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25 Scoops in 25 Days

Scandal shocker: Shonda Rhimes had a storyline about Russia 'messing with the election'

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To celebrate our Winter TV Preview (on newsstands Jan. 6), EW is bringing fans 25 Scoops in 25 Days. From now until the end of the month, follow the hashtag #25Scoops25Days on Twitter and Instagram to keep up with the latest — and check EW.com/25scoops for all the news and surprises.

Like they always say, truth is stranger than fiction. So when Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States, Shonda Rhimes and her writers on Scandal found themselves wanting to rethink some of their plot points for the drama’s sixth season on ABC.

In an exclusive interview with EW, Rhimes admits that while there was no talk of re-doing the first five episodes that addressed whether Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young) or Frankie Vargas (Ricardo Chivara) won the presidency on the ABC drama — those were completed before the election to accommodate Kerry Washington’s pregnancy — the subsequent episodes needed some serious (second) thought.

“It’s not just that we didn’t want to be bold and big in a show like this,” admits Rhimes. “That wasn’t necessarily our problem as much as, how dark do you want to be at a time when people aren’t feeling so happy? I think there are things that hit very close to home that I certainly never anticipated. I just don’t think that I thought that we would be in this mood. So there are definitely a lot of things that hit very close to home that we hadn’t anticipated, things that I thought would be so far from what was gonna happen that felt like fantasy or felt like I could revel in them because they weren’t gonna be true. And they turned out to be a little bit too true.”

Case in point: the meddlesome involvement of the world’s largest country. “We literally had a storyline where the Russian government was trying to destabilize the United States government by messing with the election,” reveals Rhimes. “We were building that into the storyline. The writer’s room was full of people staring at the board going, ‘Oh, my God.’ It comes from the fact that we all read all the papers, we’re all paying attention to the news. We try to stay up with everything both conservative and liberal and then try to extrapolate it to its most crazy degree. Unfortunately, reality is extrapolating itself to its most crazy degree right now.”

When Scandal returns Jan. 19, fans will find out within the first 10 minutes whether Mellie or Frankie win the election.

Want more scoop about debut or return of several TV shows? Pick up the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands Friday.