Being the new kid on the Scandal block is never easy, but being a new gladiator at OPA? Well, those lions don’t play.
That’s what Marcus Walker (Cornelius Smith Jr.) has discovered after joining Olivia Pope’s (Kerry Washington) team this season. He’s experienced some condescending treatment from colleagues Huck (Guillermo Diaz) and Quinn (Katie Lowes), who are wary of bringing in a new soldier to the scandal-fixing trenches.
Yahoo TV chatted with Smith about Marcus’s rude welcome into OPA, what he hopes to learn about the activist-turned-fixer, and what fans can expect as the season draws to a close.
Marcus has joined a really tight-knit team, and Huck and Quinn don’t seem to want him there. What is that like to play for you as an actor?
I’m having a lot of fun playing the character of Marcus and working with everybody. But in terms of his journey, it’s been fun and frustrating and exciting and a little upsetting to be kept on the outskirts when you want to belong to a team. And not to be able to do that, and have people blocking you from every which way, we’ll see how it takes a toll on Marcus as we move forward.
Huck seems to be warming up to Marcus a little, but Quinn still seems dead set against him. Can you talk about those relationships?
It’s obviously a new relationship. It’s funny — you see glimpses of Huck lightening up to Marcus, and then shutting him down. You see instances where Quinn maybe lightening up to Marcus, and she shuts him down. With Quinn and Huck, it’s an odd and new relationship that, as an actor, I am still discovering and developing with them. But already there’s so much in the pot, in terms of there being so many different colors in that relationship. It’s kind of a love-hate-respect relationship that they have.
Sometimes you see more of the — I won’t say hate, but you get a glimpse that they are protecting Marcus for his own good. Marcus has no idea. When people reject you, it’s difficult not to take it personally. Oftentimes, we personalize rejection as a rejection of who we are as an individual and our value and our worth. So, I think Marcus is governing that fine line of how he’s handling the adversity and the rejection he’s getting in the office.
All of the gladiators bring something unique to the table. Marcus seems to bring optimism. Would you agree with that?
I think he brings a new energy. Like you said, he’s optimistic, he’s grounded in passion and truth. I think we’ll see him continue to be the moral compass for the gladiators. And being the moral compass is a tough job, because when you look at the show, Marcus is surrounded by people who, for lack of a better word, keep doing wrong and fudging the line and going over that line. So, for him to create the line and hold the line, it’s a major responsibility and a huge task that is exciting to play and exciting to watch.
Over the seasons, we’ve delved into the other gladiators’ backgrounds. Will we learn more about Marcus?
You know, that’s not up to me. I certainly hope we continue to dive in and find out a little bit more about who Marcus is. I know almost as much as the audience knows. There isn’t any kind of secret information that I’m privy to that the audience isn’t privy to. As his background is flushed out, that’s more information for me, which is incredibly exciting. But I’d like to know really anything about Marcus — his family, where he came from, where he grew up, how he got to D.C., his relationship, and past life. There really are so many unanswered questions about Marcus that I have as an actor, but it doesn’t stop me from creating a character and life that I can relate to and attach to.
What can you tell us about this week’s episode? It was directed by Regina King, right?
Yes, this next episode was directed by the lovely and fabulous Regina King. What I can say about this episode is that Olivia will continue to ask the gladiators to spy on Jake. In this episode, you’ll see how Marcus is basically going to step up in a very key way. And just like the gladiators are still getting to know Marcus, so are the clients of OPA. So, we’ll see them get to know Marcus a little better and how he can step up to the plate. And we’ll see how that’s received by the other gladiators. The tension is getting thick. The soup, if you will, is getting hotter! Things are getting bubbly and maybe starting to boil over a little bit.
The season is starting to wind down, and as we’ve seen in years past, Scandal likes to end seasons with a bang. Can we expect the same thing this time?
You can definitely expect a huge bang at the end of this season. It’s funny, I’m not even sure what’s going on! But I do know it’s going to be fire. Every episode that I have been a part of and working on now — it just keeps getting better. Tensions keep rising. Relationships are changing. They’re not just different, they’re actually changing, and the maturity, or lack thereof, in the relationships is changing.
Scandal airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on ABC.