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'Scandal': Sandra Oh Reveals Why Shonda Rhimes Wouldn't Let Her Play "Olivia Pope"

Sandra Oh Reveals Why Shonda Rhimes Wouldn't Let Her Play "Olivia Pope" On Scandal
June 26, 2020 - 19:31 / Hayley Paskevich

While Kerry Washington ended up playing "Olivia Pope" on Shonda Rhimes' show Scandal, Sandra Oh shared that she was interested in the part! Here's why she got turned down! 

Sandra Oh recently revealed that she desperately wanted to play Scandal's leading lady, "Olivia Pope"! 

As Entertainment Tonight shares, the newest edition of Variety's "Actors on Actors" series sees Oh recount her experience of reading the Scandal pilot to Kerry Washington, who was ultimately cast in the coveted role.

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Sandra Oh poses on the red carpet at the 2020 Oscars.

Oh directly approached Shonda Rhimes about playing "Olivia"

"I remember exactly where I was when I read that damn pilot," she told Washington. "I was on Grey’s [Anatomy]. 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?'"

Oh then went to Scandal creator Shonda Rhimes and asked her if she would be able to have the part. However, Rhimes also happened to be the creator of Grey's Anatomy, on which Oh played "Cristina Yang" at the time, and Rhimes wanted her to continue that role!

"I remember going to Shonda, and it’s like, 'How could I do this? What is this script? Could I do this too?'" Oh shared. "She goes, 'No, you’ve got to play Cristina Yang!' It’s so wonderful and rare when you get in your hands something that you know is electric, that you can feel." Oh said she was "so glad" Washington ended up booking the role.

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Kerry Washington attends the 2020 Sundance Film Festival - "Sylvie's Love" Premiere at Eccles Center Theatre on January 27, 2020

Washington talks about her experience starring on Scandal

Washington then talked about what it was like playing "Olivia Pope" on Scandal. "I don’t feel like there’s anything that I haven’t been asked to make real," she revealed to Variety.

"It’s just a gymnasium of character, where you’re just required to, week after week, be in these heightened experiences of the most important moments of a person’s life, so that requires a level of athleticism almost," Washington said. "I felt like I, too, was very protective of Olivia Pope -- and devoted. Maybe that’s the right word: I was so devoted to her."

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Oh on her Grey's Anatomy role: "I would go toe-to-toe with Shonda"

Oh also opened up about her time on Grey's Anatomy. "What I was able to get from Grey’s is to have the responsibility and the relationship with the writer to be able to direct where she’s going," she said of her experience on the show.

"If something kind of came up which was like, 'That is completely wrong,' I would go toe-to-toe with Shonda and a lot of the writers, which has been challenging. But I think ultimately, for the entire product and our relationship, if you’re fighting for the show, if you’re fighting for your character, people can tell that."