“Scandal” finished its second season on Thursday night. As its passionate fans attempt to survive the summer without new episodes, some will attempt to stave off withdrawal symptoms by rewatching the show’s steamy sex scenes.
But according to the cast, they are far less fun to film than they are to watch. At a live table read for TV Academy members Thursday night in Los Angeles, they revealed what it’s like to shoot a “Scandal” love scene.
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“There’s really nothing sexy about shooting sex scenes,” said star Kerry Washington, whose character Olivia had memorable trysts this season with both President Fitzgerald Grant and CIA agent Jake.
“It’s awkward and uncomfortable and you try to figure out a way to make it believable and authentic but you’re surrounded by the crew who are like family. It’s weird,” she said.
Scott Foley, who plays Jake, concurred. “Filming sex scenes, as fantastic as they seem while you’re watching like, ‘Oh my God, you get to make out with her,’ they are fun and lighthearted but it’s still work. There are still 60 dudes in shorts standing around watching you do it so it’s not very sexy at all.”
Dan Bucantinsky found shooting the groundbreaking gay sex scene between James and his husband Cyrus (Jeff Perry) to be a bit uncomfortable. “When you’re on your knees in front of an all straight crew, it’s not like the least humiliating thing you could do. But everybody’s in it together, We really trust each other and I think ultimately that leads to the reality. How far the show is willing to go is why people love it.”
Perry was also a little wary about filming Cyrus and James’s big scene, but for an entirely different reason. “My wife Linda Lowy is the casting director – yes, you do have to sleep your way into good roles – and we have a Shonda- [Rhimes]approved pact. She gets the scripts about 10 days before I do so we can’t talk about them. So she lets out a yelp when she’s reading that episode, and says, ‘I have to break our pact.’ I said, ‘You can’t. We’ll both get in trouble with Shonda, It’s not good. It’s not pragmatic because the script’s going to change anyway.’ She said, ‘No. I just have a one-word breaking of the pact and then no more.’ I said ‘What?” ‘Naked.’”
That word struck terror into the heart of the middle-aged actor. “I didn’t know why I was naked but I said, ‘What, I got about 10 days?’ I couldn’t juice my way into looking any different than I do, so I’m just going to embrace one of my favorite actors, my James Gandolfini. World, here I am.”
Josh Malina, who plays David, shares Perry’s anxiety about showing skin. “Whenever I get [a sex scene] I think I must be done. I’m middle-aged. I’m never going to have to take my shirt off again on television. And then I get a new script and I’m like, ‘Oh, why didn’t I lose weight?'”
The awkwardness doesn’t end when the director yells cut. The actors also have to deal with the reactions of their friends and families. Bellamy Young, who plays First Lady Melli, admitted she was nervous when she learned her character would be having sex in a shower. “I was most worried to tell my mother. Making that phone call was so hard but when I told her she was like, ‘You’re an actress and you’re on a great show with great people. You’re going to be fine.’ She was so calm about it, it sort of eased my mind.”
Bucatinsky also was concerned about his mother’s reaction. “I don’t love my mom watching me slip out of frame in a scene but you know what, we won’t talk about it. I pretend it didn’t really happen and I tell people I was looking for my contact.”
Malina found that the general public was a lot more supportive of his efforts than his friends. “My friends agree with me that my shirt should remain on. But I’ve gotten a lot of nice support. People on Twitter are very kind.”
Foley had a different problem. His wife enjoyed his scene a little too much. “The first episode I was in with a sex scene with Olivia, we all watched together. When it was over, there was sort of like a hush, My wife says, ‘Why don’t you bring some of that home?’”