Scandal creator Shonda Rhimes has confirmed reports ABC network bosses originally wanted Connie Britton to play political fixer Olivia Pope in the TV drama.
Rhimes reveals she fought executives, insisting a black actress should star – and eventually the role went to Kerry Washington.
“Nothing felt more important than the sense of outsiderness,” Rhimes tells The Hollywood Reporter. “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, 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 network was reading us their top choices, and it was Connie and all white women. I panicked.”
But casting director Linda Lowy offered up Washington, Jill Scott, and Anika Noni Rose, adding, “It was Kerry from the moment I took her to meet Shonda.”
Even Washington, who recently celebrated the show’s 100th episode with her castmates, admits Britton would have been another perfect choice to play Olivia Pope.
Friday Night Lights star Britton went on to star in country music drama Nashville until her character, Rayna Jaymes, was killed off following a car crash during the recent fifth season of the show. She also portrayed Faye Resnick in The People Vs O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.
Meanwhile, Kerry has turned her links to Scandal into a small business empire – she channelled inspiration from Pope while creating nail polish for OPI.
The firm’s creative ambassador collaborated with designers at the beauty house on their fall/winter OPI Washington D.C. lacquer collection last year (16), and used the character and political links during brainstorming sessions.
The OPI Washington D.C. line is made up of 15 hues and every color has a fun name, like Squeaker of the House, Pale to the Chief, and Madam President. There are also two bonus shades, Kerry Blossom and Liv in the Gray, on offer as a limited edition.