‘Scandal’ Star Bellamy Young Reveals If President Grant Should Watch Her Back
Scandal’s ambitious Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young) has finally achieved her lifelong dream to be president of the United States—and her deadly fixer, Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), is right by her side. As the ABC hit heads into its final season, Young takes us inside the Oval Office.
Is Mellie truly equipped for this job?
She will fail gloriously here and there because, well, she’s Mellie. But that won’t stop her. She’ll be an amazing president! She harbors no illusions about the difficulty of the job. After all, she spent years as First Lady. She does forget, though, about one thing: her gender. Everything Mellie does as president will be covered in a sexist patina. There’s way too much interest in what she wears and whether or not she’s having a good hair day—things that are never a part of the conversation when it comes to male leaders.
Will that also play out in her personal life?
It certainly will. We’ve never had a single female president, right? Can you be the leader of the free world and still take time to go out on a date? I think we got this extra season in part because [series creator] Shonda Rhimes had some very specific gender-related stories she needed to tell.
Is there a time jump when the series returns?
We come back immediately after the events of [last season’s] finale but in the course of our first episode we will sweep through the first 100 days of Mellie’s tenure in office.
Olivia has gone toxic. Is Mellie a pawn in her ruthless rise to the top?
Liv, as chief of staff, has all the power for good, but she also has all the power for evil now that she’s secretly running [the covert government agency] B613. This season is absolutely existential for Liv. There’s a real fight for her soul, and Mellie is just a chess piece. There is so much Mellie doesn’t know—so much that Liv is keeping from her—including Cyrus being behind the assassination of Frankie Vargas. Mellie doesn’t know about Luna’s connection to Frankie’s death. There’s plenty of accelerant here. [Laughs] We’re just waiting for the fire!
Still, Mellie and Liv make a great team.
Oh, yes! As a Scandal fan—and an emancipated, thinking woman—I love seeing the two of them together and running things. Nothing could please me more. As a team they are formidable and thoughtful and shrewd and courageous. And they are making history. Mellie just on her own can be all of those things, of course, but having Liv by her side just makes it exponentially more.
So we don’t have to worry about Mellie’s ability to handle stress? She does have a history of being emotionally fragile when the you-know-what hits the fan. And she’s certainly been known to hit the bottle.
Mellie is not an emotional wallower. Well, I guess Smelly Mellie is evidence against that theory but that was grief—a human being processing the devastating death of her son. But she pulled herself together and moved forward and now she’s bringing the full force of her soul to the top job in the country.
And, to be fair, it did take balls for her to step out on that inauguration stage knowing she might be assassinated.
Mellie has wanted to be president since she was in diapers but that moment at the inauguration burned away any sort of frivolous, self-aggrandizing, narcissistic parts of that dream. If Mellie was only doing this POTUS thing for Mellie, she would never have walked out there. Not ever! But she realized her greater mission. She was walking out there for all women in history. It had to be done. At this point, I’d like to think that Mellie is more identified with the office than with herself. And isn’t that we want in a president?
A female president. A gay male VP. Who knew that a show that was once so over-the-top would become comfort food for progressives?
And don’t forget that they’re all Republicans! [Laughs] Scandal started out to be this Greek tragedy, high-stakes opera, you know? And real life has totally outpaced us in that arena, so much so that people now consider our crazy show to be comforting, to be their solace! That, in itself, is a tribute to Shonda. She’s never lost the trajectory of the characters and yet, in a world that can change diametrically, our show has survived and come to mean something very different from what it was at the beginning. That’s a big deal and I give her endless kudos and awe and props for that. Everyone in the Scandal family is striving to present an alternative narrative that reminds people that we are capable of creating a world built on inclusion—a world that can still be unfettered and sometimes diabolical but one that remembers we are all humans who want the best for each other. If that’s an alternative narrative to the reality of today’s world, hey, I’ll take it!
Are you ready to say goodbye to this gig?
No! I know Shonda made the right decision to end Scandal, but I’d show up to this party every day for the rest of my life. I can’t imagine my days not being filled with my Scandal family. I feel very confident we will all stay in each other’s lives, but the real nuts and bolts of the job—showing up every day and together delivering our best—is something I will miss dearly. To end this series feels as life-changing as it felt when we started it. Every time we do something for the last time, like appear at our last TCA panel or sit down for our last season-premiere table read, it’s like a stab to our hearts. We are an inordinately sentimental bunch at Scandal and we’ve been crying—constantly!
Scandal, Season Premiere, Oct. 5, 9/8c, ABC