Shonda Rhimes created two of the most iconic shows of all time for ABC—Grey's Anatomy and Scandal. Those shows are packed with strong female leads that any actress would have loved to play. It turns out one of Grey's Anatomy's biggest stars almost considered jumping ship to play the lead role on Scandal because the role of Washington D.C. 'fixer' Olivia Pope was just that intriguing.
While chatting for Variety's virtual actors on actors series, Sandra Oh—who starred as Cristina Yang on Grey's Anatomy for 10 seasons—told Scandal star Kerry Washington about the time she tried to convince Rhimes to let her play Olivia Pope. “I remember exactly where I was when I read that damn pilot. I was on Grey’s. We were on stage five. Someone snuck [the script] to me,” Oh told Washington. “I don’t know who it was, but I got my hands on that pilot and I read it, and I was just like, ‘How could I play Olivia Pope?’”
“I remember going to Shonda, and it’s like, ‘How could I do this? What is this script? Could I do this too?’" Oh recalled. As the Killing Eve star recalls, though, Rhimes quickly shot down Oh's idea. “She goes, ‘No, you’ve got to play Cristina Yang!’” Though Oh was disappointed she couldn't go from one iconic Rhimes character to another, she told Washington she was "so glad it was you” who ended up bringing Olivia Pope to life.
Oh also recounted what it felt like to read the Scandal pilot. "It’s so wonderful and rare when you get in your hands something that you know is electric," Oh said. Washington agreed with Oh, saying she became “protective” of her character over the source of Scandal's run. “I was so devoted to her," she said.