Hiatus Helper: Katie Lowes, Dan Bucatinsky & Joshua Malina Talk The Art of the Scandal Monologue [INTERVIEW]
Season three of the extremely buzzworthy show known as Scandal doesn’t hit air until Thursday Oct. 3 on ABC. But to help get you guys through this interminable hiatus, we have a bit of a treat for you all. At the ATX Television Festival earlier this summer, we had the chance to be part of a round table featuring various members of the press and three Scandal actors — Katie Lowes (Quinn Perkins), Dan Bucatinsky (James Novak) and Joshua Malina (David Rosen).
Many topics were discussed including one of our favorite parts of the show: those fast-paced, well-written, highly emotional monologues the actors often recite. At TV Goodness, we’ve dubbed them Scandal Rants or ScRants. They are epic in nature and often provide some seriously memorable OMG moments. We don’t know how the actors manage to make them look so effortless and natural when they seem so difficult to pull off. So we asked them about it.
The trio talked about Josh’s monster skill that helps him nail these monologues; what time of the day Katie says is usually hardest for her to perform one of these Scandal staples; and Dan fills us in on why he compares them to being on a road.
Is there an art to performing a Scandal monologue?
KATIE LOWES: When the writing is really great it is easier to memorize when the writing is not. Also, memorizing is such a muscle that when you do it a lot everyday it’s like working out. I mean you just get better and better at it.
The monologue I had in “Seven Fifty-Two” where we all kind of go and try to get Huck to snap out of it — I got that at 6:00 at night and I had to do it at 8:00 AM the next day or 10 AM the next day or something. I was in a cold sweat panic freak-out. Also because we have to be wordperfect. I mean, the ‘ands’ and the ‘ofs’ and the ‘thes’ and everything. I am a super like A-plus student overachiever. Like the fact that I did not have time to work on it with a coach and help and really run it and everything…but I have to say like…it’s so there already in the writing. You kind of have to get out of the way of yourself. It’s really free.
And Scandal pace is all about — we’re up against the ticking clock. The crisis at hand is more important than your indulgent BS so just get out of the way of the writing. And say it quickly. Throw it away. Say your point and move on.
I’m terrible after lunch. I just am. Like I’ve eaten, all the blood’s in my stomach. I don’t know what’s happening. Darby Stanchfieldâ€¦Darby cannot do late nights. Darby is a morning person. And when we start getting into 1, 2 o’clock in the morning, it’s like she’s a different — she can’t get her lines out. Monday mornings are really tough when you’ve had two days off. Everyone has their timing when they just aren’t as good as normal. But I have to say for the most part everyone’s pretty on it.
DAN BUCATINSKY: Yeah, it also depends on the speech and how long the speech is. I’m in scenes mostly with Jeff [Parry, Cyrus]. And Cyrus has had some long ass speeches in front of me and he has a very specific technique that he uses to memorize which I find fascinating to watch.
JOSHUA MALINA: What is it?
DAN: He writes the first letter of every word.
JOSHUA: Allison Janney [Josh’s costar on The West Wing] used to do that. I was always like ‘freak!’ I used to give her so much s–t about that.
DAN: To me, a monologue feels like a road. It’s like finding your way back to a place that you haven’t been to before. You’re driving down this road, if you’re observant and you watch the signposts — there are signposts in every monologue that get you to the next place. If you were to strip a highway or a freeway or a road of all trees and all road posts, you would be driving and have really no idea of where you’re going but a monologue — especially a well written one — is filled with signposts that get you logically to the next piece.
And so we’ll be in scenes — I had a whole scene with Jeff after the president was shot where I was in bed and I kept saying something like it was like a miracle. It’s like a miracle, really sarcastically saying, ‘really it’s like a miracle.’ I had been on the internet researching things. And for whatever reason, I was starting to get sick. I could not remember the speech. I couldn’t remember the speech. And the more I couldn’t remember the speech, the sweatier I was getting and the hotter I was getting. And the days were ticking by, we had a lot to get done. And Jeff’s like — he couldn’t remember his lines. He’s like, we have to start writingÂ those speeches. Inside bodies. And when you’re looking down into the field of someone who you’reâ€¦I was like no, no, no…my ego — I was like I cannot write this speech down on any body part. I’m going to do it. I’m going to get it. It really becomes mastery of your sort of your brain.
