How 'Scandal' adapts to the age of Trump

Robert Bianco
Kerry Washington is Olivia Pop on ABC's 'Scandal.'

PASADENA, Calif. — Brace yourself for Scandal in the age of Trump.

Back on ABC January 26, just in time to greet the new administration, Scandal will open with the results of its own fictional presidential election. The show was supposed to air that result episode on Jan. 19, but ABC is delaying it for a Donald Trump-themed 20/20 special airing later that night.

How does that sit with producer Shonda Rhimes, who was a very vocal, active Hillary Clinton supporter? "ABC does its programming," Rhimes told television critics. "I'm not in charge of scheduling."

Rhimes and her stars won't say how their election turned out (does Mellie win or lose?), but Rhimes does say that the result — and the show — was not affected in any way by the real election. "I don't equate the two. That's not the goal...The goal was just to tell the story we're telling."

And that story, Rhimes says, never was meant to comment on or react to the real presidential election. "I don't think the candidates have any similarities in real life...These candidates do not equate."

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Kerry Washington, who stars as Olivia Pope, says the cast was on hiatus when Trump's election results came in. They reached out "to check in with each other and process it. We did, because we are so close."

The election, however, wasn't the only thing on Washington's mind during the hiatus; she also gave birth to her second child. How has that affected her job?

"I'm still figuring that out, because we are just back to work," Washington says. "The nice thing is I did it once before." The hardest part, she says, actually came during her pregnancy, when her body was changing but Olivia's wasn't. It made her change some physical parts of her performance, like Olivia's signature walk. "At some point the walk becomes a waddle."

Scandal has always been known for its crazy take on Washington politics, which could cause a problem for the writers as they try to keep up with a real world that seems to get crazier every day. Rhimes, however, isn't worried. She's more focused on this season's story — which will bounce back and forth in time and be told from different characters' perspectives.

"It's not necessarily about crazy things happening. I happen to believe it was never about crazy things happening, but that's OK...It's very different from any season we've had, so I can't really judge it against what we've done before or thinking about it against what's going against now."

It will be different in another way as well: Scandal will only air 16 episodes this year, which is fine with Rhimes. "I think it actually made our storytelling more powerful, hopefully."

You'll see for yourself, starting January 26.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MARCH 21:  Producer Shonda Rhimes and actress Kerry Washington attend the 26th annual GLAAD Media Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 21, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California.  (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic) ORG XMIT: 542720079 ORIG FILE ID: 467217836