Khandi Alexander Had Fun Keeping Her Big 'Scandal' Role a Secret

Yahoo TV
Khandi Alexander in "Scandal"
Khandi Alexander in "Scandal"

"Scandal" is all about Olivia Pope and her team of gladiators trying to unearth secrets.

For actress Khandi Alexander, it was all about keeping a big one.

When the news first hit that Alexander — a veteran of "CSI: Miami," "Treme," and "ER" — was joining the cast as Olivia's mom, Maya Lewis, many fans figured she'd pop up in flashbacks. So, when Maya was revealed to be alive — and kept prisoner by Olivia's father, Rowan — it was yet another of the show's signature narrative bombs.

Watch the scene:

Alexander chatted with Yahoo TV about keeping the big secret of Maya's whereabouts. Plus, she revealed which "Scandal" star she was most excited to meet on set.

What's the reaction been like to the twist that Maya's alive and generally, the craziness that is "Scandal'?

I am in Boston doing a play, [so] I'm not in it. I'm kind of sheltered from all of that so all the craziness is happening, but I am not part of it just yet.

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What can you tell us about Maya's role in the next few episodes?

We're going to learn more about Maya's past and her relationship with Olivia. We'll get more pieces to the Remington puzzle, and we'll see how Olivia deals with the unfolding info.

How would you describe Maya?

I liken her experience to someone who's been imprisoned for quite some time, and they have to transcend the situation in their mind in order to stay safe. So, it's kind of like someone who lives in California, you're a little isolated. (Laughs) And I mean that in a good way.

How did you get involved with "Scandal"?

Mark Wilding, one of the executive producers, called me and he didn't tell me a lot! But he told me who I would be playing, then he asked me not to tell anyone. And I'm a fan of the show and I said of course I would never tell anyone. And I didn't tell anyone — my manager, my agent, my guy. I didn't tell anyone! (Laughs) It was a lot of fun, it was a lot of fun keeping such a big secret.

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The show is stocked with great actors. What's it been like working with them?

This is one of the few shows that I've worked on that have table reads. Back when I did "ER" they had table reads, and I love that. I think all of the actors on "Scandal" come from the theater, so it's a joy for me as a fan of the show to hear the show and we all get together, every single role, and we read the script. And that is amazing. And for me, I had the opportunity to meet someone I am such a huge fan [of], and that's Lisa Kudrow. Lisa was there, so I had the chance to meet Lisa, who I just adore.

And all of the actors — I've had the opportunity to meet every single actor and let them know how much I love them and the work they're doing on the show.

"Scandal" is well-known for the fast pace of its dialogue. Did that take some getting used to?

I love it, I really do. It adds an extra element of excitement. You've got to wrap your mind around these words and really make sense out of it. At first, you go, "OK! Here we go! On the roller coaster, can't get off!" But I really do enjoy it; it's yet another challenge and something to sink your teeth into, I love it.

"Scandal" is huge on Twitter. And a lot of the cast members live-tweet. Are you on Twitter?

No, I'm not, but people keep telling me that I am, someone is pretending to be me or something? (Laughs)

Have you considered joining?

Well, Joe Morton is telling me how much he enjoys it, so I think if anyone will eventually get me on, it will be him. I'm working in the theater right now, so it's a little difficult to stay connected with that. So once I'm done with this production, I'll be able to go back to my real life and see what's going on there.

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What production are you in?

I'm doing a production at Harvard, at A.R.T. [American Repertory Theater], with Henry Louis Gates Jr. under the direction of Hilton Als. We're doing a play by Alice Childress called "The Wedding Band," and it's quite fabulous. And it's very cold here. And the audiences have been very receptive, it's just a wonderful experience. But I'm looking forward to getting back to my "Scandal" life.

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