KATIE: And your mental calmness almost.
KATIE: You start to mess up then all of a sudden you start to get crazy about it. And you have to let it go.
KATIE: Guillermo [Diaz, Huck] and Iâ€¦we have to write down stuff sometimesâ€¦the numbersâ€¦
DAN: The technical stuff.
KATIE: The numbersâ€¦or whatever case we’re working on. Sometimes we’re just so tired. And at the end. The first bunch of episodes we’re pretty good. But come episode 20, 21, 22 when you are like wiped out. There’s just littleâ€¦
DAN: Please, do you know how many people in the history of TV have had giant cue cards by the camera where they can turn and look and think and be likeâ€¦
JOSHUA (acting the whole cue card thing out): I’ll tell you, I’ll tell you what I’m gonna do.
DAN: But it’s an art form.
Joshua on having worked on both Shonda Rhimes [Scandal] and Aaron Sorkin [The West Wing/Sports Night] shows — what do those two writers bring to the table that make them so distinctive?
JOSHUA: The school of Sorkin prepared me very well for the world of Shonda. I was remembering a time — speaking about being wordperfect — when I had a line in The West Wing script that clearly involved the typo ‘the the.’ And jokingly, I was like ‘are you gonna find out whether that’s a typo?’ And they called up to Aaron. ‘Should that line read the the?’ And he was like ‘no.’ And we were about to shoot it again and I said ‘wait, did you ask him which one to cut?’ And they were literally about to go to the phone. I was like ‘I’m kidding. That’s a joke.’ That really happened, too. Memorization-wise, when I was a kidâ€¦
KATIE: He’s an amazing memorizer.
JOSHUA: I am. I am a monster. Unfortunately, it’s my best thing as an actor. When I was younger, my great Aunt Jean, may she rest in peace, used to always — whenever she would see me in a school play, she’d always say: ‘I loved it. How did you memorize all those lines?’ And I always thought that was the palest compliment you could possibly come up with. That’s what really impressed you? The memorization. Now I’ve come to accept that that really is my best thing. The night before I will generally glance at it and go, yeah, I can learn that tomorrow morning.
KATIE: You learn the day ofâ€¦
JOSHUA: Most of the time. And there is a certain — and I found out with Aaron too which is Â — and maybe this is just specific to me — but if I know something cold, cold, I sometimes feel like it’s gonna sound like I memorized this cold. On camera, you just want to have a little bit of the spontaneity, a little bit of the finding it as you speak. So, I try not to beâ€¦
KATIE: Which is an amazing acting choice. And a lot of actors use it and they’re terrible at it so it screws everybody else because we’re taking a million takes and we want to kill him. But for him, it actually works. Like he memorizes it in the morning. It sounds really fresh.
JOSHUA: You’re very kind.
KATIE: My mind’s like been drilled.
JOSHUA: I think that’s what Aaron prepared me for is that very dialogue-heavy, intelligent-guy dialogue that you have to be on top of. Because there are times and I’m sure we’ve all done takes where you can tell that I’m behind a millisecond of the speech I’m giving. If you don’t own it, then it really doesn’t work. You have to be right on it. And so, whatever muscle that is, I think that it developed well working for Aaron and I’m employing it a lot for Shonda ’cause it’s a similar type of thing.
Scandal returns with new episodes Thursday Oct. 3 at 10/9c on ABC. And we’ll have more from Â this Scandal/ATX round table interview as we get closer to the season three premiere.
Edited for space and content.
Scandal Monologue Example:
#1 Olivia Tries to Get Through to Huck
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