Bellamy Young reacts in mock outrage when she learns that early in the first season of “Scandal,” her character, Mellie Grant, was considered a prime suspect in the death of Amanda Tanner.
“How can you even think that of me?” she asks with a laugh.
We explain it’s because of a line Mellie delivers to her husband, President Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn), about every single person in the White House being willing to do absolutely anything to protect him.
“Mellie has a very specific agenda,” Young allows, “and is willing to use whatever means necessary to get that agenda across. Keeping Fitz in the White House is a large part of that agenda. Would she go so far as to murder? I want to say no — but I haven’t seen all of the circumstances our smart writers can concoct yet.”
Zap2it talked with Young — whom you’ve also seen on “Criminal Minds,” Dirty Sexy Money” and “Scrubs” — about Mellie’s plans for Fitz, their epic fight scene in the Season 2 premiere and playing pregnant.
Zap2it: How do you see your character — is she sort of a Lady Macbeth?
Bellamy Young: There’s been a lot of talk about Lady Macbeth with the writers. But I really believe — I’m so blessed, because they always write the pain under any anger. It’s always very grounded; her psychological life is very rich and grounded. It’s not one-note, it’s not histrionic. But I also just think we’re catching Mellie in a moment. …
In the moment, the man she loves, the man she’s married to, found the love of his life after they got married. It’s terrible. And she’s in the most public office in our country. She’s in a pressure cooker, and none of us reacts well when we’re under pressure. Maybe the Dalai Lama can keep a smile on his face. [laughs] But Mellie is trying to stay pragmatic and stay on course, and it leaves her less than kind on many occasions. … I really feel like she feels Fitz is the one who’s changed, and she can’t believe it. You feel abandoned, and of course you feel gutted because of the love, but also there’s a country to run. She’s a little awed that he could be so carefree.
What have you pieced together about her history?
Mellie is old money. We’ve taken to thinking that she’s Virginia old money, but we also have a home in Santa Barbara, my family does. She was top of her class at Harvard, Yale Law. I think Tony and I have agreed — and this is all largely me and Tony talking. We’ll get a script and be like, “Oh no, it’s this.” But Tony and I are thinking we met at Yale in law school and really started this dream together. Which is why it’s all the more gutting that he’s going off the reservation. So a little bit of Bill and Hillary [Clinton], I think, has informed our thought of falling in love and our falling into public stride together.
What was it like to film the huge fight Fitz and Mellie have in the season premiere?
It was literally breathtaking. He screamed himself hoarse — he had to scream at me all afternoon. But there were a few takes that were just baldly terrifying. But it’s the work you dream of as an actor, it really is. … I spent a lot of last year — I love Tony so much, and he’s such a honey pot, that yelling at him would just make me nervous. … Now we really have settled into a good rhythm, because our relationship is so well-written, and trust just takes time to build. So when we got that first script, we were really looking forward to that, and Tony just killed it. Killed it. It was beautiful.
In big-picture terms, what is Mellie up to this season?
Definitely Mellie uses [her pregnancy] at every turn to forward her agenda. What’s astonishing, though, is — [“Scandal” creator] Shonda [Rhimes] is very secretive, and every time we get the script, we’re just as amazed as everyone who eventually is watching them. I remember last year we got episode 3, and Jeff Perry was like, “Oh, Cyrus is gay.” It was new news, and I feel like with every episode, we get a little drip of juicy, wonderful information, and it’s pretty much that way with Mellie. I’m excited to see where it’s all going.
When Mellie goes off-script about East Sudan in the TV interview in the premiere, is she just trying to push Fitz to a decision, or is she genuinely concerned?
She’s definitely never, ever, ever going to sacrifice the good of the country. Mellie has enough ways to manipulate Fitz without ever hurting the country. Mellie wants to run the country, so whatever I’m doing it’s definitely always with America’s best interest at heart. So I think we ought to go to war, I think there’s this terrible genocide happening. Fitz has had two weeks of hemming and hawing … and trying to be diplomatic or think it through, and I think action is both necessary and overdue. So I’ve tried to give as much evenhanded counsel as I can. Now I just have to make something happen. … It’s for the good of the world, and Fitz is being obstinate, so I’m just going around him. [laughs]
It’s terribly narcissistic, but it’s always — she’s a megalomaniac, right? Because she’s always certain she’s right and just wants to rule everything. But it’s never malevolent. She really has her conviction, and it’s frustrating [to her] that other people don’t see how right she is.
How has it been playing pregnant so far?
[Costume designer] Lyn Paolo is amazing, and there’s an amazing apparatus that will continue to grow. It looks fantastic, and she’s dressing me in normal clothes and has impeccable taste. But it’s really fun because people forget and they give you their chairs, let you go first. They’re extra-considerate of you. [laughs] It’s pretty funny. I’m like, “You guys, it’s foam.”
“Scandal” airs at 10 p.m. ET Thursdays on ABC.
Photo/Video credit: ABC