By Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal ®
Last week I had the chance to talk to the delightful Bellamy Young, First Lady Mellie Grant on Scandal. In case you missed the great news, ABC recently ordered a full season of Scandal so we will get 22 episodes this season. That means viewers will be treated to much more of the First Lady’s devious scheming.
Ms. Young and I had a lovely conversation, although the North Carolina native was somewhat tight-lipped about what is coming up on the juicy drama (which airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on ABC). She laughed and told me she’s had to go through publicity training to learn to not give away the show’s secrets. But she did have lots to say about the Grant’s turbulent marriage, where their two children are and what it’s like to be fake pregnant.
TV Gal: I’m always surprised by how much sympathy I have for Mellie. How difficult is it to play a character who can be so awful without alienating her from viewers?
Bellamy Young: I’m blessed because our writers are incredible. They always put the pain underneath the anger. It’s always coming from a place of being so hurt and there’s no one who can’t relate to that. We’re never worse than to the people that we love in those dark, dark moments. It really does feel like Tony [Goldwyn, who plays President Fitzgerald Grant] and I have decades of history between us and there have been so many good times. We have two lovely children, a third on the way and you remember that marriages go through a lot and we’re meeting them in a really ugly moment. But there have been so many other times before that. It’s just one sort of dip in the dance that they’re doing together that’s not the prettiest color on either one of them but they’re still very much a team. It’s like taffy you can pull it any direction and it stays intact.
TV Gal: Obviously you’re not a conniving First Lady, what is it about Mellie that you connect to when you play her?
Young: Mellie couldn’t be any more different than I am. On some levels that is so freeing – to be this completely self-confident, my way or the highway, women is kind of a thrill. In terms of the emotional truth so much of it resonates with me – the pain of it all. I’m human. People have hurt me and when they hurt me I lash out. There’s nothing that I don’t understand about where Mellie is coming from in those moments of abject pain and desperation.
TV Gal: This season you were promoted to series regular. What has that experience been like?
Young: It’s truly my first time as a bride. I can’t think of a way to be any luckier. It is a dream and they just keep writing incredible things for me to do. It’s so much fun it almost blows my mind.
This is an incredible next level to be able to relax into something. You never get to have these rich conversations when you’re guesting. It’s very very different when you get to build these lives with a core group of people with the writers and the actors. To live with someone for so long it starts to come from your marrow, from inside your thigh bone, what Mellie would do. You really know her. You start to speak up for yourself and your character.
The genius and the joy of it is that with every script comes a new revelation. You kind of add that layer to the onion, you get to feel like you have a really complicated, breathing existence.
The other side of this honestly is getting talk to people like you about things like this. I’ve never had an experience and been commenting on an experience at the same time. That has been a huge learning curve.
TV Gal: You worked with [executive producer] Shonda Rhimes before on Grey’s Anatomy, right?
Young: It was actually the Grey’s Anatomy episode that was the spin- off for Private Practice. It was a two hour episode and I was in the Private Practice part of it. My arc on that episode went from absolutely comedic to absolutely tragic.
TV Gal: You mentioned to me that you are really excited about the eighth episode of the season which you recently completed filming. Can you tell me anything about that or anything else that is coming up on the show?
Young: We have another flashback episode coming up. That was one of everybody’s favorite episodes last year to do and to watch. And again it just delivers in spades this year. It just informs all the drama and wonderment that’s going on in real time so much. The history just makes it that much more angsty and intense.
Mellie has her fingers in some very important pies coming up. There’s some Abby and David juiciness. We’ll see if there’s any future for Senator Edison Davis and Olivia. We have more Cyrus and James to look forward.
TV Gal: What about Fitz and Mellie’s children? Where are they?
Young: It will be explained in an upcoming episode and hopefully we will see them. They’re in boarding school. Tony and I think outside of Santa Barbara where my family is from. I get that question increasingly. There’s a baby inside of Mellie so people think, “Um is she going to be an okay Mom?”
TV Gal: What’s it like being pregnant on the show?
Young: I love being fake pregnant. As an actor you’re always flummoxed about what to do with your hands, and you can put them on your belly, rub your belly. You can rub that belly and sort of look beatific and say the most hideous things. It’s a joy plus you don’t have to worry about what you ate, if your belly is fat , if your butt is big. It’s just sort the greatest sort of gift.
TV Gal: Have you filmed the arrival of the blessed event yet? Will we get to see Mellie deliver the baby?
Young: I have to plead the fifth on that one.
TV Gal: The entire cast is very active on Twitter when the episodes air you tweet in both east coast and west coast time.
Young: It’s just incredible to talk to people who are watching the shows in real time. It’s almost like theater again. You get to really see how it’s all landing with people. (You can follow her @BellamyYoung)
TV Gal: I know Scandal keeps you very busy. Is there anything else you are working on?
Young: I will be back sometime this season for two more episodes of Criminal Minds [as Hotchner’s love interest Beth]. And I executive produced and co-starred with David Arquette in the movie The Cottage which is now out on DVD.