Shonda Rhimes on what’s left for Olivia Pope in ‘Scandal’ finale

Over the last seven seasons, “Scandal’s” Olivia Pope has “been to hell and back,” says creator Shonda Rhimes.

The Washington, D.C-fixer, played by Kerry Washington since the show premiered in 2012, has controlled elections, plotted murders, and become the leader of secret organization B613, all while balancing romances with a president and a secret agent. With one episode left in the series, what’s left for her?

“She started out as the character that we knew who very much believed in this power and how important this particular kind of power was, and molding it and being a part of it,” Rhimes said ahead of the finale. “We watched her, like everybody else, become completely corrupted by it and make all the same mistakes that everybody else makes to get what she wants from it. Then we watched her hopefully fight her way back from it.” 

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Kerry Washington on 'Scandal' through the years
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Kerry Washington on 'Scandal' through the years
SCANDAL - From the creator and executive producers of 'Grey's Anatomy' and 'Private Practice' comes a drama revolving around the life and work of a professional crisis manager and her dysfunctional staff. 'Scandal' stars Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope, Henry Ian Cusick as Stephen Finch, Columbus Short as Harrison Wright, Guillermo Diaz as Huck, Darby Stanchfield as Abby Whelan, Katie Lowes as Quinn Perkins, Tony Goldwyn as President Fitzgerald Grant and Jeff Perry as Cyrus. 'Scandal' was written by Shonda Rhimes. Rhimes and Betsy Beers are executive producers. Paul McGuigan is the director. 'Scandal' is produced by ABC Studios.(Photo by Danny Feld/ABC via Getty Images)KERRY WASHINGTON
SCANDAL - From the creator and executive producers of 'Grey's Anatomy' and 'Private Practice' comes a drama revolving around the life and work of a professional crisis manager and her dysfunctional staff. 'Scandal' stars Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope, Henry Ian Cusick as Stephen Finch, Columbus Short as Harrison Wright, Guillermo Diaz as Huck, Darby Stanchfield as Abby Whelan, Katie Lowes as Quinn Perkins, Tony Goldwyn as President Fitzgerald Grant and Jeff Perry as Cyrus. 'Scandal' was written by Shonda Rhimes. Rhimes and Betsy Beers are executive producers. Paul McGuigan is the director. 'Scandal' is produced by ABC Studios.(Photo by Danny Feld/ABC via Getty Images)STANDING: GUILLERMO DIAZ, COLUMBUS SHORT, JEFF PERRY, TONY GOLDWYN, HENRY IAN CUSICK;SEATED: DARBY STANCHFIELD, KATIE LOWES, KERRY WASHINGTON
SCANDAL - From the creator and executive producers of 'Grey's Anatomy' and 'Private Practice' comes a drama revolving around the life and work of a professional crisis manager and her dysfunctional staff. 'Scandal' stars Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope, Henry Ian Cusick as Stephen Finch, Columbus Short as Harrison Wright, Guillermo Diaz as Huck, Darby Stanchfield as Abby Whelan, Katie Lowes as Quinn Perkins, Tony Goldwyn as President Fitzgerald Grant and Jeff Perry as Cyrus. 'Scandal' was written by Shonda Rhimes. Rhimes and Betsy Beers are executive producers. Paul McGuigan is the director. 'Scandal' is produced by ABC Studios.(Photo by Danny Feld/ABC via Getty Images)TONY GOLDWYN, KERRY WASHINGTON
SCANDAL - 'Hell Hath No Fury' - The team reluctantly decides to help a millionaire's son accused of rape, but regardless of the facts, public perception is a hard thing to change, and this is one case that the team might not be able to win. Meanwhile, Olivia still insists on taking Amanda Tanner as a client, but is unable to put her own past with the President behind her when Amanda's first request is a meeting with the President, on 'Scandal,' THURSDAY, APRIL 19 (10:01-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Randy Holmes/ABC via Getty Images) KERRY WASHINGTON
SCANDAL - 'Enemy of the State' - After the Amanda Tanner case takes a shocking turn, one-time friends Olivia and Cyrus take heated, opposing viewpoints, and Cyrus tries to help in investigating the personal lives of Olivia and her associates. Meanwhile Olivia and her team help a dictator locate his wife and children who have been allegedly kidnapped, and Quinn goes out with a reporter seeking information, on 'Scandal,' THURSDAY, APRIL 26 (10:01-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Richard Cartwright/ABC via Getty Images) DARBY STANCHFIELD, GABRIEL MORALES, VALERIE CRUZ, JOS�Z�IGA, KERRY WASHINGTON
SCANDAL - 'Grant: For the People' When Quinn finds herself in a tragic and compromising position, Olivia and the team rush to her side; all the while, a reluctant Cyrus must turn to Olivia when Billy Chambers makes an announcement that shakes Fitz's presidency to its' core, on the stunning Season Finale of 'Scandal,' THURSDAY, MAY 17 (10:01-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Richard Cartwright/ABC via Getty Images) KERRY WASHINGTON
SCANDAL - 'Till Death Do Us Part' - As Olivia deals with the aftermath of what she's done, she finally finds out what exactly Jake and Rowan are plotting. But with their plans already in motion, Olivia is forced to make a gut-wrenching attempt to try and stop it. Meanwhile, in flashbacks, we learn more about Jake's past and how he first got involved with B6-13, on an all-new 'Scandal,' THURSDAY APRIL 21 (9:00-10:00 p.m. EDT), on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Nicole Wilder/ABC via via Getty Images) KERRY WASHINGTON
