Scandal nearly cast Connie Britton as Olivia Pope

Justin Harp
Photo credit: CMT

From Digital Spy

Kerry Washington has turned Scandal's badass Washington fixer Olivia Pope into one of the most iconic TV characters ever. Would it surprise you to know she wasn't ABC's first choice?

As the ABC series nears its 100th episode, showrunner Shonda Rhimes is revealing that she initially faced pressure from higher-ups to cast Nashville's Connie Britton or other white actresses in the role.

Rhimes refused to even consider that possibility because the real-life woman on whom Olivia Pope is based - former Bush administration crisis manager Judy Smith - is black.

"Nothing felt more important than the sense of outsiderness," Rhimes told The Hollywood Reporter. "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'."

Her long-time casting director Linda Lowy chimed in: "The network was reading us their top choices, and it was Connie and all white women. I panicked. Somebody finally piped up, 'We're going to have to redo this list'."

The casting of Olivia Pope ultimately came down to Jill Scott, Anika Noni Rose and Kerry Washington, but Lowy knew "it was Kerry from the moment" she introduced her to Shonda Rhimes.

Kerry was obviously the right choice for the role and earned both Primetime Emmy Award and Golden Globe nominations, but she's now joked: "This would have been a great role for Connie Britton!"

No spoilers here but Connie Britton has some free time on her hands these days. Maybe Shonda Rhimes has a vacancy on the Gladiators squad that needs filling?

Scandal airs its 100th episode tonight (April 13) at 9pm ET on ABC.

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