‘Scandal’ Creator Shonda Rhimes Pushed For a Black Olivia Pope When Connie Britton Was Frontrunner

by Jeremy Spirogis
Kerry Washington

In today’s context, it may appear a bit shallow of TV executives to think about a white lead by default on Scandal when realizing it was primarily based on a Black lady (Judy Smith). This did occur, although, in response to data out there concerning the present.

Not that there have been any exhausting emotions by the suggestion, even today. At the time, it was apparently nonetheless, tragically, a tough promote to have an African-American lady because the lead of a drama collection.

The actress initially advised to play Olivia Pope went on to her personal common collection, nevertheless. And even Kerry Washington has stated this specific actress would have slayed as Olivia.

Yet, the story particulars go away some questions.

The time when Connie Britton was advised to play Olivia Pope

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According to US Magazine, the suggestion of Connie Britton enjoying Olivia Pope got here from a cellphone name Shonda Rhimes acquired in 2012. Rhimes didn’t reveal who that caller was who really useful Britton, however it occurred when the pilot for Scandal was picked up by ABC.

Replied Rhimes to the nameless caller: “It would be, except Olivia Pope is Black.”

And so it was Rhimes skilled one of many worst predicaments on TV that was nonetheless occurring then. Holding the concept a black lady couldn’t head a drama collection and herald a large viewers was quickly squelched when Kerry Washington entered the equation.

Washington was not instantly thought-about, with ABC testing different black actresses for the half. Names like Jill Scott and Anika Noni Rose have been introduced in to check out, albeit not being fairly proper primarily based on one distinctive side about Washington.

What was it about Kerry Washington that impressed Rhimes?

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Based on the interview above from US Magazine, Washington stood out as a result of, Rhimes stated: “She could talk Washington, [D.C.] more than I could talk Washington. She was different than what I originally envisioned.”

On prime of this, Washington was youthful than the opposite actresses thought-about. Even Britton was already ten years older than Washington. Jill Scott was additionally 5 years older, as was Anika Noni Rose.

Kerry Washington
Kerry Washington | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

RELATED: ‘Scandal’: Kerry Washington Would’ve Abandoned Series If Fitz Was Played By a Black Man

Having Washington being youthful was enticing to Rhimes as a result of it made her seem naive about issues when she was actually very savvy. In different phrases, it will make her extra weak as a result of so many individuals underestimated her.

In distinction, Judy Smith was 19 years older than Washington, proving going youthful (on this case) was the suitable selection. The largest query, although, is whether or not Scandal helped set a precedent for extra black girls main a collection.

Shows with African-American girls are nonetheless uncommon on community TV

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Hiring Washington to play Olivia Pope was really a history-making second because it was the primary time a black lady headed a community collection in 37 years on the time. Since Scandal left the air in 2018, the mainstream networks are nonetheless gradual green-lighting a present with a black lady because the lead character.

Not surprisingly, solely HBO and Netflix have since taken the lead of Scandal and introduced quite a few reveals with black girls on the forefront. Many of these are very latest, like HBO’s I May Destroy You and Netflix’s She’s Gotta Have It.

One of the final community reveals to characteristic a black lady within the lead simply left the air and was produced by Shonda Rhimes. Yes, this was How To Get Away With Murder, additionally on ABC.

As for these questioning what occurred to Connie Britton, she went on to star within the long-running collection Nashville. Kerry Washington praised Britton within the above US Magazine interview by saying: “It would have been a great role for Connie Britton!” Saying such a factor within the context of TV historical past would possibly look completely different now, whereas nonetheless taking consolation realizing cable and streaming are taking cost.

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