Scandal's surprise casualty speaks out on horrific death
Warning: This story contains major spoilers from Thursday’s episode of Scandal. Read out at your own risk!
The mystery organization’s threats became very real during Thursday’s episode of Scandal when a beloved character met a bloody end.
After Olivia (Kerry Washington) & Co. teamed up to free Cyrus (Jeff Perry) from prison so he could become the next POTUS, Mellie (Bellamy Young) was set to concede, but Elizabeth North (Portia de Rossi) convinced her not to back down. Unfortunately, it turns out Lizzie was doing the bidding of the mysterious organization!
Hence, when Mellie finally firmly declined their help, the Mystery Woman (Zoe Perry) brutally beat Elizabeth North to death with a golf club, succeeding her as Mellie’s new Chief of Staff. That’s right, Lizzie is dead.
“I have been a fan of Portia’s for years and it was an honor to have her join our Scandal family,” executive producer Shonda Rhimes said in a statement. “Portia infused Liz North with a smart powerful vulnerable soul while also making the humor sing — and that brought all of us in the writers room a lot of joy. If I could keep her forever, I would — but kidnapping is illegal. Besides, I am incredibly impressed with the vision she has for her creative future. I wish her all the best.”
EW turned to de Rossi to get the scoop of her exit.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did the decision come about? Was it yours? Or did the producers feel the character had run its course?
PORTIA DE ROSSI: No, actually it was my decision. Toward the end of last year, I started an [art curation and publishing] business and I realized that the business was going to be very time-consuming if I was going to make a success of it. I had emailed Shonda [Rhimes] and told her that I had reconnected with my original passion of incorporating business and fine art. I asked her if it would be okay if I could do less shows and perhaps even leave the show. She was incredibly gracious and so lovely, really supported my decision to start a new career. Quite honestly, I just thought, I’m 44 years old and I thought that I have a chance to start something completely new that could be a 20-25 year career or more that didn’t involve — I won’t say acting at all — but quite as much acting as I have been doing this past 20 years. I just wanted to try something different and Shonda and Betsy [Beers] were completely supportive of it.
We didn’t see Elizabeth in the alternate reality episode. In fact, we haven’t seen much of her at all this season. So was that you just wanting to branch out?
Yeah, and I really truly, truly am such a huge fan of Scandal and I truly love the show, the cast, the crew. It was one of my favorite jobs as an actor in my entire career. It was a challenging role and I really loved my experience on the set everyday. I really feel very honored to have worked for Shonda. I think she’s a brilliant woman and I just feel so grateful that I had the opportunity to work on the show, especially because I was such a fan going into the show. It really was a dream of mine to do what I’ve done for the past three seasons. Yeah, I really just wanted to try something new. I’m not saying that I’ll never act again. I might do something in the future, but I really want to see where this can lead, this new business venture; I just want to give it my all. They were great, they figured out a way to shoot episodes without involving my character. Then they figured out a terrific way to how to get rid of my character all together, which was a huge shock to me.
What was your initial reaction to the way in which Elizabeth was going to die?
First of all, I wasn’t 100 percent sure that I was going to be killed off. I kind of hoped that I would be killed off, just because I knew that it would be a great opportunity for the show to do something very shocking and unexpected. It’s always fun when a series regular gets killed off, but I really had no idea that it was going to be quite so brutal. I don’t know why, because it’s Scandal, and they don’t do things by half measures. [Laughs] It was pretty creative, I thought, and very shocking. The part that shocked me the most was I didn’t even, as a character, have a second to acknowledge what was happening before I was murdered, so in that aspect, it’s as shocking to the character as it is to the audience. It’s pretty cool.
The death was brutal.
So you didn’t see it coming?
Nope. It happens so fast.
It was quite difficult for me to shoot that exact way in which I was brutally murdered because we had to do things in reverse and in slow motion. It was very strange. It certainly didn’t feel like what we were shooting would be as impactful as I hope it looks. I’m sure at high speed it looks good and horrific. Fingers crossed. But yeah, it was a very strange stunt to have to shoot, for sure.
