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Arts & Entertainment

Case Study: Scandal Pilot - Act Two

Shonda Rhimes

Lesson time 10:04 min

Shonda discusses act two of the Scandal pilot and the introduction of Olivia's White House storyline.

Shonda Rhimes
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Act 2. Now we have, basically, the presentation of the facts. And by that-- and that's Sully. But it's also intermingled with the definition of how the world works. At the same time. Because every single time we talk about Sully, we also then have Quinn asking questions that tell us more about how the world works. And in presenting all the facts, you see how the world works. You know, and those scenes are, you know, Abby tells us-- you realize that Abby is a person who gives you the facts. She has opinions about people that aren't necessarily-- --things that you're supposed to say. And then Olivia starts to explain to Quinn what they do at the same time by saying, like, we listen, we talk, we make a decision. Like, she literally explains how this goes down by explaining it to Quinn. And they vote, and you realize that the vote doesn't really matter. Because Olivia once again establishes the fact that she's in charge. They take his phone. All of those things happen. They get the war room. All those things happen. Them Then, they go out on their investigation. In the film version of the pilot, you see Olivia go first to David Rosen's house. And then you see Abby go to the cop's house. But in the script, I did it the other way around. And I can't remember why. And I don't remember why it worked better when I was editing. But it just happened that way. Then you see them out on the investigative road, I'd say. And that's still-- in a weird way, it's still part of how it works, but it's a little bit larger than that. So, you know, you see Abby at work doing what she does. You know, out investigating. You see Olivia out doing what she does. And we introduce a character, a state-- is he the-- he's the District Attorney at that point. Was it hard to find distinct roles for each of the characters to fill within an investigation? No. What was interesting was, it made it possible for me to decide what I needed in the show. So, I knew I needed an investigator. I knew I needed somebody who could be an actual lawyer in court if we needed it. Harrison was sort of our flashy guy. Stephen was kind of her partner. Like, they were going to be partners in crime. They went out together. He might be kind of the muscle if they needed it, but not really. And Huck was that guy who hacked and put things together and, you know, fixed the guns and all that stuff. So, everyone had a role except for Quinn, who we made get coffee for an entire year. Which was purposeful as well. So, out on the investigative road. You know, we go see David Rosen, we go see the body. You're still learning more about the case. David Rosen was not supposed to be a series regular. He was, once again, just a character to fill out our world and make us understand what was going on. Bu...

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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.


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

Thank you, Shonda, for thoroughly answering all of the questions I had, and all of the questions I never knew to ask.

So far this has been an amazing class. I never did a story bible before and I completed one because of this class. I'm now going back to the middle lessons to work on the pilot and I'm hopeful with Shonda's inspiration that I will complete it.

Shonda's class was great because I have seen Aaron Sorkin's Masterclass and I think it was a great opportunity to see a television view of writing.

I really found Shonda's approach to writing really refreshing. I have taken numerous writing courses/workshops but this course really put the writing function into a practical method for expressing your ideas on the written page. THANK YOU SHONDA.


A fellow student

Definitely an eye opener. It helped me to make some adjustments to the plot and characters I'm working with on my project.

Tiffany H.

This lesson is very informative as to how the acts are broken down and the beats that are in them.


Its good exercise to be able to review this method. It is a good way for formulate a template for a particular series that works for similar episodes.

Jonathan S.

My girlfriend, Janice, watched Scandal. I told her about Shonda, and Janice said she didn't care for the show. I said, "Why did you sit through two seasons then?" She said, "I liked the way Olivia dressed." You never know what's going to get someone to watch.

Matt F.

It would be great if we could actually see what's being written on the white board.

Hector V.

Act two; presentation of the facts. In my script, an 'outsider' is brought up to speed by the main character, this brings my audience up to speed.

TyRah J.

I totally get it now! The conversation within my script have been too detailed. You know, it just didn't seem natural enough for me so when Shonda mentioned you should pretend like you are coming in on the middle of a conversation. Man, that helps! My approach was clearly fallacious.

Ryan L.

A big rule of thumb is that whenever a line begins with "As you know," you should change it. Every time it pops up in a movie or show, I kind of wish the actors would just turn to the camera and say "Yeah, we're doing this," because so many people are on to it at this point.

Cayton F.

Such incredible insight into the processes and her backstory and also, great questions from the students there with Shonda! Very helpful.

Angela J.

Shondra blows my mind with her amazing details to the script and executing it in such a remarkable way