Who ABC Wanted To Cast As Scandal's Olivia Pope

scandal abc olivia pope kerry washington

Scandal has become one of ABC's most pivotal hits of recent years, and it's a big part of the network's Thursday night lineup. Kerry Washington has starred as Olivia Pope for the past six seasons, and the show is on the verge of hitting its milestone 100th episode. The Scandal crew got together to celebrate the occasion, and creator Shonda Rhimes has revealed the actress ABC originally wanted to cast as the leading lady, saying this:

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.'

Apparently, the race of the lead actress was never explicitly clear when Shonda Rhimes and Co. were beginning the casting process. Connie Britton is pretty undeniably a fabulous actress, and she was the heart of Nashville for years before her character's untimely passing, but she just wasn't who Rhimes was looking for as Olivia Pope. The reveal to THR that Olivia Pope's race wasn't a factor in the writing for Scandal is a fascinating reveal now that we're six seasons into the series with the immaculate Kerry Washington as the star.

As it turns out, Connie Britton wasn't the only white actress on ABC's ideal shortlist for Olivia Pope. Casting director Linda Lowy also revealed that the list was comprised of Britton and a number of other white actresses until somebody made it clear that the character of Olivia Pope was intended for a black actress. Still, Kerry Washington doesn't harbor any ill-will toward ABC for originally intending to cast somebody else, saying this:

This would have been a great role for Connie Britton!

At this point, it's difficult to imagine any other actress in the role of Olivia Pope. Kerry Washington has made the role her own in every way, and we should all be grateful that Shonda Rhimes stuck to her guns and held out for a black actress. Hopefully the show still has a long history ahead of it. Scandal has reinvented itself a few times in some big ways, and it hasn't been afraid to make big changes to Olivia's supporting cast.

The milestone 100th episode of Scandal airs on Thursday, April 13 at 9 p.m. ET. Check out our midseason TV premiere guide and our summer TV premiere schedule to discover all your other small screen viewing options, and be sure to take a gander at our 2017 rundown of TV renewals and cancellations. If the big 100th episode has put you in the mood for Scandal days gone by, drop by Netflix to catch the first five seasons streaming. Our 2017 Netflix premiere schedule can show you all your other potential picks for streaming TV.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).