Hard work and determination to obtain professional gain are just two of the traits not only seen in the characters of the acclaimed political thriller series Scandal, but also in the main actors of the show as well. Actress Bellamy Young, who was just promoted to a series regular for Scandal‘s second season, is a perfect example; she’s a diligent worker who perfectly balances her television and film roles with producing, in order to fully embrace all aspects of the entertainment industry.
Scandal, which premieres on Thursday at 10 pm, follows professional damage control expert Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), who dedicates her life to protecting the public images of America’s politicians, and making sure their secrets are publicly never revealed. Olivia previously worked for the President of the United States, Fitzgerald Thomas Grant III (Tony Goldwyn), and his wife, Mellie Grant (Young). Olivia has since left the White House to start her own crisis management firm, Olivia Pope and Associates. Her new staff includes recent recruit Quinn Perkins (Katie Lowes), a lawyer with her own secret, and investigator Huck Finn (Guillermo Diaz).
Young generously took the time to speak with us over the phone this week to discuss her role as Mellie on Scandal, her recurring role of Beth Clemmons on Criminal Minds and acting in, and producing, the upcoming thriller film The Cottage. The actress spoke about why she took on the role of Mellie Grant, and how becoming a main character on Scandal is influencing her film career and her role on Criminal Minds.
Check it out below.
We Got This Covered: You’ll be returning to the second season of the political thriller series Scandal, where you’ll be reprising your role of First Lady Mellie Grant. What was it about Mellie, and the show overall, that convinced you to return to the role?
Bellamy Young: Well, I couldn’t be any luckier to be a part of this family. When I read the script during pilot season, two years ago now, it was far superior to everything I had seen. (Creator-writer-producer) Shonda (Rhimes) understands people and emotions so well. The script and the dialogue is smart and fast and moving.
I was thrilled to get to audition for it, and to be a part of it. My part was very small in the pilot, but has grown exponentially. At every turn, I have overwhelmed and in awe of the crazier and more wonderful things Mellie has gotten into.
This season just amps it all up. We built to a certain pace in the first seven episodes. Our first season was shortened. But we come in on pace in the beginning of Season 2. We find out who Quinn is.
My character Mellie, as you’ll see on Thursday, has a giant reveal during the very first episode. Mellie has an agenda this year, and is very excited to use anything at her disposal to push that agenda forward.
WGTC: Speaking of having a smaller role in Scandal‘s pilot, you were promoted to a series regular for this season, after being a recurring character last season. How did you react when you found out Mellie was going to have more involved storylines this year?
BY: I was walking on air. I had just come back from India, I was on a trip in Nepal. I had literally just gotten off the plane when my manager called to tell me. It was the happiest moment of my professional life. I couldn’t have been more thrilled.
It’s the nicest group of people, and the best writing. It’s the best character that I’ve ever gotten to play. So to get to be there all the time, and to be in the mix of things creatively. It’s just a dream.
WGTC: Scandal’s first season ended with Mellie announcing she’s pregnant. Will the second season premiere address further details of the pregnancy? Are there any other forthcoming storylines involving Mellie that you can discuss?
BY: We can talk about whether or not Mellie is pregnant after Thursday, because Shonda will get my behind if I go on record about that before! But I’m excited to talk about it afterwards.
But in this season coming up, Olivia will be fixing a variety of problems in Washington-college students who go missing, or government agents who go rogue, or bereaved wives, or political sex scandals that this time don’t involve the president. She will be on her game from the gecko.
There’s also the overarching backstory that is the great love affair between Olivia and Fitz. It’s hard for Mellie to love someone so much, and then see him fall in love with the love of his life after you’re already married. (laughs) But Mellie has a country to run, so she tries to stay focused on the practical matters at hand.
WGTC: Speaking of Olivia and Fitz, Kerry Washington plays the professional damage control expert, and Tony Goldwyn plays Mellie’s husband and the United States President, on the show. What has your working relationship with both actors been like on the set?
BY: It’s a dream, it really is, as far as the number one on the call sheet, the lead, the star. Kerry sets the tone, and is unimaginably gracious and talented. She works harder than any human I have ever met and known. She’s thoughtful and shares her experiences, boasts morale, and is incredible.
There’s never been anyone sweeter than Tony Goldwyn. So to have to yell at Tony all day is hard work. But it’s really a dream. This season, I’ve relaxed into it a little bit more. (laughs) I’m coming to enjoy our relationship a little bit more. I know Tony’s not taking any of it personally. But they write us so well, so it’s a lot of fun.
Tony is right now directing a pilot of his own. So I’m missing him a little bit. But he’ll be back to our show soon.
