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How Scandal on ABC Got Off the Ground
This trio is keeping politicians’ secrets—and breaking ground at the same time.

Female writers and producers are no longer a rarity in television—think Chelsea Handler, Whitney Cummings, and The Good Wife co-creator Michelle King—but it’s hard to not notice that most of these shows are written by and for and feature white women. All that changes with Scandal on the spring lineup. When the hourlong drama—the brainchild of Greys Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes and starring Kerry Washington—debuts in April, it will be the first time in 30 years that a single African-American woman leads a primetime show on network TV. (The last time was Teresa Graves’s turn as an undercover detective in the 1974 made-for-TV flick Get Christie Love!)

Scandal is inspired by the real-life story of Judy Smith, the noted African-American political-crisis-management expert and former White House aide. Smith’s work over the years has included cooling the fires of such high-profile controversies as Monica Lewinsky, Michael Vick’s dog-fighting charges, and the disappearance of D.C. intern Chandra Levy.

Though the show is only “inspired by” Smith’s career and has a few embellished details, it promises to keep audiences engaged with sizzling storylines straight from recent news events. One steamy subplot suggests that Olivia Pope—the main character, played by Washington—had an ill-fated romantic liaison with the commander in chief. (“I can assure you that didn’t happen,” says Smith, laughing.)

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