Hollywood Wrap

'Scandal' inspired by life of crisis expert Judy Smith

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Kerry Washington is playing the head of a crisis management firm in the new ABC drama series "Scandal." The woman Washington plays is based on someone who fixes problems for real.

Crisis expert Judy Smith's professional life is the inspiration for the character of Olivia Pope.

"For example, we did Michael Vick, and everyone said that, 'Don't do it. He's not going to get back in the league. It's not possible. It's not possible.' And we did it," said Smith.

In 2005, Vick was the top paid player in the NFL. But he lost his contract and went to prison for an illegal dog-fighting operation. Now, Vick is playing for the Philadelphia Eagles under a six-year, $100 million contract.

"The truth is so important. You cannot really help people unless they tell the truth," said Smith.

Smith's high-profile cases have also involved Chief Justice Clarence Thomas and White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

"We look at it, and we develop a strategy. And it's best to unravel the problem and to put people in a better position than they were before," Smith said.

Washington said she enjoys playing the role of a crisis expert.

"The thing that has been most important for me to learn about Judy is that she's far far far smarter than I am or will ever be. So it's really fun to play somebody whose mind is so...intricate," said Washington.

"Judy can walk into any situation and suddenly figure out the landscape of it almost immediately," said "Scandal" creator Shonda Rhimes. "She's always fixing things."

If "Scandal" turns into a hit, Smith could have more fixing to do.

"It could be great for business. I would love that. It'd be wonderful," said Smith.

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