Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice creator Shonda Rhimes says she wasn’t interested in tackling another show when Grey’s executive producer Betsy Beers approached her with a new idea.
“[But Beers] kept telling me, ‘You need to meet a woman named Judy Smith,’” Rhimes told critics assembled for Day 2 of ABC’s TCA Winter Press Tour sessions. Turns out Smith is the founder and president of Impact Strategies, a crisis communications firm. That’s “fixer,” for short — the kind of person that high-profile folks hire to make their missteps and faux pas go away. Smith’s case load spans the Iran-Contra affair to the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinski entanglement [Smith repped Lewinski], so it’s little surprise that when Rhimes did spend time with her, ” … I saw 100 episodes.”
The result of that meeting is ABC’s new midseason offering Scandal, which stars Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope, a Smith-esque fixer who heads up a staff of deeply troubled, but deeply talented staffers (“gladiators in a suit” says one character) who team up to erase the troubles of everyone from a war hero hiding his sexual identity to a high-powered madam whose real problem is her ne’er-do-well son.
Though the show is set in Washington – site of plenty of sketchy goings-on — and the skeletons in Olivia’s own closet involve her previous professional and personal involvement with the U.S. President (Tony Goldwyn, Ghost), Rhimes says the show is not a political show. With Smith aboard as executive producer, Rhimes is free to craft scripts around just about any sticky situation she can conjure up. “It got to be really fun because I could call Judy and say, ‘What if there was this madam and …’ and she would tell me what she would do.”
Rhimes says she’s also enjoying penning the lightning-paced Scandal whose complex premise is a total departure from Grey’s procedural, soapy, McDreamy/McSteamy storylines. “It’s not a relationship show; it’s not a procedural; it’s not romancey,” she explains.
Scandal premieres Thursday April 5 at 10pm
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