SCANDAL - Olympic Gold Medalist Allyson Felix visited with the cast of ABC's 'Scandal,' on Thursday, August 17, 2012. (Photo by Danny Feld / ABC via Getty Images) ALLYSON FELIX, KERRY WASHINGTON
SCANDAL - 'Spies Like Us' - Olivia receives an anonymous letter containing a coded warning which could expose Huck's dark past. Meanwhile another Pope & Associates secret has already been exposed and Olivia asks Harrison to step up and handle it. And in the White House, Cyrus and Fitz are dealing with the ramifications of Cyrus' husband's first front page news story, on ABC's 'Scandal,' THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 15 (10:02-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. ((Vivian Zink ABC/ via Getty Images) KERRY WASHINGTON, DARBY STANCHFIELD
SCANDAL - 'Defiance' - Harrison leads the team in managing a billionaire businessman who seems to have lost his sanity; meanwhile, Olivia and the White House prepare to celebrate the President's 50th birthday, as James continues to investigate Cytron and discovers something that could change the fate of the country, on ABC's 'Scandal,' THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 29 (10:02-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Vivian Zink ABC via Getty Images) KERRY WASHINGTON
SCANDAL- 'Happy Birthday, Mr. President' - In the wake of a tragedy connected to the White House, Olivia returns as Press Secretary to handle a catastrophic crisis, on 'Scandal,' THURSDAY, DECEMBER 6 (10:02-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Kelsey McNeal ABC via Getty Images) TONY GOLDWYN, KERRY WASHINGTON, BELLAMY YOUNG
SCANDAL - 'Happy Birthday, Mr. President' - In the wake of a tragedy connected to the White House, Olivia returns as Press Secretary to handle a catastrophic crisis, on 'Scandal,' THURSDAY, DECEMBER 6 (10:02-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Randy Holmes/ABC via Getty Images) TONY GOLDWYN, KERRY WASHINGTON
SCANDAL - 'Nobody Likes Babies' - As David uncovers the truth about the Cytron case, things come to a head for Olivia, Cyrus, Mellie, Hollis and Verna. Backed into a corner, the five conspirators go to extremes and, in some cases, unconscionable lengths to protect themselves and/or the ones they love, on ABC's 'Scandal,' THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 7 (10:02-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Richard Cartwright/ABC via Getty Images) KERRY WASHINGTON, TONY GOLDWYN
SCANDAL - 'Truth or Consequences' - After discovering the truth about the rigged White House election, the 'Gladiators in Suits' realize that a quickly unraveling Olivia may not always wear the white hat. Meanwhile, Mellie is forced to take extreme measures to try and reel Fitz in, on ABC's 'Scandal,' THURSDAY, JANUARY 31 (10:02-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Danny Feld / ABC via Getty Images)) KERRY WASHINGTON, KATIE LOWES, COLUMBUS SHORT, GUILLERMO DIAZ, DARBY STANCHFIELD
SCANDAL - 'Whiskey Tango Foxtrot' -After discovering the truth behind defiance, Fitz is still struggling to figure out whom he can actually trust. Meanwhile Olivia is trying to move on with her life, and she meets a handsome stranger, Jake Weston (Scott Foley), who sparks her interest. But when Fitz and Olivia are forced to be in the same room again, real sparks fly and things get heated. Back at Pope & Associates, the team handles a new case, and for the first time they're working with David Rosen instead of against him, on ABC's 'Scandal,' THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 14 (10:02-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Ron Tom/ABC via Getty Images) DAN BUCATINSKY, JEFF PERRY, KERRY WASHINGTON
SCANDAL - ABC's 'Scandal' stars Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope. (Photo by Craig Sjodin/ABC via Getty Images)
SCANDAL - 'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner' - Through flashbacks we learn more about Olivia's estranged relationship with her father. Meanwhile, both the White House and Pope & Associates are still in the middle of cleaning up the very big and very public mess they created, on 'Scandal,' THURSDAY OCTOBER 10 (10:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Danny Feld/ABC via Getty Images) KERRY WASHINGTON
SCANDAL - 'A Door Marked Exit' - Now that the truth is out there, things will never be the same and everyone will have to face the consequences of their actions, on ABC's 'Scandal,' THURSDAY, DECEMBER 12 (10:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Danny Feld/ABC via Getty Images) KERRY WASHINGTON, TONY GOLDWYN
SCANDAL - 'No Sun on the Horizon' - A well prepared Fitz gets thrown a curve ball during the first presidential debate, Olivia receives shocking news and is forced to make an extremely difficult decision, and the gladiators work with a powerful CEO accused of murder. Meanwhile, one dirty little secret could lead to deadly consequences, on ABC's 'Scandal,' THURSDAY, MARCH 13 (10:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images) KERRY WASHINGTON, JEFF PERRY
SCANDAL - 'We Do Not Touch the First Ladies' - Old feelings and jealousies arise at a Presidential event causing Fitz to face a harsh reality. Meanwhile, Quinn tries to prove herself to B613 and Leo Bergen sets up a meeting between Sally and an old friend, on ABC's 'Scandal,' THURSDAY, MARCH 6 (10:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.(Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images) BELLAMY YOUNG, KERRY WASHINGTON
