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Scandal: Joshua Malina, Scott Foley blog 'The Miseducation of Susan Ross'

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Craig Sjodin/ABC

Consider it handled. Each week, Scandal fan-favorites Joshua Malina and Scott Foley, who play David Rosen and Jake Ballard, respectively, join forces to bring you behind-the-scenes scoop. Here, they revisit episode 13 of season 5. Check back each week for more — and of course, send feedback to us at @EW and to the guys at @JoshMalina and @scottkfoley.

Scott Foley: Mr. Malina!

Joshua Malina: Mr. Director!

SF: Alright, let’s hear it. We’re friends, sort of. I mean, I didn’t make the cut for your 50th birthday party this year, but as a friend your observations on my directorial performance are always something that I’ll listen to.

JM: 1. It was an oversight.

2. I invited you as soon as I realized, and you refused to attend.

3.You are only mentioning this fiasco because you want to point out in a public forum that I’m 50. And finally….

4. You were a terrific director. I thoroughly enjoyed working with you on this episode.

Because you know the show and the cast so well, you were able to jump right in. No warm-up necessary. I noticed how confident you were on the set. You seemed to know exactly what you wanted to do with the camera, the blocking, the performances. I was impressed.

SF: I had a lot of fun working with the cast in a different way, getting to see all of you guys do what you do (and you all do it really, really well) from a different perspective. As many times as I’ve directed in the past, one of my favorite things about directing actors that I usually act with, is that I am, almost without fail, awed at people that I usually see as peers. When I direct, I see you, all of you in this cast, as so much more than I usually do, and I think that’s because I rely on all of you more. As an actor, I just need you to be present, listen, and throw the ball back. But as a director I need all of that and more and you all delivered. So thank you.

JM: Speaking of throwing the ball back. What was with that baseball you carried around with you while you directed? Security blanket?

SF: Ha! It’s something that I adopted the first time that I directed — wow — nearly 20 years ago. Having something to do with my hands, something to keep moving physically keeps me focused and my mind working. It’s a bit of a crutch, I’ll admit, but I’ve found that there’s an energy to it that really helps on set. I always buy a few right before I start a new gig, it’s a part of my preparation so…whatever.

Anyway, back to the episode … There was a running gag that I had with production about having a horse in this episode which I’ll get to later but first things first: The Debate! This was a huge part of the episode, the whole first act as a matter of fact. We had only one day to shoot the entire debate, and Bellamy, Artemis, Kate, and Gregg all delivered. As did our crew! Ultimately Susan Ross took the debate and left the other candidates in the dust with her story about her husband’s death and our responsibility as Americans to, well, to America! It was lovely having you with us for most of that day as well, Josh, even if you only showed up on stage to be told off!

JM: Yeah. A significant part of playing David Rosen involves just showing up for humiliation, and in that sense it’s a role I was born to play.

SF: I’d never say that. But I’m glad that you did. This win for Susan sends Mellie into a tailspin of despair which in turn sends Olivia into a frothing, fuming state of aggression not seen since the Defiance fiasco and leads us to the real story about Susan, her daughter, and her husbands.

Through that we also get to see a window into Huck’s heart and his feelings about children and family and what Olivia seems to be willing to do to win. Riding high on Susan’s win, Liz is in full campaign mode and tries to broker a truce between her and David. I really liked these scenes with you guys. They’re scenes that as an actor I’m never a part of, so to be able to dip my toe into the waters of this strange triangle was a lot of fun.

JM: For me too. Those were the first scenes I shot with you. I give you high marks for the way you deal with actors. It’s a fine line that a good director has to walk. You have to take in the actors’ viewpoints, but still get what you’re looking for out of a scene. I’m guessing, though, that I am particularly easy to direct, as I never have any ideas, and am just looking to get it done and go back home.

SF: I didn’t have to worry about you for a second. Whatever your motivation may be you were a pro on that day.

In this episode, Quinn sees an Olivia that she hasn’t in a long time, and reaches out to Abby to enlist help. Not just any help but “his” help. The scene between Abby and Quinn, aside from being fun to shoot, was where the whole horse story comes into play.

JM: Hit me with it.

SF: When we scouted the location for this scene, as I do with every scene, I walk the area, figure out where I want to place the actors, the camera, approximate the time of day that we’ll be shooting it, and make sure that the sun and the shadows aren’t a problem. Then I look at the space overall and think about what’s happening there at that moment, how many people are going to be in the background, are they jogging, sitting, walking, etc. All of this stuff comes into play. Well, I’d figured most of it out but I wanted something more, something that would say D.C. and bring the location to life. A mounted policeman! If I could get a guy in a cop uniform on a horse, man, I thought, that would really sell this. We already had a 100 foot green screen where we were going to lay in the White House, a cop on a horse would just be the icing on the cake.

But….I got shut down. Merri, our producer, said no way, we were already over budget between the debate stuff and the other three days that we were on location, there was no way that I was going to get a horse. I kept asking though, thinking that I’d be able to beat her down, wear her out, bother her until she gave in. Well, you can clearly see in the scene, there is no horse. However, on the last day of filming, (or what was supposed to be the last day) Merri did present me with a horse, well, a pony, so..I look at it as a win. (See pic of me and the pony.)

JM: Good story. Wish you had called me. I would have gone halvesies on a horse.

SF: It is what it is. Of all the things that I enjoyed about this episode, and there were many, two moments really stand out for me. Well three, but Jake eating chicken is just a selfish pleasure and shouldn’t count. The first is the great scene between Kerry and Tony in her office. The dynamic of working with these two on such a meaty scene was enthralling. The preparation that they both brought with them and their openness to try different approaches to the material was such a gift, both to that scene and in turn to me as their director. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. Secondly and most surprising to me was this discovery of … something, I can’t quite put my finger on it, between Marcus and Mellie. Their storyline, which seems somewhat secondary, turned out to be, in my eyes at least, so watchable and such a moment, for both of the characters, that if I had to take one thing from this episode to be proud of, that exposed itself to me, that surprised me, it would be this story line. Specifically the moment where Marcus blows up at Mellie and puts her in her place. I just loved it. I hope you all did too. That’s all I’ve got to say about this. Malina?

JM: You did good, bro.

SF: Aww. Last word.

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