘We’re going to have to redo this list.’”
As we now know, the role eventually went to Kerry Washington (after Jill Scott and Anika Noni Rose also auditioned).
ALSO in this oral history is the implication that Tony Goldwyn was cast as ageless horndog President Fitzgerald Grant because he was cheap and available, which feels so fitting:
Betsy Beers, executive producer During pilot season, there’s virtually nobody available because everybody is working and people who have worked for years command a gigantic salary.
Rhimes And we didn’t have a gigantic salary. We were down to the wire.
Lowy Tony Goldwyn had tested for Grace, a dance drama at ABC with Debbie Allen. The minute Eric Roberts got it, I called Shonda, and Shonda called Tony.
Tony Goldwyn (President Fitzgerald Grant, aka Fitz) I’d known Shonda from Grey’s and Private, and Kerry and I had been friendly. The combination of the two I couldn’t pass up.