Exclusive chat with the man who surprised us all at the end of season ...
By Anslem Samuel Rocque
Fans of Shonda Rhimes’ Scandal were left with a host of questions after the season two finale. Namely, what’s the dynamic between Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) and her mysterious father? Well, if you’re like us, you can’t wait until the fall for answers. That’s why in the August 12 edition of JET, which is on stands now, we interrogate Joe Morton, the veteran actor (Terminator 2: Judgment Day, A Different World, Brother From Another Planet) behind Rowan Pope, to see if he’d crack under pressure. But check out JETmag.com’s extended interview from the cutting room floor.
How did you get involved with Scandal?
When I first got to LA I’d heard about the show, but I hadn’t seen it and I just started watching it on Netflix. I watched the first season and thought, “Wow, this is a great show. I’d love to be on it.” Two weeks later, I get a call from my agent that they want me to come on and do a part. I had a conversation with the producers who told me up front where it was going. Which of course made it more intriguing for me. In fact, I was the only one… Well, one of very few, who knew where it was going to be by the end of the season. Kerry didn’t even know.
Did having that knowledge help you with the character and your performance?
Of course, it’s good to have a big secret like that. It’s wonderful for a character to know, what I didn’t know was what exactly Rowan’s relationship with Olivia was. Clearly he was doing things that seemed to be against her. But on one hand you could look at it like he doesn’t like the fact that she’s going out with the president, and she’s also fooling around with this guy Jake… But then there are all the political ramifications in terms of what he does in his professional life.
How was it filming that final scene?
We actually had to do it several different ways because we don’t really know what their relationship is. We know that they haven’t seen each other in a long time, but we don’t know on what grounds they separated, who the mother is…it’s just so many questions. What does she know about what Rowan does? Did she get into what she does because of what he does? So a lot of questions still remain unanswered.
You’ve had quite an extensive career that spans from theatre to film and television. Besides Rowan Pope, which character do most people remember you for?
Anytime somebody recognizes me it’s either Brother From Another Planet or Terminator 2. Every once in a great while, which makes me happy, somebody recognizes me from either Art, which is a play I did on Broadway, or Stuff Happens, which is a play I did in London. But most times it’s Terminator, Speed, Brother From Another Planet and, of course, A Different World.
That’s right, you did play Whitley’s (Jasmine Guy) love interest Byron Douglas, who was also a politician. How’d you land that gig?
Debbie Allen, who was producing and directing the show at the time, and I had worked together on Broadway. She played my sister in Raisin in the Sun. So she called me and said would I come on and do the show. Now situation comedies are not my favorite things to do, so we made a deal. I basically told her if you give me all the real politics of the character and the romance element with Jasmine Guy, then we could leave all the jokes to everybody else and that this should be a lot of fun, which it was. I had a great time.
You also wound up being part of one of the greatest breakups of all time when Whitley left Byron at the altar for Dwayne Wayne.
That’s how it was set up so that’s what was going to happen. We knew that from very beginning that there would be a point where Whitley and Byron walk down the aisle and she’d go back with the guy that everybody wanted her to be with.
You seem to always know where the characters are going before everybody else. So has Shonda shared any secrets with you about season three of Scandal?
She has secrets she doesn’t tell anyone. Sometimes she doesn’t know the answer to certain questions until she actually sits down and works it out herself. Right now they’re still figuring out what season three’s story arch will be. We’ll just have to wait to see how it plays out.
Be sure to pick up the August 12 issue of JET, which is on stands now, for more of this exclusive interview.