Gays In The White House? On ABC’s “Scandal,” Yes!

James (Dan Bucatinsky, l) and Cyrus (Jeff Perry, r) hit relationship bumps in the White House

We’ve been well aware of the gay couple of ABC’s Scandal – the President’s Chief of Staff Cyrus (Jeff Perry) and his journalist partner, James (Dan Bucatinsky, but the last few weeks have seen their relationship get more attention. James has taken a bigger place in covering the White House press and, in doing so, stumbled upon a huge Presidential scandal including some rigged voting machines. A ploy that may have been the sole reason why President Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn) is in the Oval Office.

But with last week’s assassination attempt on the President’s life, tonight’s episode is delving into the past. That includes shedding some light on our favorite gays in an earlier time in their then-closeted relationship.

We jumped on the phone with Bucatinsky earlier this week to get the lowdown on what’s next for James and Cyrus.

AE: James’ role has really expanded this season. He’s definitely gotten more involved. How’s that been for you?
It’s a really big thrill for me, exploring how this particular couple clearly fell in love during the campaign trail.

James really, really has a passion for two things, one is journalism and the ambition he has for being sort of like a ­­­­­­Woodward & Bernstein kind of journalist. The other passion is to be a father. And it’s just so interesting. The deal [James and Cyrus] made was sort of one for the other. But to watch it unfold, you’re seeing the result of one part of that dream on the one end and then you flashback to the past. You’re seeing the moments of romance and the moments of fighting and how difficult it must be to have a relationship when you work at the White House, whether you’re straight or gay.

And that’s probably my favorite part about working on a Shondaland [creator Shonda Rhimes’ production company] kind of show, because the relationship is really not about gay or straight. It’s about how complex it would be to be married to the White House Chief of Staff. And then you add to that that I’m a Democrat and he’s a Republican. You add to that that he’s ten years older than I am, and you add to that that we each have an agenda and personal goals and passion. You add to that Cyrus’ desire to be a parent. You know, if it were a straight couple we would be playing the same thing.

Bucatinsky also Exec Produces and stars with Lisa Kudrow on Web Therapy

AE: Shonda loves putting her characters in the toughest positions, and James now knows something really big that he hasn’t shared with anybody yet. What’s James going to do with this information?
The one thing you know on this show: everybody gets stretched to their absolute limits. I think what you’ll see come up is that threat and what [Cyrus and James] are able to do about it. A lot I don’t know. A lot hasn’t been decided yet. But I do know that in the upcoming weeks we’re definitely going to see the increased threat because of the knowledge that James has and what he does with it. And what ultimately in the marriage he’s able to manage in order to at least keep it a secret I think.

AE: James has also got a nice new sense of power with his job right now. Does that come into play at all between him and Cyrus, who has always been the bigger power player?
A little bit. I mean, I think we’ve really seen how James uses power even in his own relationship. Even when he told his husband, ‘If we’re not going to have a family I’m going back to work. There’s nothing you can do to stop me.’ And then he tried to stop me, and I promise to stop, and then I ultimately don’t.

James, oddly, is holding a lot of the cards [and] we’ve seen on the show what happens to people who are holding all the cards. With trepidation I move forward and am excited to play the role. I love playing the role as a gay dad myself, being not quite as ruthless as James, but I’m always excited to sort of be able to let truth and fiction marry each other a little bit.

AE: Because James does hold so many cards, are you’re kind of reading the scripts a little faster to get to the end to see if you survive an episode?
I did that a lot certainly in the ones that are appearing next week and the following. The one after ‘Defiance,’ which aired last week…all the ones after ‘Defiance’, I was a wreck. You could literally flip a page and find out that you’re being hoisted out of a river. So, I did. I did read them, but each one of them was just breathtaking. I’ve got so much awe for the writers of the show and my fellow actors.

Lily Tomlin, Don Roos, Bucatinsky and Kudrow at a 2011 TCA panel

AE: And you’re so busy with all of your other projects with Lisa Kudrow and everything else. I imagine as soon as they yell ‘cut’ on Scandal you’re off running to write a script or do another scene for Web Therapy, right?
It definitely has started to feel like a very, very happy five car pile up on the freeway. Yeah, my book [Does This Baby Make Me Look Straight? Confessions of a Gay Dad] came out this year. And I’m in New York today being honored for the book [by the NFA, National Fertility Association] and we are writing the third season of Web Therapy right now and getting ready for another season of Who Do You Think You Are?

That’s with Lisa, but I’m also a consulting producer on Grey’s Anatomy. So, my Shondaland experience is very multi-layered. So, I’m often in the writer’s room of Grey’s and then bolting off to a wardrobe fitting for Scandal. You know, I take each day as it comes, but this is probably as busy as I’ve ever been. Not to mention I’m the dad of two small kids. I’m not complaining. It’s a really exciting time. I’m sort of getting to wear all the hats I’ve always dreamed of wearing all at the same time.

Scandal airs Thursdays at 10pm on ABC. 2013 will see new episodes of Showtime’s Web Therapy and NBC’s Who Do You Think You Are?

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