Arts & Entertainment, Writing

Case Study: Scandal Pilot - Act Three

Shonda Rhimes

Lesson time 16:28 min

Shonda discusses act three of the Scandal pilot and how to balance various story lines in a single episode.

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Topics include: Scandal Case Study


The top of act three, Olivia is getting ready to go to Camp David. And she's in her office, and she's walking out. And Abby and Steven are asking her a million questions. And they're a little bit jealous. And it's clear that they weren't part of her White House life, and they're not part of whatever story she's talking about now. And you understand that she's keeping a secret. Whatever is happening and whatever she is doing is going to be secret from them as well. It's not part of OPA. And so she's heading out. You can get a little glimpse, once again, as we're putting two stories together, that Abby likes Steven from the look on her face, which was really important. We did most of the Abby likes Steven by the way Abby looked at Steven. There's not a lot of conversation about it. And Steven's talking about whether or not he should propose, whether or not he should get married. That's pretty much what's happening in that scene. And she goes to Camp David. Regarding the proposal with Steven-- you mentioned earlier that with "Scandal," you really didn't think about the backgrounds of the characters because you didn't feel like it was important. So what made you decide on that story for Steven about proposing to his girlfriend? What was really important about Steven proposing to his girlfriend-- there were two things. One, I was really interested in Olivia having a work husband and no one feeling like, oh, something romantic is going to happen with them. That was very important because, for some reason, if you put a man and a woman in a story together, everyone's like, they're going to fall in love. And I'm tired of that cliche. And I really wanted to see what happened when two people were really, truly friends. And I loved that friendship together. So that was one. But two, more importantly, I wanted to watch her make somebody else have a normal, happy life that she felt she was never going to have. The idea that she would pick out an engagement ring and encourage him and then go to the restaurant and say, you can do this, get down on one knee and propose, that whole thing, and then watch him propose and be happy when she knew that that would never happen with Fitz felt very important. It felt like a great juxtaposition of her dreams versus her reality. She could fix anybody else's life. She could make it happen for anybody else, but she couldn't make it happen for herself. So that was why. And I think it's important, when you're writing your pilot, to try to think of those things. How am I going to illustrate her hopes and dreams without it being-- you don't want to hear your character say, I wish that somebody would marry me. I wish I could get an engagement ring, and I wish they'd get down on one knee. You never want to hear that. When somebody is saying what they want, directly speaking everything they feel, it ...

About the Instructor

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 screenwriting 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.

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Shonda Rhimes

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

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