Actor and director Tony Goldwyn chats with Chris Andre on the dark side of the commander-in-chief of “Scandal” and his next big act.
Once known as the bad guy, Carl Bruner, in the successful film “Ghost” playing alongside Demi Moore and the late Patrick Swayze, Tony Goldwyn never stops transforming himself from one role to another. His latest act in the very successful political thriller TV show, “Scandal,” with Kerry Washington (playing as Olivia Pope), is one that’s both appalling and appealing. Whether you’d like to admit it or not, the intensity of him being the contemptuous president who would do anything to get what he wants deserves so much praise. But once you actually get to talk to the man, there’s that obvious sense of devotion to acting and the movie industry which doesn’t slip away from genuine humility; and all of sudden you’d think, Tony Goldwyn is way more interesting than the character he plays to be.
Born to a generation of filmmakers, Goldwyn has had an invested interest in acting since teenager. His father’s father was Samuel Goldwyn, who built Paramount Pictures, whereas his maternal grandfather, Sidney Howard, wrote the script of “Gone with the Wind.” But during high school, when his brother did some school play, was the moment he knew what he wanted to be when he grew up. “All I wanted to do was to be an actor, and I thought at that time ‘if this doesn’t work out, I’m truly not qualified for anything else’,” confesses the passionate artist. All the hard work pays off as Goldwyn is living the dream and making it big in both television and silver screen.
With the third season of “Scandal” airing this October, we can’t wait to see how the story unfolds. How do you see your character progressing from the first to the second season?
[In a nutshell] I play Fitzgerald Grant III, the president of the United States, in a situation where I’m in love with a woman who’s not my wife. It’s extremely difficult. In season 1, Olivia and Fitz were apart the whole time. The end of season 1 showed how he became very, very focused on his being the president. In season 2, we had a lot of conflicts between us. He’s very determined to have Olivia Pope, although he’s spent a lot of time getting angry at her.
It’s sort of a combination of two things, really. Keep in the awareness that even the man sitting in that White House is just a man, like any of us. He’s a highly intelligent person, extremely driven which is what it takes to get there; but he’s also a human being with the same issues like all of us are struggling with. The other thing is that every minute every day in that world the stakes are insane; everything is life or death decisions. So living in the extraordinarily high-octane world and at the same time with him being just a human, to figure it all out is very humbling, I think.
And which part is more interesting to you?
The part of the president being a human, because you can’t get away from the pressure and the public scrutiny of the job. It’s interesting to explore how a man navigates his failing, insecurity and desires in the midst of extremely pressurized superhuman responsibility.
Do you also watch the show yourself?
Oftentimes I don’t watch my work, but in this case [“Scandal”] yes. That’s sort of process of maturity, when I was young I’d watch my work and be very self-critical. I had to stop watching in order not to get fixated on that. So for years, I didn’t watch anything that I did. I enjoyed performing and I moved on. But with “Scandal,” we get together every week and watch it as a group on Sunday. I must say “Scandal” is a very fun show; I find it really great to work on my stuff, to scan the whole thing once all come together.
Kerry Washington is pretty wonderful, I must admit. No surprise there. In fact, most of my staff [characters] – Kerry Washington (as Olivia Pope), Jeff Perry (Cyrus Beene, chief of staff), and Bellamy Young (Mellie Grant, first lady) – all three of them are really extraordinary actors. I feel really challenged by them in everything I do, because they bring it – they’re so good that I’d better be beyond my game.
Having been in the movie industry for many years, how do you see it change?
We’re really in almost like a revolution in the movie industry right now. Most of the movies made are big budget, very high concept, easily marketable titles with guaranteed audience, like stories from comics. So it’s tough time right now for adult drama. A very small amount of those are getting made, and from those that are made, very few of them get seen, and very few of them make it to the Oscars every year. But this wasn’t what it used to be. What’s very exciting now is that television is sort of taking over that sense – telling adult story and complicated characters – especially for the last two years.
Published in Da Man Magazine, October 2013. Photographer: Mitchell Nguyen McCormack