Scandalize My Name:<br />
Ava DuVernay on a Gladiator Mission

Ava directing Kerry Washington's 'Olivia' on tonight's episode of Scandal

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or the other?

AD: Ha, I’m Team Liv! I want her to be happy. The sister needs some happiness. So it’s whomever she chooses. When she’s sleeping with Jake, I’m like “awww.” And when she’s with Fitz, I’m like “ohhh.” I like those moments when she has some peace. I’m rooting for her!

EBONY:  So you didn’t whisper any advice to Fitz while on set?

AD: (Laughter) I was with Fitz and I was also whispering in Jake’s ear too, but that’s because I had to give them direction... for fun. But no, I think they’re both good characters and both sweethearts in terms of actors. They are good people. Neither one of them gave me any problems. You know Tony Goldwyn [Fitz] is a very experienced director in his own right. He’s done tons and tons of TV. He’s directed like three films. And Scott Foley [Jake] has to be one of the funniest people I’ve ever met in my entire life. He and Kevin Hart could go head-to-head.

EBONY: Really?

AD: Yes, he’s that funny! I had a good time with both of them.

EBONY: Your music compositions are spot-on in Middle of Nowhere and Scandal is notorious for having the best music featured in their episodes. Did you have any say on what music will appear in tonight’s episode?

AD: I don’t. That’s Shonda’s role. She’s the queen of her music. Really as a director in episodic television you’re coming in to serve someone else’s vision. So those kind of details and the final cut of the show is her decision. It’s her show. I think she did a great job. I’m happy with the episode.

EBONY: All the characters in your films are shot so beautifully! Our skin has a glow in what looks like perfect lighting. How much energy do you put into lighting and how things are framed on the set?

AD: Scandal was really different for me. They have a look so I had to work to stay within that look. If it were up to me, I’d have everybody in the dark pushed to the corner of the frame in shadow. (laughter) I like to mess it up a little bit and do crazy stuff, but this is a network show. They gave me freedom within certain parameters, but my goal was to make it look like Scandal and to take myself out of it. To take the ego out of it, so even though I would look at Kerry on the set and say to myself I want to light her like this, that’s not Scandal, that’s Ava movie.

EBONY: What is your favorite moment on Scandal thus far this season?

AD: Oh my goodness! The very first episode with Joe Morton and Kerry at the airport hangar when she’s about to get on the plane and he’s going in on her and says, “What do we have to be? What do we have to be?” And she says, “Twice as good.” I loved that! I was there at the table reading and when they shot it. That was a real powerful scene for me.

EBONY: Yeah, casting Joe Morton in that role was brilliant! His energy is perfect for the dynamic of the show. He brings it every time!

AD: Imagine directing him! He walks in and I’m like, “Holy snacks, it’s Joe Morton! Here we go!” He was great. We found a rhythm and we worked really well together and Khandi Alexander as well—Mama and Papa Pope. I was in heaven with the two of them in their scenes in this episode. It was really exciting.

EBONY: Well give us a little scoop, please!

AD: It was exciting working with two formidable actors whose work I’ve watched and admired over the years. And to have them in scenes together and these were their first scenes together, and for me to be able to be there and kind of direct what that relationship was and find the nuances and find the movement and rhythm and make it work, I was like a kid in a candy store. These are the kind of actors where you say one thing and bam, they got it and they’re flying.

EBONY: It’s interesting hearing you talk about finding the rhythm and nuances and directing it all to be this great poetic movement of sorts. I read this Audre Lorde quote today from her essay “Eye to Eye” in Sister Outsider and it made me of think of the many Black women I know and how we mother ourselves and each other to be the best artists and creatives we can be. And then I thought of you—as the founder of AFFRM and as a director and how you choose to interact with a cast and crew. Please tell me what you think of these words: “Mothering ourselves means learning to love