Pour one out for the gladiators! As the ABC hit careens toward its April 19 series finale, the cast of the Shonda Rhimes drama shares their favorite episodes from the past seven seasons.
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Katie Lowes (Quinn Perkins) : 'Sweet Baby' (season 1, episode 1)
The series opens with a fast-paced job interview, where Harrison (Columbus Short) asks Olivia Pope & Associates prospect Quinn if she wants to be a “gladiator in a suit.”
“That was my audition scene,” Lowes says. “I feel like if I really had to, I could probably still recite it now. I remember Shonda timing me during the audition and telling me that I had done it 30 seconds faster than the previous take, and that there was something called Scandal pace, and it was something that I could really do. I had been told to talk slower my whole life, so I was finally meeting my match! I remember being in this bar downtown, shooting that scene and being encouraged to speak as fast as humanly possible, and thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I can fly here.’”
Guillermo Diaz (Huck) : 'Crash and Burn' (season 1, episode 5)
The truth behind soft-spoken — and sometimes awkward — Huck’s past is revealed when Olivia enlists him to use his “special skills” on Charlie (George Newbern) to get info on their missing client.
“This was the first time you see Huck torture someone — when he’s trying to figure out who killed Amanda Tanner [Liza Weil] and where her body is,” Diaz says. “It’s the first time that I was like, ‘Oh, wow. This is who Huck is, this is what he’s capable of.’ It was so exhilarating to play that scene. We had shot a few episodes already, but it was the first time that I was going to actually torture someone, and it was so real. George Newbern had to get into tan-colored briefs and we wrapped him in plastic — it was just so exciting. I had such a blast doing it.”
Joshua Malina (David Rosen) : 'Any Questions?' (season 2, episode 21)
As Olivia & Co. fight to keep their election tampering a secret, a memory card proving their guilt goes missing. Fans were shocked to learn David Rosen was the one who stole it.
“Given the way that Shonda works, you only know what you’re working on that episode, so I didn’t know how things were going to play out,” Malina says. “It looked like David was a ‘bad guy.’ But Shonda knows her characters best, and it turned out David was wired and had given a fake Cytron card to Billy [Matt Letscher]. He was still a good guy wearing a white hat. It was cool to do a quick change like that from episode to episode. But when it looked like I was on the dark side, people would come up yelling at me, which I actually enjoyed.”
Kerry Washington (Olivia Pope) : 'White Hat's Back On' (season 2, episode 22)
In the season 2 finale, as news breaks that Olivia is the president’s mistress, she comes face-to-face with the dangerous Mystery Man (Joe Morton), whom she surprisingly calls Dad.
“I was hoping all season long that I was going to have a scene with Joe, because I’m such a huge fan,” Washington says. “So when that final scene happened, I was floored. We didn’t know what the relationship was between them yet, so we shot that ‘Dad’ line about 10 different ways. Up until then, we didn’t really know anything about where Olivia came from. I’d been wanting a window [into her origin], but when I was at the table read and turned the page and saw the last line of the scene, I just couldn’t believe it.”
Joe Morton (Rowan Pope) : 'It's Handled' (season 3, episode 1)
Picking up right after season 2’s jaw-dropping reveal, Rowan begins season 3 by reminding Olivia of the double standards that apply to black people in America: “You have to be twice as good as them to get half of what they have.”
“This episode is my favorite because it starts with this enormous two-and-a-half-page monologue,” Morton says. “I’ve always sort of kidded that that was my real audition for the show. Shonda and the writers saw how successful it was and decided to write monologues for me on a regular basis, which made me so happy because it was like doing theater on television. And it led to fans giving me a nickname, Papa Pope; something like that doesn’t happen to many actors.”
Tony Goldwyn (Fitzgerald Grant) : 'Vermont Is for Lovers, Too' (season 3, episode 8)
On the outs with Olivia after she discovers he shot down a plane with her mother allegedly on board, Fitz attempts to win her back by taking her to the house he built for them in Vermont.
