On Sunday, Erin and I once again attended “PaleyFest,” the 10-day festival put on by the Paley Center for Media in Los Angeles (formerly the Museum of Television and Radio) that gathers panels of stars from 10-15 popular television programs. A moderator facilitates a chat with the actors (and usually a showrunner, creator, and or lead writer) about their show, the characters they play, and hint at what may be to come in front of a full house at the Dolby Theater (home of the Oscars!)
We’re big fans of ABC’s “Scandal,” a D.C.-based political soap with a lot of ridiculous, improbable scenarios but also a lot of addicting, cliff-hangy fun. So, when we saw Scandal on the Paley lineup this year, we knew we had to go! All the stars of the show where there, down to supporting cast.
The show stars Kerry Washington as “Olivia Pope,” based on real-life political “fixer” Judy Davis. She helped get moderate Republican Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn) elected, albeit through voter fraud, and formed “Pope & Associates,” a group of lawyers who don’t practice law if they can avoid it, instead facilitating fixes to clients lives who are going through some sort of public embarrassment, blackmail, or what have you.
I was quite surprised when Jesse Palmer, the former college quarterback and ESPN NCAA analyst, was introduced as the moderator. Little did I know that he also does some human interest features for Good Morning America and was a “Bachelor” Contestant. So, clearly he is a Disney/ABC property and his questions clearly reflected a strong knowledge of the show. He also asked typical fare such as “who is the biggest prankster,” the consensus on which, to no one’s surprise who knows the actor, turns out to be Joshua Malina, the Sports Night and West Wing alum who plays Scandal’s Attorney General, David Rosen.
One of Palmers best questions, which drew some behind the scenes answers from the stars, was what are 1 or 2 highlights of your time on Scandal? The answers were very funny, personal and telling… and even a little emotional:
- Kerry Washington, the show’s lead, talked about how special it was when all of her female co-stars, who I believe she dubbed something like “The Scandal Women” or “The Women of Scandal,” came to visit her at home after the birth of her first child. They all visited like good friends sitting with her on her bed as she nursed and nurtured her newborn
- Tony Goldwyn, and just about everybody, spoke about Kerry Washington’s spirit and how she keeps them grounded as a family on set. The praise – very articulated stated by someone who has impressed as a Director as much as an actor – invoked some tears from Washington
- Jeff Perry, the conniving former Grant Chief of Staff turned VP Candidate, humored the crowd talking about sleeping his way into the work given his wife’s involvement on the production team of Scandal and other “Shondaland” universe shows like Grey’s Anatomy. He was proud to see his daughter appear on the show recently, as a mysterious villain who is pulling the strings of Eli Pope, Olivia’s father played so brilliantly by Joe Morton.
- Katie Lowes, who plays innocent novice turned stone cold badass “Quinn” over the course of the show’s history, spoke of her appreciation as a newer actress for the welcome and tutelage given to her by the veteran actors on the show.
- George Newbern, and actor best known for winning the heart of Kimberly Williams in 1990’s iconic “Father of the Bride” remake, plays cold-hearted assassin turned recent comic relief and Quinn fiancé. He talked about his enjoyment of Scott Foley’s dance scene’s opposite Kerry Washington on the show. Foley plays the mysterious Jake Ballard, who served in the Navy with Goldwyn’s President Grant back in the day but has been both good guy and villain throughout the show’s run. Naturally, this mention inspired his other cast members to shame him into showing some of his movies, and Foley reluctantly got up and danced a little to the delight of the crowd.
- When it was his turn, Foley made no secret of the fact that his highlight was getting to travel to the Bahamas and “work” several scenes with Kerry Washington, during a period on the show when they were lovers on a getaway vacation. That seemed like pretty easy pickings to me!
Despite this question evoking one of the best discussions of the afternoon, I was disappointed Palmer didn’t save more time for audience questions. One comment – only the 3rd from the audience and last of the afternoon – came from a woman who is a colon cancer survivor who says she rarely watched television before her illness had her on frequent bedrest. Often sleepless, she would catch re-runs of Scandal on at odd hours of the night on cable, and became such a fan of the show she credits it with getting her through the pain and chemo-induced insomnia of her Cancer treatment. It was certainly a fine way to end.
Erin and I skipped out on what ended up being an almost scary bum-rush of the stage by many fans (for autographs and selfies) as soon as the panel concluded, fairly satisfied with an even larger appreciation of one of our favorite weekly escapes. The Scandal and all other PaleyFest panels are available on Hulu for those of you who subscribe. I hope those of you who love good TV as much as we do might all come to enjoy this annual event as much as we do.