By Natalie Abrams
April 20, 2018 at 10:00 AM EDT
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Warning: This story contains major spoilers from the series finale of Scandal. Read at your own risk!

Scandal signed off Thursday with an emotional hour that saw the heroes step into the light. Well, most of them.

During the series finale, Cyrus (Jeff Perry) made a last-ditch effort in his attempt to get Mellie (Bellamy Young) impeached by poisoning David Rosen (Joshua Malina). Yes, the white hat-wearing Attorney General of the United States did not survive the end of the ABC political fixer drama.

While Malina received a call about his character’s fate from executive producer Shonda Rhimes the night before the table read — read his reaction to David’s death here — the cast didn’t find out until the next day.

“We aren’t given the script ahead of time,” says Darby Stanchfield, who played Abby, a gladiator who also happened to be a love interest for David. Hence, the death hit her particularly hard during the table read for the series finale. “I was not aware of what was going to happen, and in the scene that happens, I completely lost my s—,” she says. “There were boxes of Kleenex at every other actor and I just started grabbing tissues, and honestly I think I used half a box.”

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“There was a part of me that was like, ‘Darby, rein it in, get yourself together, it’s just a story,'” Stanchfield continues. “But listen, when you play a character for seven years, it seeps in there and it’s like a second skin and second life that I lived, so it affected me quite deeply. It was very hard to shoot. Although it felt very great for the whole world of Scandal, it was heartbreaking and I’m glad to be done with it.”

What makes David’s death all the more heartbreaking is that Malina had been worried about it coming to fruition for a long time. “It was so surreal because Josh has been the one actor that is terrified of his character being killed off from the beginning of the show,” says Guillermo Diaz, who played Huck. “So to be there at that final table read and see that he’s the one that gets killed off Scandal, it was bittersweet.”

Throughout his tenure on the show, David Rosen has always worn the white hat, practically incorruptible in his quest for justice, which is ultimately what got him killed. “In a certain way, it’s Shonda’s skepticism about the real world, and that it’s characters like his that end up being the ones who are under the sword,” says Joe Morton, who played Rowan Pope. “The characters who need to be under the sword manage to get away with it somehow.”

Scott Foley, whose character Jake nearly shot David earlier in the hour, also thought the death was appropriate. “He was the last vestige of truth and honor on this show, and it wouldn’t be Scandal if something bad didn’t happen to someone good,” Foley says.

In that vein, David’s death really spoke to Rhimes’ mission statement with the series. “Shonda has talked a lot about how, in her mind, the show deals with the idea that power corrupts,” Kerry Washington says, “and that the closer you get to that Oval, the harder you have to fight to maintain your white hat, so I think it’s more of a warning to just be careful when you’re flying close to the sun.”

RELATED: A deleted scene from the finale reveals Cyrus’ ultimate fate || Shonda Rhimes reveals why David had to die

The reveal ended up being all the more shocking because some members of the cast were so sure the series finale would end without bloodshed. “I had heard a rumor that Shonda wasn’t going to kill anybody,” Katie Lowes (Quinn Perkins) says. “I was like, ‘Guys, we’re all safe.’ I got too cocky, and then when he died, I was like, ‘Wait, what?’ I was shocked. I was so, so, so shocked. I’m still shocked. I think I’m pretending it didn’t happen.”

On the flip side, Tony Goldwyn thought his character Fitz’s head was on the chopping block. “I thought someone might die; I thought it might be me,” Goldwyn says, explaining that the way in which David died — the poison took too long, so Cyrus ultimately smothered him with a pillow — was shocking, but perfect. “That whole final table read was a blur,” he says. “We were all half in tears and just caught up in the story like hopefully our audience is.”

Episode Recaps

Shonda Rhimes’ political drama: Sex! Murder! Olivia’s suits!
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  • TV Show
seasons
  • 7
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  • TV-14
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Premiere
  • 04/05/12
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  • In Season
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