WGTC: Scandal has been receiving positive reviews from critics. What’s the feeling like, knowing that people appreciate your work and are watching the show?
BY: Oh, it’s incredible. We actually live tweet the shows, so we talk to people while the shows are airing. We do both east coast and west coast feeds. It’s sort of overwhelming and wonderful to see how much it affects people.
When we get the scripts, the writing is so good we email each other, and say, what page are you on? We text each other while we’re on set reading them. To see people who are watching them in real time go through the same journey is so fulfilling. Even though we only had seven episodes, the fans are already devoted to us, even over the summer. I can’t wait to get back to that conversation with everybody as they get to see the shows unfold.
WGTC: Besides appearing on Scandal, you also have a recurring role on Criminal Minds as Beth Clemmons, the girlfriend of Thomas Gibson’s character, Aaron ‘Hotch’ Hotchner. How is your experience on Criminal Minds similar and different to your work on Scandal?
BY: Playing Beth is amazing, because she’s the exact opposite of Mellie. She’s chill and happy and carefree. Its’ the most amazing gift to be able to play both ends of the spectrum in one calendar year.
Criminal Minds is also such a loving family. I love to be there, and to work with them. They transferred Beth to New York, so we can account for the fact that I can’t be around as much. But Hotch and I are still very much a thing. I love those guys and that job.
WGTC: Now that you are a main character on Scandal, will you be appearing on Criminal Minds at all this season, maybe as a guest star or a recurring role?
BY: Yes, it’s been left very much open, between their scheduling and our scheduling. They didn’t break Hotch and Beth up. They sort of explained my absence by geographical distance. I’m very much excited that I get to go back over there, and enjoy Thomas Gibson and that whole family.
WGTC: Since Beth is the girlfriend of Hotch, what has your working relationship with Thomas been like?
BY: Oh, it’s terrific. He’s a gentleman and a true professional. He is such a strong force at work. You feel very much taken care of. You know that he’s going to make sure everything’s done right. It’s been lovely.
The Criminal Minds writers have gotten to be at it a lot longer than the writers at Scandal. They are so enthusiastic, and the set remains so creative. It’s really great.
WGTC: Besides Scandal and Criminal Minds, you can also be seen in the upcoming thriller The Cottage as Annie. How does Annie fit into the story, and why did you want to play the role?
BY: Well, The Cottage is a movie that I executive produced. My friend (main actress) Kristen (Dalton) knew she wanted to make a movie, and was able to do so. My friend Nick Antosca is a phenomenal writer, and had a story he knew he wanted to get down on paper and put out into the world.
I put the two of them together, and with elements Kristen brought, came up with this fictionalized version of something that actually happened to Nick. So it’s been an interesting process to see, the process from paper to screen is always an interesting one. It came out a little bit different than we intended.
But I’m very excited, we got David Arquette as the lead (as Robert Mars), and he is perfect and charming and terrifying, all at once. Kristen plays another lead (Chloe Carpenter), and I play Annie, a supporting part. She’s Chloe’s best friend, who tries to be the voice of reason.
We have our premiere on Friday, September 29. It comes out on DVD and VOD on October 9.
WGTC: What was it like working with both David and Kristen on the set?
BY: Well, Kristen’s a dear friend, and she was wearing the actor and producer hats. That’s a struggle, being the lead in a film and producing it. She was co-producing with Bettina O’Mara, but she’s an angel and a caretaker. So she was gracious, and I always love to get to work with her. David was amazing, real rock-n-roll, so it was real fun.
WGTC: As you mentioned, besides appearing as Annie in The Cottage, you also served as one of the film’s executive producers. Did working as a producer help you as an actor while you were on the set?
BY: Well, it always informs your acting. I’ve only produced one other time, but it does inform your acting. You’re with the script for so long. Some jobs as an actor, you get them the night before. You still give them your all, though.
To be producing on a film, it means you’ve had the story in your heart for a really long time. Things have sunk in a lot deeper. When you go to act, it’s a lot easier. You know what you want to convey, and the tone. You don’t have any self doubts or questions-is this what you mean? Is this what the tone is? You’re in it, and you do it.
As an actor, it’s a huge learning curve to produce something. It gives you a prospective that will help you be a better actor. I think everyone should do it, and everyone can. Technology is so democratized, it’s increasingly easy to get content out there.
WGTC: Besides Scandal, Criminal Minds and The Cottage, do you have any upcoming acting or producing projects that you can discuss?
BY: Right now, I’m just committed to Scandal. It’s full-time, and such a thrill. whenever there’s a pocket of time, I get to go to Criminal Minds. So right now, it’s TV, and two wonderful characters that I’m so lucky to get to live in for awhile. I couldn’t be any happier at the moment.