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Originally published August 8, 2013 at 5:05 AM | Page modified August 8, 2013 at 11:12 AM

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Corrected version

All eyes on Kerry Washington, return of ‘Scandal’

Emmy-nominated Kerry Washington talks about the surprise hit that is “Scandal,” returning to ABC for a third season on Oct. 3, and having Season 1 and 2 marathons on BET starting Saturday, Aug. 10.

San Francisco Chronicle



Season 3 premiere Oct. 3, ABC. Season 1 and 2 marathons on BET starting Saturday.

Tonight in Prime Time

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During a recent ABC network party at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, part of the Television Critics Association tour, the press stuck digital recorders toward the faces of people like Jeff Garlin (“The Goldbergs”), and Sophia Lowe and Peter Gadiot (“Once Upon a Time in Wonderland”), but almost everyone seemed to be keeping one eye on the ballroom entrance for the star of a third-season show: Emmy-nominated Kerry Washington, who plays Washington, D.C., fixer Olivia Pope on Shonda Rhimes’ hit “Scandal.”

Other cast members were there, but it was Washington everyone wanted to see. Wearing a cocktail dress — and a wedding band from new husband, San Francisco Forty Niner Nnamdi Asomugha — she answered questions about the forthcoming season of “Scandal,” insisting that she and the rest of the cast are almost as out of the loop as the show’s fans.

She did have a little information about the first episode of the third season, which airs on Oct. 3. (BET, which recently acquired syndication rights, will air “Scandal” Season 1 and 2 marathons starting Saturday.)

“The show picks up right where we left off, just a moment later,” Washington said. “It’s very exciting that we get to learn more about Olivia and her father.”

After that, Washington said she doesn’t know where the third season will go. “We’re never privy to that information. I can’t even tell you what’s in the second episode, but I can tell you it’s really good,” she laughed.

Washington says she hasn’t begun to get tired of Olivia Pope.

“What I love most about the role is the complexity of Olivia, how strong she is and how vulnerable she is, and how somehow she can focus those things in her life, depending on the circumstance. I love that challenge.”

Looking back from the vantage point of two powerhouse seasons and Emmy nominations for both Washington as lead actress in a drama and Dan Bucatinsky, for guest actor in a drama, it’s difficult to imagine there was ever a time when the series’ success was in doubt.

But that’s not how Washington recalls it. “Thank God our first season was only seven episodes because the writers were like, ‘Well, this seven might be all we’re going to get so let’s just go for it, and let’s go hard and let’s put it all out on the table. Then when we got picked up, we’re like, ‘oh well, we can’t pull back now.’ ”

She also recalls when the buzz started to build for the show, back in that first season.

“I have to say one of the things I was so grateful for was that we were still working,” she laughed. “But as this buzz was happening, and we could feel it around us ... and we were like ‘Oh, people are really paying attention to the show.’ We were all so busy memorizing our three-page monologues, that we couldn’t really obsess about it. It’s better to be able to stay busy.”

ABC Entertainment Group President Paul Lee called Washington’s Emmy nod “historic,” but the actress was eager to emphasize the ensemble nature of the show.

“ ... I believe in my heart that this nomination belongs to all of them because there’s no way you can play a character like Olivia Pope for 22 episodes without just reflecting the excellence around you. Every time you’re watching Olivia you’re really seeing the excellence of the other actors and the members of our crew.”

She acknowledged the significance of an African-American woman starring in a hit drama show while saying television needs to reflect the overall diversity of the American public.

“You know there’s been a lot of attention around the African-American actress thing, but I just think that there are just so many important stories to tell that we all deserve to have a place at the table,” she said. “It’s exciting to me that people have this woman in their homes, not just in the United States but all over the world.

“But what I’m most proud of is that our show is diverse in so many ways,” she continued. “Our show is diverse in terms of gender, in terms of age, in terms of sexual orientation, in terms of ethnicity, in terms of religion. And that to me is one of the things that’s special about the show. So it’s not just about a black woman. When you look at our cast you have Guillermo Diaz (who plays Huck), you have Jeff Perry (chief of staff Cyrus Beene who is married to Bucatinsky’s character), and you have Columbus Short (who plays Harrison Wright) and there’s just a range of characters.”

This article was corrected on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013. An earlier version listed an incorrect network.

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