Before Kerry Washington made Olivia Pope the fierce leader of the gladiators, the executives at ABC had other ideas in mind, like casting Connie Britton.
When someone says Pope, I don’t think of the Vatican. I think of Kerry Washington on Thursday nights bringing the heat as Olivia Pope on Scandal. I think of the distinguished way Joe Morton enters the room and makes everyone feel small as Rowan / Eli Pope. For six seasons, I have dutifully followed Olivia into the sun and back out again. And most of that is due in part to Kerry Washington’s nuanced performance as the gladiator in white.
So it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role. Especially when we consider the magnitude of what Shonda Rhimes has done in the television landscape. In addition to the 13 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy she has under her belt, she launched two successful television shows: Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder. But what makes those two shows most important is that they’re each led by African-American women.
However, according to Entertainment Weekly, this almost wasn’t going to be the case for Scandal. In fact, ABC (the network that’s exclusively hosted Shonda Rhimes’ shows for quite some time) almost got Connie Britton for the role.
As Shonda Rhimes explained:
"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.’"
Because the series is actually based on a person in D.C., Rhimes felt it was important to keep it as close to that person’s heritage as possible. Luckily, she knew Washington was the right person for the role the moment they met.
And nothing against Connie Britton at all, but no.