On the ABC drama Scandal, Mellie Grant is the First Lady everyone seems to love to hate - or who everyone hates to admit they love. In reality, the actress who plays her is a talented singer and actress with a passion for both the stage and the screen.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Bellamy Young about her experiences prior to Scandal and the relationship between Fitz and Mellie. Read on to find out what she had to say!
TV Fanatic: Your background is in theater, musical theater specifically. What's it like to go from the stage to the screen?
Bellamy Young: What a great question. It's a thrill. It's a different kind of storytelling. You can be a lot more internal with it, even more so on film because your face is giant. You can sort of telepathically reach people on film, and on television is sort of the middle ground. You can have a rich internal life that people see that's coming to them 7 feet from their sofa. And then on stage, it's much more about full-body, making sure that the people at the back of the house understand even through your pinky finger what you're feeling and where we are in the story. So it's just a different way of using your body, your instrument, differently to adjust to the size of the medium.
But it's all still storytelling and we're just lucky that a lot of plays are just, the writing is so beautiful because you have someone to craft them, and I'm in a moment where I'm super lucky because the writing is so beautiful even though those writers have 4 minutes and 2 seconds. It's jaw-dropping writing.
TVF: Would you like to return to the stage some day?
BY: I would love to. Nothing would please me more. And I miss New York every day. And I'm a singer and it's a whole different experience to be able to sort of move people with song. That is my greatest gift, like my truest self. I don't know where I'd be if I couldn't sing. I don't know who I'd be if I couldn't sing. Yes, I hope that's ahead of me again.
TVF: Any chance we'll get to hear Mellie sing, perhaps to America's Baby?
BY: We took the writers out for a writers' appreciation dinner and that idea was bandied about, so we'll see if that happens.
TVF: Which real life First Lady(ies) have been drawn from to create Mellie's style? Did you study the lives of any First Ladies to help develop the character of Mellie Grant?
BY: I'm aided in that pursuit by Lin Paolo who is a genius, and if you know her history, we are so lucky that she's in charge. Through this pregnancy, I had a few misgivings about "what am I gonna look like?" She has made Mellie so cute it defies logic. She and Shonda, who is very involved, and I, we wanted to continue to tell the story in her clothes. So you can see in the flashbacks, things like her jewelry is a little different. Mellie is a little freer. She's grown into her idea of what a First Lady would be. And we never see Mellie when she isn't 100% hair and makeup fabulousness.
Mellie has a very particular sense of what a First Lady is. You can't say the phrase First Lady and not think of Jackie O. She is absolutely iconic. But Michelle Obama is also an incredibly stylish woman and we've drawn from her a lot. It was fascinating to watch the campaign because we're moderate Republicans on the show so watching Ann [Romney] was very informative. You do your homework and you draw a little bit from everywhere and it just comes up fresh.
TVF: Were Mellie and Fitz a marriage of convenience or love?
BY: I think very much you're meeting them at a miserable moment in their marriage. but they have very much always been a team. Mellie loves Fitz, true love, would do anything, wishes she could've taken the bullet for him. I think Fitz thought he loved her as you love people before you meet the person you're in true love with. So I think that, absolutely, their marriage was out of love and a shared hope for the future and being partners on a very particular path. And it just sort of got linebackered by Fitz falling in true love with Olivia. When he met her his life changed.
TVF: What's holding Mellie together right now? She seems isolated in the White House and could use a friend.
BY: Well right now Mellie is isolated at the ICU and what's holding ehr together right now is the sheer force of will to keep Fitz alive. so whatever that takes, and to keep him alive and keep him President and keep their life together, she will stop at nothing to make that happen. She loves that man. She is ferocious in her love for him.