Kerry Washington did an amazing job portraying the role of Olivia Pope during Scandal’s run, however another actress also really wanted to play the part before it was assigned.
During a video chat for Variety’s Actors on Actors issue, Sandra Oh, who was speaking with Washington, shared she immediately wanted to play the role after reading the pilot. At the time, Oh was starring in Shonda Rhimes’ hit series Grey’s Anatomy.
“I’ve got to tell you, I remember exactly where I was when I read that damn pilot, I was on Grey’s,” Oh recalled. “We were on stage five. Someone snuck it to me, I don’t know who it was, but I got my hands on that pilot and I read it and I was just like, how could I play Olivia Pope?”
She then remembers approaching Rhimes about the role: “I remember going to Shonda, and it’s like, ‘How could I do this? What is this script? Could I do this too?’ She goes, ‘No, you’ve got to play Cristina Yang [Oh’s character on Grey’s Anatomy]!’”
Washington then responded while laughing, “You have a job girl!”
Oh then closed out the convo by saying how excited she was that Kerry ended up with the part. “But I also feel like it’s so wonderful and rare when you get in your hands something that you know is electric, that you can feel,” she said. “I’m so glad it was you.”
The character of Olivia Pope is based on infamous Washington fixer Judy Smith, a Black woman. Kerry Washington played Pope in all seven seasons of the hit series and earned Golden Globe and Emmy nominations for Best Actress.