Scandal signed off Thursday with one last heartbreak — one that was nearly spoiled by the actor at the center of the series finale’s most shocking tragedy.
During the final episode of ABC’s political fixer drama, Cyrus (Jeff Perry) poisoned David Rosen (Joshua Malina), making him the show’s final official casualty.*
But with Malina out on tour with his podcast, The West Wing Weekly, he found it increasingly difficult not to let slip the major tragedy that would befall his character in advance. “Everywhere we’ve gone, people are constantly asking me, trying to get me to stay stuff,” Malina tells EW. “I’ve almost, a couple times, erred not by revealing that he died, but being too [over the top]. People would be like, ‘Well, maybe a spin-off,’ and I’d be like, ‘Yeah, oh yeah, maybe he’ll be in the spin-off for sure.’ I went too far the other way. I had to just shut up.”
Even on Friday afternoon, long after the series finale had aired, the actor found himself temporarily nervous he had said too much. “I had seven years of don’t say anything every time I would do an interview or had a fan interaction,” Malina says. “Now that the show is over and I’m talking to you, I still find myself guarding it, but there’s no more secrets to be kept and it’s kind of a relief.”
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Still, Malina is quite surprised that the news of David Rosen’s demise didn’t end up leaking ahead of Thursday’s series finale. “I remember when Shonda [Rhimes] told me it was going to happen, it had to be kept top secret,” Malina says. “But I told a couple people in my family, and then at the table read obviously everybody else found out, and then we shot the episode and everybody else involved in Scandal [found out]. It seemed to me that it was just going to get out somehow because these things always just do. So I was delighted that we still went into finale night with the element of surprise, and I’m enjoying seeing how surprised and shocked people seem to be on Twitter.”
The response to David Rosen’s death on Twitter has been overwhelming, Malina says. “I feel a little bit like Sally Field — they liked him, they really liked him! — because people seem to be ultimately sad or mad. Mainly I’m finding that people are shocked and surprised.” However, some fans have also ribbed Malina for Rosen’s fatal mistake. “I’m getting a lot of, ‘Why did you take the drink?'” he says. “I’m getting a fair amount of grief for it. David is a fairly trusting person, even though he may be sitting with a murderous criminal whose confession he’s taking, he’s going to check the drink? Some people are not happy with him.”
Reactions from his family have been quite different altogether. “I’m getting a lot of condolences from family, a lot of references to sitting Shiva,” he says with a laugh. “A lot of my Jewish relatives are apparently sitting Shiva for my character.”
As for Rosen’s swan song, it was certainly not what Malina had in mind for his character, though even he has a hard time imagining a different ending for the white-hat wearing attorney general. “I haven’t given it too much thought, because I largely got out of the what’s going to happen next? game with Scandal, because I was always wrong,” he says. “The only thing that really occurred to me was maybe he was going to get his romantic happy ending with Abby [Darby Stanchfield]. I thought they could end up on a good note together, but it was not to be.”
The one thing he does wish would’ve happened is Cyrus actually paying for his crimes during the finale. In the version that went to air, Cyrus is simply forced to resign, but in an extended version of the script that was revealed at the live table read Thursday night, Cyrus was ultimately visited by Huck (Guillermo Diaz), implying he was going to be tortured, if not also killed. *(Oh yeah, remember that asterisk? Yup, this would technically be the unofficial last casualty, though that’s left unanswered.) “I absolutely would’ve liked the little red toolbox to figure into Cyrus’ future,” Malina says. “I was sorry to see him get off, but maybe that also is the way that things roll in the Scandal universe.”
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David’s death was all the more shocking as Malina confirms initially hearing the same rumor as Katie Lowes that no one would die in the finale. Hence, his guard was completely down upon learning the news. “I had been worrying for seven seasons about whether I was going to be killed off,” Malina says. “When it finally happened, I was like, ‘What? Really?’ I was surprised.”
In that vein, Malina feels like the way in which David dies is very similar to the prank Jimmy Kimmel helped play on him prior to the finale. “I was very concerned about some sort of revenge being taken on me by the cast, to the point where the last few days of shooting, I didn’t even park in my parking spot,” he says. “I don’t even want them to know where my car is. I would park far away and then walk onto the lot. Then, we did the GMA thing — well, not really — weeks after we wrapped, and that’s when my guard was down. That’s when they get you, as soon as your guard is down.”
Though Malina will no longer be working alongside the Scandal cast, he does vow to someday get vengeance for that last prank. “They got me bad, for sure,” he says. “I haven’t learned my lesson. Now I have to go deep into planning for how to get them back. In a prank war, you have to top the last prank, so that’s a very tall order given what they did to me and the resources that they had. I think I have to go into some fiendish planning and wait a long time for their guards to drop, and maybe I have to crowdfund some money to put on whatever I come up with.”
While he didn’t learn that lesson, the one he did learn while filming his death scene will stick with him: Never go down without a fight. “I’ve only watched the death scene once, so I have to see whether it came across as much as I hope, but I did a lot of flailing, kicking, and knocking things over,” Malina says. “I really just didn’t want to go out without a fight. Yes, he drank the drink, bad call, but let him at least fight hard so that Cyrus really has to kill him. The poison is not going to do it on its own, so go out with a fight and leave an intense looking corpse. Once he took the pillow off, I had almost a smile on my face. Oh, David is finally happy — death apparently agrees with David Rosen.”