Chapter 19 of 30 from Shonda Rhimes

Case Study: Scandal Pilot - Act Four


Shonda discusses act four of the Scandal pilot and the importance of quickening the pace of your action.

Topics include: Scandal Case Study

Shonda discusses act four of the Scandal pilot and the importance of quickening the pace of your action.

Topics include: Scandal Case Study

Shonda Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes Teaches Writing for Television

In 6+ hours of video lessons, Shonda teaches you her playbook for writing and creating hit television.

Learn More


Make Great Television

When Shonda Rhimes pitched Grey’s Anatomy she got so nervous she had to start over. Twice. Since then, she has created and produced TV’s biggest hits. In her class, Shonda teaches you how to create compelling characters, write a pilot, pitch your idea, and stand out in the writers’ room. You’ll also get original pilot scripts, pitch notes, and series bibles from her shows. Welcome to Shondaland.

Watch, listen, and learn as Shonda teaches you how to write, pitch, and create a hit TV show.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with lesson recaps and supplemental materials.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Shonda will also respond to select student questions.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

I've learned to keep doing what I'm doing: work every day to get better and better at the craft of screenwriting. Thanks!

Budgeting time is very important. And so is taking that first step.

This masterclass helped me better understand the importance of outlines. It helped me learn to plan my writing sessions so I am not behind. I am a writer and I need to write every day. Shonda is fantastic.

It was so insightful. I was excited to start telling my story before I began this class and trust me when I say that each episode just added fuel to my fire. I have so many ideas that, with Shonda's help, were put into motion and I can't wait to share them with the world. 10/10 experience. Very excellent job, Shonda.


Danny G.

Great questions and responses! This actually feels like a real on-line course I'm getting a grade for. I have a script that I'm working on and would love for someone to read it. Let me know if you would like to read it and I'll email it to you.

Gonzalo G.

It's a great and humbling exercise to "deconstruct your house" so that others know how you built it. It's like revealing your secrets and passing on your knowledge. However, there is always something unpleasant about somebody telling you how good her writing was, how proud she is of this scene or that character she created, or that amazing piece of dialogue... I'd rather see her dissect "West Wing" or something else she did not write. Don't you guys think?

Nataly S.

Hey everyone, I was wondering if you have any advice about dealing with stressful writing matters Let's say I have a sex scene I feel so weird and embarrassed writing about it and it makes my postpone my writing. what do you do in situations like that?

Cherise A. W.

I love the structure and how Shonda passion is shown in every characters. I can't wait to start writing my characters secrets. I love to make sure my characters embrace every word. This is going to be amazing. You're amazing, Thank you, Cherise A. Williams

V M.

I think these Act breakdowns are priceless. The way its organized and structured feels authentic for how it really comes together. I need BIG whiteboard for my writing room.

Chashawna W.

I love the fact that she’s allowing us into her world and her writing mindset. I’m enjoying these classes.

Yaminah A.

I love that we get to hear her explain how she keeps the drama moving with each storyline. She's basically giving us her formula! Thanks so much!!!

Tylia F.

I'm really enjoying this class and what I learned in the past few weeks that I've been involved

Melania T.

I am enjoying a lot this classes with Shonda Rhimes. She is giving very useful information. Thank you, Masterclass, for this opportunity. One thing that I would like to point out is that in the CC of this class in the minute 13:13 we can read “The audience is stupid “ and when we hear what Shonda is saying is “... the audience is not stupid, they are happy to learn...” I imagine that there are students that are following the class by reading it and it would be great if they can have the entire idea of what Shonda thinks (that is the opposite of we are reading in the CC). Once more, thanks again for this wonderful class.

Lisa G.

I love how Shonda takes the audience so much into consideration in every act. You always hear about creating strong characters, building plot lines but audience - not so much! This makes so much sense! So smart!


The next thing we see is Quinn in that bathroom crying, I think. Yeah. And she questions it. And it's really wonderful to have this moment where Quinn is questioning how can Olivia be this person. Is she really good? So Quinn cries in the bathroom, and Huck basically becomes the voice of reason. It was brilliant, actually. When I read it, I saw that you had originally written it with Olivia. And I loved that it changed to Huck. Because once again, it gave us an opportunity to hear about Olivia in the third person. Rather than have her as a person standing there saying you can't cry, there was something very powerful about hearing Huck say that and speak from his place. What was important to me when I changed it was when you have a character tell you about themselves, they are not reliable narrators. They never are, because we don't know them well enough. But to have somebody come from the outside and say here's the deal, here's what I think-- especially someone like Huck say we're all stray dogs, this is how this works-- they're basically saying-- he's saying she's as mythic to me as she is to you. I'm as messed up by this as you are. Deal with it. But he's been there longer. So he's a voice of experience. And it allowed Olivia to stay this mythic figure to realize that that's who she is for all of them. Did you also want to use that spot? Because obviously, Quinn and Huck ended up having a very serious relationship going forward. Was that in your mind at the time when you were doing that? Absolutely not. Oh, interesting. I had no idea. And I think when the pilot aired, that's the one thing we had to cut out. It was a little bit long. And I had to lose-- I think I had to lose one scene, and I think that's the scene we lost. And we put it in the DVD, and it's in all the-- if you watch it on streaming or anything, it's always there. But it wasn't in the original pilot that aired on television. Oh, wow. Because it's such a powerful scene. Yeah, I know. It was my favorite scene. It was my favorite, scene and it killed me that it wasn't in the pilot. And it was really important to have it in the script as well. Because for the reader, you really weren't sure where you were emotionally. So to have Quinn question who she is in the end of the script, in the end of Act III-- Quinn questions who she is at the end of Act III. And then at the top of Act IV, she is questioning Olivia, her place here, and whether or not she wants to even stay. And Huck basically lays down the law. You still don't know whether or not you feel good about it. But for some reason, I feel like you feel comforted. That was my goal, anyway, to make sure that you felt a little comforted by this. Then you go to Olivia, which I really love. This is another scene I really love, and this falls under the Amanda Tanne...