SCANDAL - 'Inside the Bubble' - An old friend (Sonya Walger) returns for help after her daughter goes missing, Cyrus has an awkward run in during a business breakfast, and Jake uses his connections to get some answers. Meanwhile, Mellie becomes obsessed with a national news story and David goes to great lengths to prove himself, on 'Scandal,' THURSDAY OCTOBER 9 (9:00-10:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images) KERRY WASHINGTON, SCOTT FOLEY
SCANDAL - ''I'm Just a Bill' - With Rowan back in town, the stakes are at an all-time high for the team trying to take down B613. Meanwhile, Olivia gets a call that the mayor's wife has been murdered and is asked to take on the case. Back in the White House, Fitz needs help getting a very important bill to pass, but when he looks to the VP for support, she proves that she's not an easy pushover like everyone once thought, on 'Scandal,' THURSDAY, APRIL 16 (9:00-10:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Ron Batzdorff/ABC via Getty Images) KERRY WASHINGTON, CORNELIUS SMITH JR.
SCANDAL - ''I'm Just a Bill' - With Rowan back in town, the stakes are at an all-time high for the team trying to take down B613. Meanwhile, Olivia gets a call that the mayor's wife has been murdered and is asked to take on the case. Back in the White House, Fitz needs help getting a very important bill to pass, but when he looks to the VP for support, she proves that she's not an easy pushover like everyone once thought, on 'Scandal,' THURSDAY, APRIL 16 (9:00-10:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Ron Batzdorff/ABC via Getty Images) KATIE LOWES, KERRY WASHINGTON, GUILLERMO DIAZ
SCANDAL - 'Dog-Whistle Politics' - Eager to get answers, Jake unexpectedly crosses paths with someone he thought he'd never see again. Meanwhile, Huck and Quinn recruit a familiar face to help smooth over the media storm surrounding Olivia, and Fitz quickly finds out the true cost of mercy when he discovers not everyone fully supports his actions, on 'Scandal,' THURSDAY, OCTOBER 15 (9:00-10:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/John Fleenor) KERRY WASHINGTON
SCANDAL - 'Thwack' - The election is in full swing, which means everyone is doing their best to take down their opponents, but when a potential leak threatens several candidates, they have to work together to keep their secrets safe. Boundaries are pushed and lines are crossed as we find out just how far some people are willing to go to protect themselves, on a shocking-new 'Scandal,' THURSDAY APRIL 7 (9:00-10:00 p.m. EDT) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Richard Cartwright/ABC via via Getty Images) KERRY WASHINGTON, TONY GOLDWYN
SCANDAL - 'Till Death Do Us Part' - As Olivia deals with the aftermath of what she's done, she finally finds out what exactly Jake and Rowan are plotting. But with their plans already in motion, Olivia is forced to make a gut-wrenching attempt to try and stop it. Meanwhile, in flashbacks, we learn more about Jake's past and how he first got involved with B6-13, on an all-new 'Scandal,' THURSDAY APRIL 21 (9:00-10:00 p.m. EDT), on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Adam Taylor/ABC via Getty Images) SCOTT FOLEY, KERRY WASHINGTON
SCANDAL - 'That's My Girl' - As each presidential candidate gets ready to announce their running mate, Olivia finds herself in a potentially dire situation. Meanwhile, Cyrus is presented with damaging information that could alter the presidential race entirely, on the season finale of 'Scandal,' THURSDAY, MAY 12 (9:00-10:00 p.m. EDT), on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Richard Cartwright) KERRY WASHINGTON
SCANDAL - 'That's My Girl' - As each presidential candidate gets ready to announce their running mate, Olivia finds herself in a potentially dire situation. Meanwhile, Cyrus is presented with damaging information that could alter the presidential race entirely, on the season finale of 'Scandal,' THURSDAY, MAY 12 (9:00-10:00 p.m. EDT), on the ABC Television Network. (Byron Cohen/ABC via Getty Images) SCOTT FOLEY, KERRY WASHINGTON
SCANDAL - 'A Traitor Among Us' - After discovering new information about the assassination of Frankie Vargas, Olivia makes a shocking decision and asks Huck to complete one of the most difficult tasks yet, on 'Scandal,' airing THURSDAY, MARCH 23 (9:01-10:00 p.m. EST), on The ABC Television Network. (Kelsey McNeal/ABC via Getty Images) GUILLERMO DIAZ, KERRY WASHINGTON
SCANDAL - 'A Stomach for Blood' - The events leading up to election night are retold from Abby's perspective, revealing a formidable thirst for power and the explosive secret she's been keeping, on 'Scandal,' airing THURSDAY, MARCH 30 (9:01-10:00 p.m. EDT), on The ABC Television Network. (John Fleenor/ABC via Getty Images) BELLAMY YOUNG, KERRY WASHINGTON, DARBY STANCHFIELD
SCANDAL - 'The Decision' - With the ugly truth behind Frankie's assassination revealed, a torn Olivia wonders how different her life - and the country - would be if she, Mellie and Cyrus had never rigged Fitz's election, on 'Scandal,' airing THURSDAY, APRIL 13 (9:01-10:00 p.m. EDT), on The ABC Television Network. (Mitch Haaseth/ABC via Getty Images) KERRY WASHINGTON, TONY GOLDWYN
SCANDAL- 'Dead in the Water' - It's a race against the clock when Olivia and OPA's investigation into the conspiracy puts one of their own in grave danger, on 'Scandal,' airing THURSDAY, APRIL 6 (9:01-10:00 p.m. EDT), on The ABC Television Network. (Scott Everett White/ABC via Getty Images) KERRY WASHINGTON
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After giving up her signature “white hat” earlier in the series, it was important to the creator that “Olivia figure out who she is and what she wants as a person” by the end of the show — but not necessarily that she reclaim that hat and lead gladiator role she once held.

