‘Scandal’s series finale is right around the corner, and HollywoodLife talked EXCLUSIVELY with star Joe Morton about the last episodes, saying goodbye to such an iconic show, and what the series has meant to him.
It’s the end of an era. After 7 seasons, Scandal will air its series finale on April 19. While it is bittersweet to say goodbye, your favorite characters are going to go out with a bang. “To be even categorized as an era I think is a wonderful thing,” Joe Morton told HollywoodLife EXCLUSIVELY. Scandal changed the game when it premiered in 2012. Kerry Washington, who plays Olivia Pope, became the first African American actress to lead a primetime network drama in nearly 40 years.
HollywoodLife talked with Emmy winner about the final episodes and how Rowan will come back into the picture. We also discussed Rowan and Olivia’s complicated relationship, seeing a softer side of Rowan, what the show has meant to him, and whether or not he’d be down for a revival years down the road. Check out our full Q&A below!
How do you think Rowan feels now that Olivia’s out of the White House and on the path to redemption?
Joe Morton: I think that he keeps trying to get her to understand the definition of power, and she, for a little while back there, got muddled in the wrong sense of what power means. You know, the thing about being in the White House is, as we see in real life, power can actually corrupt and corrupt in the worst kinds of ways, where you think anything you want can be done for the reasons you might consider to be the right reasons and they’re not. So outside of that, I think he is worried about her as a human being. When you’re putting yourself in a position where you’ve lost your friends and you’re on your own, I think he’s like any father. What do I do because my daughter keeps messing up here?
Olivia’s certainly going down a dangerous path in trying to expose Cyrus, who was behind the plane hijacking. We all know how far he’s willing to go to get what he wants. Do you think Olivia may turn to her father for help?
Joe Morton: I don’t think so. I think if she’s on the path to redemption, then the fear might be on her part that going to her father, Eli, is one thing but going to Rowan may not be the way she wants to go. Because going to Rowan means somebody has to die, and that’s not what she wants.
How do you think Rowan feels about Cyrus’s latest power play?
Joe Morton: I think that Rowan looks at it as a huge fiasco that will hopefully be uncovered in time for his daughter’s redemption and in time to save the republic, which I think is foremost on his mind. Whenever anyone decides that a coup is what’s necessary, then you have to question and remember your history: how many times has that actually worked for the good of the people? There’s not too many times where that’s the truth. I think since he hasn’t been involved he’s trying to stay uninvolved unless it becomes absolutely necessary for him to become involved.
What can you tease about what’s going to happen in these final episodes?
Joe Morton: Again, I think you’re just going to get a smattering of him until towards the end, at which point lots of things are going to happen that are quite surprising and quite mind-blowing. I think he decides to finally to get involved in a way that he hopes could rectify the situation.
On a Shonda Rhimes finale scale, where does Scandal’s land?
Joe Morton: It’s enormously powerful. When we finished the table read, it was one of the first times, if ever, there was silence in the room before the applause. It also had been an enormously emotional read for all kinds of reasons, and not simply because it was the last episode.
What’s been your favorite aspect of Olivia and Rowan’s relationship?
Joe Morton: From an acting point of view, it’s wonderfully dysfunctional. You have two people — father and daughter — who love each other enormously, but often find themselves on opposite ends of the same stick and in battle with one another. The interesting thing about being in battle between the two of them is that he encourages her to fight back. He’ll say, “I’ll dominate you if I can, but it depends on what you do.” In that way, it’s enormously instructive, especially for what this man is telling this woman — to be self-reliant, to be very much a part of her own truth and her own light and her own strength. She should not fear anyone, including him, which I think in some ways is the way a father should raise his daughter,especially when it comes to the kinds of things that are happening in the world today, where women are now just beginning to talk about how the male-dominated universe has treated them over the centuries, if you will, and are beginning to turn around and say time is up. I think that’s what Eli/Rowan has been teaching his daughter from the very beginning, that time was always up, that she always needed to be able to stand on her own two feet.
What was it like to showcase Rowan’s softer side with Quinn and her baby?
Joe Morton: It was wonderful to put Rowan in a situation where he is recollecting what it should have been like when his daughter was born, and I don’t mean the actual birth, but I mean taking care of a baby in the house. Her bedroom, Liv’s bedroom, hasn’t changed since she left the house. He kept it intact. So to have a baby in the house I think for him was enormously uplifting and an opportunity for him to make up for things he hadn’t done with Liv.
What has Scandal meant to you?
Joe Morton: So many things. For the longest time in my career, because of the way many black characters on television or in film were portrayed, I always literally and deliberately went for the good guys, because there were just too many black bad guys in the entertainment world. I just wanted to be able to represent a whole other side of what it means to be a man of color in this country. So when Rowan came around, I actually was looking for a very smart bad guy. If I was going to play a villain, then he’s got to be smart, he’s got to be articulate, he’s got to be powerful. Literally, this role dropped into my lap. It was a phone call from one of the producers, and they offered me the role, which seemingly came out of nowhere. But at the same time, if I wanted to look at it synchronistically, I had been watching the show on my computer because I hadn’t seen the first season. So I binged the first season and fell in love with it, and I asked my manager and agents to se if they could get me on this show for a couple of episodes. Before all of that happened, this phone call took place. So it turned my life around as an actor. To be dropped into a show that was that much of a hit and to play character that was the father of the lead character and to be at odds with that lead was just great. To be part of a show where the lead character is a black woman and that hadn’t happened in 45 years before then was also a tremendous thing to be involved with. Shonda Rhimes is an amazing, wonderful, caring individual. She’s not just a brilliant writer and a brilliant showrunner, the way she handles the cast and the way she takes care of us is extraordinary. Everyone has said as they’ve come to their last days, a group like this doesn’t happen often in TV or anywhere in terms of the entertainment business where you have 11 or 12 as regulars who all truly get along and care for one another. It just doesn’t happen. That in and of itself is a miracle.
What was your last day of filming like?
Joe Morton: I think probably the most odd thing about it was having to begin to say goodbye to people that I may not see for a long time. I’m not talking about the actors. I have a feeling we’re going to try and stay in touch with one another as much as we can. To say goodbye to the crew and a couple of producers that I may not see for a long time, that was kind of odd.
We live in a world of reboots and revivals, would you consider doing a revival 10 years down the road?
Joe Morton: Oh, I’m sure we all would be depending on what our situations are like. It’s certainly an intriguing idea. Bellamy [Young] is kind of putting forth the idea that there should be a Scandal movie, so we’ll see what happens.