‘Scandal’ at AU
Bryna Kramer | 10/28/16 9:28am
| Updated 10/28/16 9:28am
Keira Waites / AU Photo Collective
Perhaps you’ve seen him before in the 1990 film “Ghost” or in 2014’s “Divergent.” Or maybe you’ve heard his voice in the 1999 Disney movie “Tarzan.” Most, however, will know him as President Fitzgerald Grant from the hit TV show “Scandal.” Actor, director and producer Tony Goldwyn spoke at American University on Saturday, October 23 during the Kennedy Political Union’s annual All-American Weekend event. The event, held in Bender Arena, was moderated by AU Professor Stef Woods from the College of Arts and Sciences.
In an interview with the American Word prior to the event, Goldwyn discussed how it feels to be a president on screen during the time of an actual presidential election and a time when entertainment and politics have been so intertwined.
“It’s completely surreal,” he said. “I feel like I’m living in an alternate universe. As you can imagine, it’s all we talk about at ‘Scandal’.”
He also discussed the recent explosion of political dramas and what he sees as the reasons behind the popularity of shows like “Scandal” or “House of Cards.” He said that for years, it seemed like nobody wanted to watch political dramas. “The West Wing” then came along at the end of President Bill Clinton’s second term and showed an “idealized” presidency. Goldwyn believes that a change in the portrayal of politics in dramas came during the Bush administration, a time where a lot of cynicism came into the American psyche. Afterward, “Scandal,” “House of Cards” and “Veep” all premiered and presented cynical views of the President.
Throughout his talk, Goldwyn spoke highly of his co-star, Kerry Washington. Washington plays the main character Olivia Pope, whose role was actually inspired by AU alumnus Judy Smith.
“We just kind of fell together in that we never have to talk about anything,” he said. “We’re just on the same page generally, and out of that [we] very quickly developed a deep kind of trust… If you can play those scenes with someone that you have tremendous trust with, you feel safe and you can kind of look out for each other, and Kerry and I have that.”
Goldwyn admitted in his interview with the American Word that working with Washington was part of the reason that he agreed to do “Scandal.”
“We were friendly,” said Goldwyn. “We had been involved in social advocacy together and knew each other a bit and I really liked her. Every time I saw Kerry Washington in a movie, I would go, ‘Who is that amazing actress that played that role?’ And then at the end I would go, ‘That’s Kerry Washington.’ She was just so different in everything she did and I had been feeling for a couple of years, ‘I’ve got to work with Kerry on something.’”
Goldwyn hinted at what’s coming in the newest season of “Scandal,” which premieres in January. Similar to our nation’s political scene over the past few months, the sixth season will focus on the show’s upcoming national election and look at what really happens during that cycle, especially with his character’s ex-wife Mellie Grant, played by Bellamy Young, as the Republican nominee.
“On “Scandal,” there is a chance we might have our first woman president just like in the real world, so it’s been fun,” Goldwyn said. “We’ve had a lot of fun with living in the parallel world.”
Activism and Politics
Goldwyn also spent a lot of time talking about criminal justice reform and his personal involvement in politics.
He spoke about his work with the Innocence Project, which was founded in 1992 by Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck at Cardozo School of Law. According to the organization’s website, they exonerate the wrongly-convicted through DNA testing and work to reform the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice.
Goldwyn first got involved with the project when he was directing the 2010 film “Conviction.” “Conviction” depicts the true story of Betty Anne Waters, a single mother who works tirelessly to free her wrongfully-convicted brother, Kenny. Eventually, with the help of attorney Barry Scheck from the Innocence Project, she is able to free him after he spent 18 years in jail.
“I cannot imagine spending one night in prison, even for a crime I did commit, so to spend years and often decades behind bars as an innocent man is incomprehensible to me,” Goldwyn said.
Goldwyn said he likes to use his status as a celebrity to make a positive difference in this world.
“I feel that celebrities are granted a big platform, and that’s a tremendous opportunity for activism,” Goldwyn said. “I feel very strongly that every American has the right and therefore the responsibility to use their voice, to effect positive change in their community and their family and their world. I believe that all activism starts locally, like [starting] with your family and your friends and [working]…from there. I do feel that morally we all have the responsibility to be activists, because change does not happen unless we take responsibility for ourselves.”
He also told students, faculty and parents that all of their voices matter in this election.
“I have always felt as an American that, because I have the right to vote, because I have the right to use my voice, that right is a responsibility,” Goldwyn said.
He believes that, especially in this election, if people make the conscious choice not to vote that they are abdicating a crucial responsibility.
“As Americans, we have the right to guide our political process, to choose our leaders,… to effect change and to use our voice to speak out…,” Goldwyn said. “To not do that is a mortal sin in my view, in two ways. Number one: change does not happen if we don’t make it happen… The other thing is to not exercise that right and that responsibility is, in my view, to really spit on all of the thousands of people who have fought and bled and died, millions of people… to give us that right.”
Goldwyn said that one of the things that has always impressed him about AU is the high percentage of students that are involved in political activism on campus and that try to get out there and make a difference in the world.
“I think that is a real hallmark of this generation and it’s what gives me optimism about the 21st century, honestly,” Goldwyn said to the crowd. “I’ve noticed it in the college-age generation today, in general, but I think that AU really embodies that.”