We all know Kerry Washington as the fierce and hard-hitting problem solver Olivia Pope on Scandal, but it’s been revealed that the role almost went to another actress. Former Nashville star Connie Britton was first pegged to play the Washington warrior before the show’s creator Shonda Rhimes stepped in.The primetime powerhouse writer and her team insisted that the role needed to be played by a black actress.
“Nothing felt more important than the sense of outsiderness. I didn’t know that there hadn’t been a drama series with a leading black woman for 37 years. When the show got picked up [to pilot], I got a phone call from somebody who said, ‘This would be the perfect show for Connie Britton.’ I said, ‘It would be, except Olivia Pope is black,’” the TV producer recalled to THR during celebrations for the show’s 100th episode in Hollywood.
Shonda, who also created Grey’s Anatomy, How to Get Away with Murder and The Catch, really wanted to stay true to the character she says is based off of George Bush’s press and crisis management expert Judy Smith. "It was inspired by Judy, and she wanted to honour that,” explained ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey.
Linda Lowy, the series’ casting director, added that after meeting thousands of actresses they knew from the moment Kerry auditioned the part was hers. “We tested Kerry, Jill Scott and Anika Noni Rose. It was Kerry from the moment I took her to meet Shonda.”
During the panel discussion, Kerry agreed that Connie would have killed it in the role of Olivia before Shonda reiterated why the Neutrogena ambassador was born to play the character, “She could talk Washington more than I could talk Washington,” said the 47-year-old, adding, “She was different than what I originally envisioned. We were all like, ‘Oh my God,’ because she’s tiny, cute, pretty, and younger — and because she was all those things, she was aware that people would underestimate her.”