Scandal has finally put an end to the mother of all speculation by casting Treme star Khandi Alexander as Olivia Pope’s (Kerry Washington) mom.
Guesses for who would play Olivia’s mother, Maya Lewis, included Phylicia Rashad, Lynn Whitfield, and Jenifer Lewis.
Khandi Alexander currently stars as LaDonna Batiste-Williams on Treme, HBO’s Emmy-nominated drama set in post-Katrina New Orleans. Alexander won a Vision Award for Best Actress in a Drama Series for the role in 2011, and was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series in 2012.
HBO renewed Treme for a fourth and final season last September. The five-episode season premieres December 1.
Last Thursday’s Scandal episode, “More Cattle, Less Bull,” revealed that Olivia’s mother was a passenger onboard a civilian plane that was shot down on the orders of Eli/Rowan Pope (Joe Morton), also known as Command, the head of B613. The man responsible for shooting down the plane? The president, and Olivia’s married lover, Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn).
However, the mission — named Operation Remington — took place before Fitz and Olivia began their affair. And since Maya didn’t take her husband’s name, so there was no way for Fitz to know that was she Olivia’s mother and Eli/Rowan’s wife. At this point, it’s still unclear if Fitz even knows that Eli/Rowan is Olivia’s father.
Still, Goldwyn told The Hollywood Reporter that this new revelation will further complicate Olivia’s already tense relationship with her father.
“You can only imagine what that would be like to find out that your mother did not die in the way that you thought she died, in terms of it being a willful act. It’s surreal for Olivia,” Goldwyn said.
“The audience can imagine what that must be like to find out that your mother was murdered along with hundreds of other people. So the fact that her father was behind it is incomprehensible,” Goldwyn added. “It’s going to really complicate [Olivia and Rowan’s relationship] because Rowan remains a very dangerous person. It’s not like everyone can just expose him or take him out. It becomes a very volatile and dangerous situation. You can imagine how devastating it is for Olivia.”
Khandi Alexander will first appear as Maya Lewis in this Thursday’s episode, “Icarus,” and will be seen in flashbacks to when Olivia was a little girl.
Scandal airs at 10 pm on ABC.