Before: The star who can handle just about any situation spent the early years of her career largely in supporting roles of various note. She appeared as Chenille Roberts in Save the Last Dance, Ray Charles’ wife in Ray, and Ben Grimm’s girlfriend in Fantastic Four. Washington has continued appearing in supporting roles in films, including Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained in 2012.
Now: Washington is entering her fifth year as Olivia Pope. The anchor to the show, she faces Scandal’s speedy, enthralling twists and turns that put her through the ringer each week. The actress’ work has earned her Emmy and Golden Globe nominations and NAACP Image Award wins.
Before: Goldwyn’s most iconic pre-presidential role took place off camera, as he voiced the title character in Disney’s Tarzan. He also put in memorable onscreen appearances in Ghost and The Last Samurai.
Now: Fitz has led the country through a turbulent presidency, involving a voting scandal, the secret murder of a Supreme Court justice, and the death of his son. Not to mention his relationship with Mellie, which deserves its own book, but for now he’s reunited with Olivia as season 5 begins. Goldwyn finds time for non-Scandal roles in films like Divergent and the upcoming The Belko Experiment.
Before: Before her days following in the shoes of C.J. Cregg as White House Press Secretary, Darby Stanchfield appeared in various supporting roles on shows like Mad Men and Jericho and films like Waitress. For years Stanchfield made the rounds in one-off appearances on a number of popular series, including 24, Angel, Nip/Tuck, and Bones.
Now: Stantchfield has been with Scandal since its start as Abby Whelan. The character was first shown as one of Olivia Pope’s gladiators and then as the White House Press Secretary whose name Fitz could never quite recall.
Before: Once the nanny to Connie Britton’s son, Katie Lowes put in years as a guest-starring actress on everything from Rescue Me to As the World Turns to The Sopranos. She balanced her TV and nannying work with roles in indie films like The Job and occasional gigs in bigger movies like Super 8 and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
Now: Lowes popped up as Quinn Perkins — under the identity of Lindsay Dwyer — in the opening moments of Scandal’s pilot. Her humble beginnings turn surprisingly dark as she’s prosecuted for causing seven deaths, including that of her boyfriend, in an explosion. But with a little help from Olivia, Quinn is set free and returns to work at Pope & Associates while having to rebuild her credibility. Which apparently included plenty of face-licking and joining B613.
Before: Huck may be one of the most violent yet tragic characters on Scandal, but before producing such darkly moving work, Guillermo Diaz built up a comedy career. He appeared in movies like 200 Cigarettes and Half Baked, and made multiple cameos on Chapelle’s Show and Weeds.
Now: Huck has always been the tech wiz of the group, but he’s also continually surprised as one of the show’s emotional cores. Diaz has had to straddle the line between the bloodlust Huck has been trained to have and the equal parts pain and enjoyment he derives from indulging his more violent tendencies. And to complicate things more recently, Huck reunited with his ex and his estranged son, attempting to restore some sense of normalcy to his life.
Before: Before his years as a gladiator, Short balanced an acting and dancing career. He popped up in films like You Got Served, Stomp the Yard, and Cadillac Records, as well as TV shows like Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. He was once also a dancer with Britney Spears, contributing choreography to her 2004 Onyx Hotel tour.
Now: Short played Harrison Wright for three seasons on Scandal with his future left unknown at the moment of his departure. Short announced he was leaving the show following several personal issues. His character was revealed to be dead in season 4.
Before: Long before Perry’s days of naked shouting matches, he helped to co-found the Steppenwolf Theater Company in Chicago, Illinois, which can now name John Malkovich and Joan Allen among its alumni. Perry put in plenty of years in theater and film before his memorable role on Scandal, most noticeably as Harvey Leek in the Don Johnson-starring procedural Nash Bridges.
Now: Perry has served dutifully as President Fitz’s Chief of Staff Cyrus Beene, the conniving man behind some of Fitz’s biggest moves. Cyrus has suffered loss with the death of his husband James’ death, dealt with public ridicule and covered it up by marrying a prostitute, and faced unexpected job turnover when Fitz fires him.
Before: Malina might want to think of taking up permanent cinematic residence in Washington D.C. The actor has appeared in a host of roles in political films like A Few Good Men and The American President, and had a seasons-long turn on The West Wing. His role in the Aaron Sorkin company also included a role on Sports Night, and he appeared as two separate characters on The Larry Sanders Show, including as a reporter for EW. (We’ve still got a desk for you waiting, Malina.)
Now: Malina stars as David Rosen. A recurring character in season 1, the assistant U.S. attorney moves up the ranks to the U.S. Attorney General, thanks in part to his work with Olivia Pope.
