Dan Bucatinsky Interview: ‘Scandal’ Game Changer Will Expose An Unexpected Quality In Almost Every Character

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Nothing like a game changer thrown into an already fast-paced and shock-filled season Scandal has been giving fans. The tangled twists of the vote rigging and President Fitz’ shooting is nothing compared to what’s next for Olivia Pope and all those in the White House. Dan Bucatinsky recently revealed about the “explosive” moments that are yet to come, and why he enjoys playing James Novak. And even more so, why working with Shonda Rimes is like nothing he’s ever been a part of before.

In tonight’s “Nobody Likes Babies” episode, get ready for all to be revealed. What’s next for James and Cyrus? Are we really going to see a change in most characters? Let’s put it this way, if the cast was on the edge of their seats during this table read, then you certainly will be too.

 

Scandal is just massive at this point. It has a fantastic cast and loyal fans. When did you realize it had gotten so big?
You know, I have to tell you it happened around November of this past year, November through December. It was right around the time that the voting rigging story started to kind of unfold. I guess it was the seventh episode of the season where I uncover the rigging and right around that time I started noticing more. Not just seeing a steady incline, but there was a lot more traffic on Twitter. The show was starting to trend during live tweets and I took a trip to New York—I mean I’m in the show a lot but I’m not a regular cast member—I was flying to New York with my kids to get to an event for a book I had written in June and suddenly it was all about Scandal. I went to the event and everyone there was stopping me about Scandal. It was supposed to be about the book [laughs] but people on the plane were stopping me and people on the subways were stopping me. It certainly felt like, ‘Wow. This must be really catching on!’ And since The Comeback, a show I was involved in with my partner Lisa Kudrow in 2005, I had not experienced something that felt like that. 

What’s it like to play such a character that is directly in the middle of this storyline and on the verge of uncovering something so big?
Well, first of all I love my character. I love the rest of the cast and I love how every character on this show, and on any kind of Shonda Rimes show, the characters always have wear more than one color and always wear more than one layer. I love the fact that James is somebody who has these two very, very strong compelling passions in his life, and sometimes they are at odds with each other and sometimes they’re not. But in this case they are. I mean the passion to be a journalist in the pursuit of the truth and the pursuit of possibly the biggest story of a lifetime, that blind ambition is in direct conflict with his passionate compelling wish James has to be a parent. And one definitely seems to be in conflict with another because the more James is willing to dig up the truth, the more it seems like he might face a reality that would make becoming a parent with his spouse impossible. I heard the most amounts of objections to my characters story would come from that very fact. People are like, ‘Why are you rocking the boat? Why are you ruining a good thing?’ You’ll find people genuinely mad at me, as well as the character. And it’s so interesting to me that at times is ‘Who really has the moral backbone on the show?’ And as this week’s episode will unfold it completes that entire scandal, so to speak.

Would you consider James more family or career oriented at this point? How will this affect his relationship with Cyrus?
Well, it all comes to a head. I don’t want to give away too much. [Laughs] Yes, I will say it’s hard to tell. I think ultimately James would ever really want to sacrifice his husband or his potential of being a father or anything. So in some ways I think his blind ambition to be like a [Robert Upshur] Woodward and [Carl] Bernstein journalist got the best of him. So to what degree he wants to try to fix that is hard to tell. But I don’t think it will go away. I don’t think the desire for a Pulitzer and the desire as a journalist is just going to go away regardless of what he winds up with. So I think my character and Cyrus have two very strong wants, and they butt heads.

What’s it been like working with Shonda Rimes on both Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy?
I produce for Grey’s Anatomy, and it’s fun to be in that writer’s room. Shonda is extremely busy and obviously bouncing in between Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, but she’s got an amazing mind. An unbelievable mind for story and character and for surprising turns. So when we have her at Grey’s you get a little taste of that. It’s an exciting thing to watch as a writer. As an actor again, it’s the same thing. Her words or anyone on her staff, the scripts on Scandal are so layered and fun. It’s something I haven’t experienced in the years of doing this both as an actor as a writer.

What’s the one big storyline, whether your character was a part of it or not, were you most shocked about at the table read?
Well, two of the most explosive episodes I found were one, the one called “Defiance”, which was episode 7 where I’m in Ohio and digging it up—because the backdrop was the president getting shot I remember reading that episode and just having my jaw drop. But the only other one that I think is probably my favorite and most challenging and most explosive is No. 13, which is coming up this Thursday. There are things that happen in it that are so—I mean we got the script on the same day as the table read. And every single actor was reading it as we were reading it. It was like a cold read. Nobody knew what was going to happen, and I’m telling you every single person in that room was on the edge of their seats. We shot it that way and it’s also some of the work that I’m most proud of.

I think what’s amazing about the show is how much is fit into one show. There’s so many storylines and the pace works.
I agree! I’m in awe. I’m in awe of it! I mean I’m a writer. I worked on Grey’s Anatomy, and I’m always in awe of the storytelling on Scandal. It’s very layered. It’s very fast, and they pack so much into an hour.

As the previews have shown, it’s a huge game-changer for all.
All will be revealed this week and teasing the audience. But it really is an explosive, explosive episode this Thursday that I feel like it will start to expose a quality in almost every character in the show that is unlike what you expected them to be like. Everybody behaves in a way that’s a little bit unlike what you thought they would be in the episode. And its one of the things I applaud about it. Everybody has a different side to them and it keeps the audience interested and guessing and sometimes angry. It’s just a very different way in approaching a narrative of one-hour television. So I love playing James. I love playing James because he’s not just one thing.

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