Similarly, Rhimes also mentioned that in writing an end for Cyrus (Jeff Perry), the goal was to showcase just how far he could take things.

To me, Cyrus was the person to whom the Oval [Office] was the most special, and he is the person that’s been the architect of the most amount of what’s gone on, and his goal of getting into the Oval — this place that he was never going to get to — he wanted it more than anybody else and he never made it there. To me, it felt like it’s always been a contention in our show that the Oval Office was something that corrupted anyone who came near it, and the closer you came the more corrupt it made you, the more it damaged you,” she said. “To watch Cyrus, who had circled this world and put people in the office and had his nose pressed to the glass, finally make his leap was the ultimate corruption — [that] was very interesting to me.” 

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Kerry Washington at the Emmys
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Kerry Washington at the Emmys
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 18: Actress Kerry Washington attends the 68th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for AXN)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 18: Actress Kerry Washington attends the 68th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for AXN)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 18: Actress Kerry Washington attends the 68th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for AXN)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 18: Actress Kerry Washington arrives at the 68th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by John Shearer/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 18: Actress Kerry Washington arrives at the 68th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by John Shearer/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 18: Actress Kerry Washington attends the 68th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for AXN)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 18: Actress Kerry Washington attends the 68th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 18: Actress Kerry Washington attends the 68th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 18: Actress Kerry Washington attends the 68th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
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With a show based in the White House and D.C.’s political spheres, Rhimes said that her original plans for season 7 were scrapped after Donald Trump’s election, and instead packed her ideas into the season 6 finale last year. As for the series finale, which airs on Thursday, she said it is very different than a traditional season finale.

Whether or not everybody pays for what they have done… [the finale is] about seeing what happens once that choice has been made,” Rhimes said. “Thee story is wrapped up [but also] the audience gets to imagine some of what happens next for the characters.”

Despite the fact that Rhimes said she has known exactly how the show would come to a close for the last year, she still found new and exciting moments in actually executing the end of her series.

We were doing a table read for the penultimate episode where I realized it works — the story we wanted to tell and the ending we wanted to get to — [it] is actually going to work,” she said. “[It] might’ve been the first time I actually cried about the fact that we were finishing because it meant that we were actually doing it correctly. I find it exciting, I wasn’t worried, I’m very pleased to see that it worked the way we wanted it to work.” 

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