Before: Young got her start in on- and off-Broadway shows like The Life and Merrily We Roll Along. She transitioned to TV with a recurring role on Another World. The star crossed over with her fellow castmembers pre-Scandal, with guest spots on shows like Nash Bridges, The West Wing, and Scrubs.
Now: Mellie Grant has been in one of the most prolonged strained marriages ever, dealing with a philandering husband who she has needed at various points for political reasons, because she couldn’t give up her feelings for him, or even both. Her relationship with Fitz has had no shortage of rollercoaster-worthy turns, but Mellie has begun striking out on her own as she’s determined to be named the next U.S. President.
Before: Prior to becoming one of the men in Olivia Pope’s life (who also worked for her father), Foley was putting in memorable time as one-third of Felicity’s main love triangle as Noel Crane. He also had major and recurring roles in series like The Unit and Scrubs, and an important turn in Scream 3.
Now: Foley has found himself in another love triangle on Scandal (occasionaly a love square if Mellie is a factor with Fitz) as Jake Ballard. The B613 agent/temporary command fell for Olivia while she was merely a mission, but by the end of season 4, he’s realized where her heart (for now) truly lies. Foley hasn’t let Scandal take up all of his time, though — he made his directorial feature film debut in 2014 with Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife.
Before: Burton had a notable stage career before her time onscreen in various TV and movie projects, earning Tony Award nominations for her work in Hedda Gabler and The Elephant Man. She even spent some time onstage with President Fitz when Burton and Goldwyn starred in The Water’s Edge. She also came into the Shonda Rhimes world with a recurring role on Grey’s Anatomy.
After: Burton’s Sally Langston speaks to the conservative base in a way Fitz never could, her emphasis on religion and family a far cry from a president hiding an affair. But Langston faces her own trauma with a cheating husband whom she kills in a rage. Losing to Fitz in his bid for re-election, Sally has taken a prime seat as host of conservative talk show The Liberty Hour.
Before: Morton’s lengthy pre-Scandal resume is filled with memorable roles on stage and screen, including his Tony-nominated turn in Raisin and gigs over the years in films like Terminator 2: Judgment Day and American Gangster. Morton also put in plenty of time on TV in series like Equal Justice and Watch Your Mouth.
After: Papa Pope has made an indelible mark on not just his targets, his family, and his opponents, but on Scandal’s viewers as well. His tendency toward extravagant speeches, Stevie Wonder love, and devious plotting has made him one of the most powerful forces on the show, even when he’s states away from the action. Morton has also found time for parts in other series like Proof and Grace and Frankie.
Portia de Rossi
Before: De Rossi got her start in the Australian film Sirens, and is another Scream alum among the Scandal cast, with a role in that franchise’s second film. She began to rise to prominence as Nelle Porter in Ally McBeal and as Lindsay Fünke on Arrested Development.
Now: One of the latest additions to the Scandal cast, de Rossi’s Elizabeth North has quickly risen through the ranks from chairwoman of the RNC to White House Chief of Staff in Cyrus’ stead. She also served as Mellie’s campaign manager as the first lady ran to become senator in Virgina. De Rossi recently reprised her role as Lindsay Fünke when Arrested Development returned to Netflix in 2013.
Before: Pebdani spent years on the guest star TV circuit, making appearances in shows like Modern Family, How I Met Your Mother, The Shield, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Her biggest recurring role came saddled with her own name as she took on the part of Artemis in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
After: When in need of a new Vice President, Fitz looks for someone who could never stand in the way of Mellie’s bid for the presidency. Pebdani’s Susan Ross, the most meme-able senator in the country, seemed like the best candidate, but she’s quickly proven she cares more about the job and can handle it with more skill than her PR gaffes may indicate.
Before: Prior to being Cyrus Beene’s bethrothed, Bucatinsky made a name for himself pulling double (and occasionally triple) duty as an actor, producer, and writer. His most prominent professional partner would be Lisa Kudrow, with whom Bucatinski produced and acted in The Comeback and Web Therapy.
After: As James Novak, Bucatinsky was a part of Scandal’s less presidential but equally chaotic marriage with Jeff Perry’s Cyrus Beene. A former journalist and on-camera interviewer, James met an untimely fate at the hands of Jake Ballard for having too much knowledge about Daniel Langston’s death.
Before: Newbern spent years appearing in beloved films and serving as the voice of some of gaming and comics’ biggest names. He played Bryan McKenzie in Father of the Bride and its sequel, and filled the animated shoes of Superman and Clark Kent in the Justice League cartoon series and Sephiroth from the Final Fantasy franchise.
After: Newbern’s Charlie may work for B613, but he’s not afraid to offer his assassinating services for the right price. He also can count himself among one of the show’s oddest love triangles, as he fell for Quinn while recruiting her to B613, only to learn that she’d been spending time with Huck. Newbern continues to lend his voice to Superman and Sephiroth when called upon.