Dan Bucatinsky Opens Up About 'Scandal' Shocker: Final Scene With Scott Foley Bonded Us Forever

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The world of "Scandal" is a dangerous one, which means anyone can die at any moment.

Still, it was a tremendous shock to see the resolution of last week's humongous cliffhanger — did Jake shoot James (Dan Bucatinsky) or David (Josh Malina)? It turned out that Jake ended up shooting and killing James. And that tragedy will undoubtedly cause major ripple effects on Cyrus (Jeff Perry), Olivia (Kerry Washington), and the entire Gladiator crew.

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Bucatinsky, who won an Emmy as a guest star on "Scandal," talked with Yahoo TV about the stunning turn of events — when he knew, how he was told, what the reactions of cast members were. And he chatted about what's next on the horizon.

How did you find out that James was getting killed off?
Sometime in mid-January, I got a call from Shonda. This was a few days after we had all done a table read of the episode prior, where you don't know if Josh or I are going to drop. So after that table read, everybody was scrambling with ideas and thoughts with what might happen. I don't even think the writers had thought through it. In some shows, you have this big, mapped-out idea of the entire season and you know when people are doing what and when. But on "Scandal," there's such explosive storytelling every single week that I think they weren't positive how they were going to finish the story — which one of us would drop, would both of us drop, would neither of us drop? It was really up in the air.

So, as the days progressed, it became more and more tense for Josh and I. Then, I got a call from Shonda to let me know that they had to stay true to the story, that they thought of every other possibility, and the only one that felt organic to what they'd been building was that James would have to die.

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It was hard news, and it took me awhile to process. But I've had a nice long time now from the time I was told, and then I got the script, and we shot the script — and have had a lot of opportunities to mourn it and spend time with my castmates and get through it. It really was a mourning process, and not just because I'm leaving the show and leaving people I love, and also mourning the character, who I've become very fond of.

 

How do you think James's death will affect Cyrus and everyone else?
For me, to speculate about how they're going to write it, I have no idea. I've always told Jeff that the scenes we got to play together brought so many different colors to his character that were beyond what he was capable of in the White House. His thirst for power and his devotion and love for the president and all of his political shenanigans were one side of him. But there was this other side of him that James brought out. But as Cyrus pimped out his husband, we've always seen a very dark side of Cyrus. And I feel like the mourning of his husband and his first authentic love is something that I hope in future episodes we see play out.

The "Scandal" cast is very close. How did they react to your departure?
It was big news. I think a lot of people just didn't imagine that they would really do it. I was sort of encouraged and comforted by that thought. Then when I found out that it was happening, Shonda sent a letter to the cast, and I got a lot of shocked and supportive emails. On the one hand, everyone acknowledged that it was an amazing story — what a turn, what a twist! For the show to do something with a beloved character like that continues to fuel an audience fervor that this show has. They kind of owe it to the audience, even if I hate it [laughs]! Even if it's to my detriment, people need to know that kind of thing is possible. My cast members were all sad and have expressed that a lot over the last month, and have talked about how to keep our friendship alive for many years to come.

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What was it like shooting your last episode? It must've been very emotional.
It was hard to shoot, but also woven in there were all these lovely, fun, flirtatious flashbacks. The final scene was one of the hardest things I've ever experienced personally or professionally. The level of reality — I had to lie on the ground, gag, eyes opened, for long periods of time, underneath this sheet. It's kind of a metaphysical, existential idea of being aware of one's own death. I remember feeling like, "Oh my god, this is what is to be a body on the ground." It was hard. And the final scene with Scott Foley is something that bonded us for probably forever. It was very difficult, every emotional. We did it many, many times, until 2 o'clock in the morning. And it was the final thing I did on the scene.

It can't be easy to get killed off, but you are walking away from this with an Emmy.
Of course. Yes, I'm disappointed, I would've loved to stay on the show for years to come. I really loved getting to play that material and the cast. I feel very blessed to have done 27 episodes of a part that started so simply and without any real hint that it was going to develop the way it did. I'm a very lucky guy. And the Emmy on top of that is all just gravy. I feel like it's also awakened in me a love for acting that I came out to Los Angeles with, but I wound up taking different career turns. I'm eager for the next chapter.

Speaking of the next chapter, we just saw the announcement that you'll be joining the pilot for "Marry Me," from the creator of "Happy Endings."
It's such a funny pilot. David Caspe is such a talented writer. It's one of the few pilots I've read in the past five years that's as funny as it is, and I just wanted to be a part of it. And Casey Wilson having two dads, a) is just a great idea, and b) that Tim Meadows and I would be her dads [laughs] ... arguing about which of our sperm actually impregnated the surrogate, when, to at least one of us, is completely obvious [laughs]. It's fun, and it's a complete challenge. It's a much older character than I am. While it's not a departure of me to play the husband of another man, I do think it'll be fun to be on a comedy.

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Is it a total mindtrip to go from an intense, crazy drama like "Scandal" to something more light and fun?
It really is. And the timing of it — I've been shooting that all last week and this week — was right. I really wanted to be doing something that would distract me from the sadness of the end of "Scandal."

"Scandal" airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.