“It was the episode that Ava DuVernay directed,” Goldwyn says. “Olivia and Fitz had been at odds for so long, but I fly her to Vermont and remind her how I feel about her and win her back temporarily. For all the dysfunction in their relationship and each of their bad behavior, I felt like that scene was an expression of what was at the bottom of it for Fitz — it was something very pure and real and very from-the-heart.”
Scott Foley (Jake Ballard) : 'Randy, Red, Superfreak and Julia' (season 4, episode 1)
Ready to escape the drama of the presidential election, Jake and Olivia take off on a plane together at the end of season 3. When the show returns, the couple trade traumas for tan lines on a remote island.
“It’s a selfish favorite for a number of reasons,” Foley says. “First, it may be the only time that Jake got what he was hoping for; he actually got to stand in the sun with Olivia. That alone would be enough for me. However, when you throw in the location where Kerry and I shot our scenes, a tiny island about an hour’s boat ride from Paradise Island in the Bahamas, that definitely made it my favorite experience while shooting the show.”
George Newbern (Charlie) : 'Where the Sun Don’t Shine' (season 4, episode 9)
Shutting down B613, Rowan places a bounty on the heads of the remaining black-ops agents, pitting Quinn and Charlie against each other.
“Quinn suspects Charlie of putting a hit on her,” Newbern says. “They have a huge fight and make out and beat the hell out of each other. That’s my favorite scene that I’ve done with Katie. She kept slapping me; she must’ve done it 25 times. I’m a wuss and it really hurt.”
Darby Stanchfield (Abby Whelan): 'I See You' (season 5, episode 14)
Upon discovering Cyrus (Jeff Perry) has been secretly working for the Democrats, Abby persuades Fitz to oust him and name her chief of staff.
“Within one scene, she talks him out of Cyrus and into Abby; it’s pretty monumental,” Stanchfield says. “It was all done in the Oval Office, right on the seal. You see a look on her face as she walks away — she’s won. I love that, because it shows her at the peak of her good power in the White House. In an earlier draft of that scene, they had Fitz doing all the talking, convincing her to take the job. But of course, because it’s Shonda, she looked at that scene and said, ‘No, it’s got to come from Abby — she’s the one with the idea.’ I love that that’s how it turned out.”
Bellamy Young (Mellie Grant) : 'Transfer of Power' (season 6, episode 16)
Though she lost the election earlier in the season, Mellie succeeded in becoming POTUS, being sworn in during the season 6 finale — but not without an assassination scare.
“That day was epic,” Young says. “Tony directed it. We had winds so wild that it blew part of the set away. It felt almost apocalyptic. After six years of living with this woman and her dreams, to stand there on the dais, that one felt way bigger than me. I felt proud for her and I was so overwhelmed by the day. Just the fact that she made it there, and then she lived, because I wasn’t sure that part was going to happen, either, frankly. I was supposed to be a guest star [in season 1], and then to be standing on that gorgeous set, it was an enormous day for her and also a really big day for me, too.”
Cornelius Smith Jr. (Marcus Walker) : 'Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself' (season 7, episode 12)
After being ousted from the White House and losing every ally she’s ever had, Olivia finds surprising help from former Gladiator Marcus. The duo cross over to How to Get Away With Murder to help Annalise (Viola Davis) with her Supreme Court case.
“I really loved the moment where Marcus and Olivia are at the bar,” Smith Jr. says. “Olivia is basically like, ‘Why are you here, Marcus?’ And he simply responds, ‘We’re black, that’s how we do.’ This episode shot to the top of my list because it was such a potent and relevant moment that I personally could connect with. I think the fans really connected with how we supported one another no matter what.”
Jeff Perry (Cyrus Beene) : 'People Like Me' (season 7, episode 16)
After discovering that Cyrus was responsible for hacking his own plane in a bid to gain America’s favor, pin the hijacking on Mellie and ascend to the presidency, Olivia planned to poison Veep.
“Outlining Fitz’s suicidal fate in Shonda’s stunningly written monologue from the couch in the oval in season 1, stripping naked with my husband James and revealing that I stole the election, being held hostage by Olivia in the recent season 7 episode where she almost poisoned me, those scenes epitomize the sublime complicated writing I was blessed with weekly for seven years,” Perry says.
Additional reporting by Patrick Gomez