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What was the reaction at the table read when you and the cast read the scene? Were your costars surprised? Or had they expected something?
Here’s the thing: About once a season, we don’t have a table read, and that was this episode. For whatever reason, we didn’t read this episode at table. It was because of a scheduling conflict, it was on and then it was not happening, and then the time was moved, so it was just a problem with production, or we were on location too much that particular episode at the time that this would’ve been read. So we actually didn’t get to sit down in a room and experience it together, and I’ve got to say I’m so happy that we didn’t because I think I would’ve bawled my eyes out the entire time. I mean, it’s one thing to want to leave and another thing to actually get the full force of my castmates’ reactions when they read it and see it for the first time, so I’m glad, because I would’ve been a mess.
What was it like shooting your death scene? How difficult was it to shoot? How much blood was there?
There was quite a bit of blood, and it was tricky. Although, I had to say it was so well written and so well choreographed that it wasn’t difficult for me to act. Like, there was no guesswork in it. It was just more technical than I would’ve imagined, just because we had to slow certain things down, and I had to reverse the movement of the fall. It was a very interesting thing to do. As for blood, there was a ton of it, it was everywhere. I actually got stuck to the floor, my hairpiece stuck to the floor, so I actually remained on the floor for the last half hour to 45 minutes of shooting that scene, because I didn’t want to get up and have them put me back together again, so I just stayed there. It was really pretty weird, because the crew were literally walking over my dead body getting from one side of the room to the other. Kerry [Washington], Bell[amy Young], and Scott [Foley] would just come and peer from above, so I’d just see their faces peering down at me and taking bizarre pictures and smiling at me and chatting.
It was actually a very strange day. What made it even stranger was when I was in hair and makeup that morning, I remembered that I had made my mother a promise that I would bring her to the set of Scandal, because she was such a huge fan from Day 1, so I panicked and realized that I actually had to get her to the set. It was my mother sitting next to me on a chair and chatting with me while I laid pretend dead on the floor, and people were walking all over me and taking selfies with me. [Laughs] Yeah, it was quite strange, quite a bizarre day, but it really was a fun day.
What are you going to miss most about Lizzie?
I’m going to miss Elizabeth a lot because I’ve never played a character quite like her before. She was a very complicated character to play. Just when I thought I understood her motivations, what made her tick and how to properly embrace her, Shonda would throw something else at me that would make it very different to my initial perception of her — she gave me a daughter, she had Huck (Guillermo Diaz) torture me and make me vulnerable when I thought I was invincible. It was just wonderful working on this character with Shonda, who is such an incredible storyteller. She has such an incredible ability to surprise people, including actors, and to keep characters multi-dimensional and really intriguing. So I will miss Elizabeth a lot. It was an honor playing her.
What was your most memorable scene?
My most memorable scene was actually walking into Pope & Associates from the elevator down the hallway and approaching Olivia Pope’s office, just because it was one of the first scenes that I did, it was probably second or third episode. It was just one of those pinch-me moments because I was such a huge fan of the show. To actually walk through Pope & Associations complaining and asking for help from Olivia Pope was just a real cool thing to do.
What’s next for you acting-wise?
Well, I don’t know. I don’t have any plans to do anything specific. Right now, I really am focused on this business venture, so I’m not going to say I’m never going to act again, because I’m sure that I will, but there is nothing that I can talk about. It’s certainly not the reason why I left Scandal, to pursue another project. I have nothing in the pipeline. I’m not sure when or if I will do anything acting-wise.
What is the latest on a possible fifth season of Arrested Development? Have you been contacted about it?
Let’s just say Mitch [Hurwitz] and I talk a lot. Over the years, we have been in contact. How about that?
I have talked to Mitch recently. Yes, I have talked to him recently. Indeed I have. He’s a lovely man. I enjoy chatting with him. He’s very funny. He’s great to just call up. In fact, I called him; I called Mitch and we talked.
Do you feel that’s a character that will never die for you?
I hope it never dies. I hope the Bluths just live forever. I love Arrested Development and I would love for it to come back.
Scandal airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.