STL-Bred Scott Foley Dishes on This Season of 'Scandal'
Scott Foley has a knack for love triangles. Complicated romantic relationships bookend the 43-year-old actor’s network television career. Fifteen years ago, the storyline that surprised fans of “Felicity” had the title character choosing his rival. Now, on ABC’s “Scandal,” he’s the on-again-off-again boyfriend of Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington)—but she happens to be in love with the president of the United States, and as the show’s fifth season got underway at press time, things weren’t looking good for Foley.
Then again, it’s impossible to think of the star as an underdog when he’s perennially in the running for national magazine superlatives (“sexiest man alive” among them). And it’s a safe bet that he was already a budding heartthrob back during his community theater days in Kirkwood. After graduating from Clayton High School, Foley threw himself straight into the showbiz mix, landing parts on shows like “Dawson’s Creek” and “Scrubs” as well as the breakout role of Noel on “Felicity.” He steps back from steamy scenes now and then—for example, he played a troubled veteran on HBO’s vampire series “True Blood” for a season—but the allure of seductive, scandalous roles is mutual.
As much as he relishes the on-screen romantic trysts and politically driven cover-ups, Foley clocks out into a calmer world of hiking, playing tennis and hanging out with his wife, actress Marika Dominczyk, and their kids (1-year-old Konrad, 3-year-old Keller and 5-year-old Malina). Add a dog and a couple of chickens nicknamed “the Baldwin brothers,” and he could almost pass for a suburban dad anywhere. Until another episode of “Scandal” comes along.
ALIVE: You’ve been ALIVE’s cover man at various stages in your career. What do you want your St. Louis fans to know about you now?
Scott Foley: I want people to know how fortunate everyone on the show feels to be part of it, and we don’t take that for granted. I get messages from St. Louis about the show, about how they love it and tell their kids they went to school with me, and that’s a good feeling.
ALIVE: Do you hear from people who are loyal to you when there’s a big plot twist? Like when your character, Jake Ballard, got stabbed at the end of last season?
SF: You wouldn’t believe who came out of the woodwork. Everyone wanted to know, “What’s going on? Do you have another job? Are you OK?” It’s great when people respond so amazingly about the show and they care so much—not just about the show, but about me. They wanted to know I was OK. And also to get the scoop! [Laughs.]
ALIVE: Which you can’t give them because you don’t know what the show’s creator, Shonda Rhimes, and the writing team are thinking, right?
SF: I never know the scoop! I wish I knew. When people were asking, “Hey, you left Olivia so she could go to Fitz [President Fitzgerald Grant, played by Tony Goldwyn], and you walked away. Are you back on the show? Are you not on the show?” I knew I was on the show, but I had no idea of the trajectory. You know episode by episode, and you kind of get a feel for where it’s going, but things can change in a heartbeat.
ALIVE: So you’ve enjoyed the rollercoaster ride of the plotlines?
SF: I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we are as big of—if not bigger—fans of the show as the viewers. We hunger for that next table read when we get to see the script. We cheer when something great happens. We cry when it’s sad. I love it. Shonda Rhimes and the writers give us these words and complex scenarios to really sink our teeth into. As an actor, you want to be saddled with big scenes and heavy storylines, and they do that. It’s not a run-of-the-mill procedural. On top of that, we have longer-running storylines like the Olivia-Fitz-Jake triangle and Mellie [wife of President Grant] leaving the White House. They really layer the drama and interesting stuff, not just for viewers, but also for those who work on the show.
ALIVE: Filming schedules can be pretty intense. Has that been a challenge?
SF: Yeah, it has. “Scandal” crams a lot of story into each episode. It’s very dialogue-heavy, so it takes longer hours. It’s much like a regular job in that it’s Monday through Friday, but especially as we get closer to the launch of the show, there are extra-curricular activities that need to be done—photo shoots and video shoots and interviews that can take up a bunch of time. … But on days like today, I wasn’t working. That’s the great thing about “Scandal.” There are so many characters on the show that it’s lightened up our load a bit. Two years ago, everybody was working every day. Now when they’re shooting the White House, I have that day off and vice versa.
ALIVE: How would you describe the changes in your career since we last spoke in 2012, when you were doing a season of “True Blood” on cable and a network sitcom called “The Goodwin Games”?
SF: I’m still on a television show. Obviously it’s a little more well-known, so there are changes in my day-today life. More people watch the show; more people recognize me at cafes and restaurants. But careerwise, I spend nine or 10 months a year working on “Scandal,” and it’s all the same show. Let’s talk in four or five years, when “Scandal” is done, and see what happens then! [Laughs.]
ALIVE: Do you think you’ll still be mostly doing network TV roles?
SF: I really love network television. I was lucky enough to be part of “True Blood” for a season and I had a great time, but I’m a worker. I like getting up in the morning, going to work and having a job for a long run. Network television is the only game in town where you can do that. You look at any cable TV show, the amount of episodes is half of what we do. You’re done in four or five months, and you’ve gotta go find a job. … I do like changing, but I like knowing I won’t have to do it that often.
ALIVE: Since showbiz tends to be a peaks-andvalleys lifestyle, do you look forward to the day when you’re less recognized? For example, the time between “Felicity” and now?
SF: That’s an interesting question. A little bit of recognition is good for your ego but also your career. It means you’re on the right track. I don’t need any more recognition—I have just the right amount now. When we’re eating, someone will come up and say, “Hey, I love your work,” and then they’ll leave us alone. There aren’t photographers jumping out all the time, and I’m OK with that. I’ve been through that before and have no desire to go back.
ALIVE: You live in California, where “Scandal” is shot. Do you ever get back to visit St. Louis?
SF: Last time was my 20th high school reunion. But I still have a bunch of friends I keep up with on Facebook and by texting. I’ll always be nostalgic for it. When I was back for that reunion, we saw fathers and sons throwing footballs in big yards without fences in between. There was no traffic. It was somewhat idyllic. I miss that.
ALIVE: Your kids have a much different childhood than yours. In part, it’s because their dad is famous. But you’re saying there’s more?
SF: I don’t know if [a childhood like mine] even still exists. I think it’s closer in St. Louis than it is here.
ALIVE: We know you love dogs, and we read someplace that you had chickens. Do you still?
SF: [Laughs.] I do still have chickens. We have three that came with the house and give us a few eggs each day. One of our kids’ favorite pastimes is to get up and—even before brushing our teeth and getting dressed—we hightail it out to the coop to see if they’ve laid any eggs. It sounds so cheeseball!
ALIVE: Especially compared to your character on “Scandal.” Although, in a way, the show is like real life with its ups and downs.
SF: I hope so! Although I hope I’m never in my character’s romantic situation, where I’m with my wife, then I’m not with my wife. She’d kill me! [Laughs.]
ALIVE: And most of us aren’t married to the president either, so that’s also not quite a real-life situation. Thankfully!
SF: Exactly right.
The story was featured in the November 2015 issue.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly spelled Shonda Rhimes’ name.