By Guest Contributor Monique Jones
Columbus Short confirmed that he had been fired from ABC’s hit show Scandal late April. His departure is a result being charged with misdemeanor spousal battery against his wife, Tuere Short. “At this time I must confirm my exit from a show I’ve called home for three years, with what is the most talented ensemble in television today,” Short said in a statement.
After thanking the show’s creator, Shonda Rhimes and the cast, Short said, “Everything must come to an end and unfortunately the time has come for Harrison Wright to exit the canvas.”
With the confirmation of his departure, it puts the show and fans at a crossroads—who will pick up where Harrison left off and become the next right hand to Olivia Pope?
It would seem that certain qualities are necessary in order to be a great second-in-command at Pope & Associates. Those qualities–an infinite amount of charm, cunning and the ability to play a little dirty–seemed to be what kept Harrison employed. So, with that in mind, I have list of eight actors and actresses (yes, actresses!) that could become the new Harrison. All of the actors meet the criteria of:
- Being either glamorous or alluring in some capacity, which the character could use as an assist to their charm technique
- Playing roles with a certain amount of intensity, and
- Are either available for new television roles or are on shows that could allow for a dual role on a different show (like if a show is shooting in the off-season or something). Let’s jump into it.
Last television role: Andy Brooks, Sleepy Hollow (Fox)
John Cho should be at the top of all the lists. He can play comedy (the Harold and Kumar series, Cartoon Network’s Children’s Hospital) just as easily as he can play an action star (the Star Trek reboot series) and sci-fi/drama (ABC’s Flashforward,). He was able to display that kind of versatility as Andy on Sleepy Hollow: all at once he was menacing, sympathetic, misguided, obsessive, redemptive, and oddly hopeful. Even better is that Cho’s other recent role, Steven from the also-cancelled NBC show Go On, was a primer role for playing a character like Harrison. Steven was quick-talking, charming, ready to mix it up with
the ladies, and the boss of a sports radio station.
When we last saw Cho as Andy — who was already a walking corpse imbued with demonic life — he had been buried under the rubble of an underground tomb. He could be dead-dead or he could be just waiting for the opportune moment to show up during Sleepy Hollow’s Season 2. But in the event Andy’s soul has truly been allowed to rest, Cho should fill out an application from Pope & Associates. As illustrated, his acting chops are on point and he’s right at home playing a savvy, used car salesman type skilled at getting his way.
Last television role: Dorian, Almost Human (Fox)
Let’s not state the obvious here, people. We all know he’s not ugly. But his face isn’t the only reason he should be cast in Scandal. The guy seems to have bad luck with television shows, and this show could give him the role to break that streak. His bad luck with television is a shame, since he’s actually quite talented in playing more than just the “sensitive pretty boy” type of character he gets to play all the time in movies. Two of the few movie roles that allowed him to break that mold Detective Sebastian in Underworld: Awakening and Beau Willie in Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls (it’s the latter character in particular that shows how Ealy’s good looks can be used to chilling effect).
How awesome would it be to have Ealy use his looks as a contrast to a character that’s as cunning and slick as Harrison or even more so? Ealy’s Harrison-esque character would certainly use his looks to get him private, top-secret information from interested men and women alike. The charm would conceal just how amoral his character truly would be.
We’ve seen Ealy play innocent, cherubic and wide-eyed to a T plenty of times–his role as android cop Dorian on FOX’s recently (and for me, sadly) canceled Almost Human. But we need to see the hardcore side of Ealy once in a while. Playing second to Olivia would certainly be a great time to show it.
Last television role: Robert T. Ironside, Ironside (NBC)
Let’s face it — Ironside was horrible. It was also sad; this was Underwood’s pet project it seemed, since he was not only starring in it, but acting as executive producer. It would have been great to have him headline a hit police procedural airing week in and week out. But if there’s one silver lining to it, it’s that it showed Underwood’s ability to play a hard-nosed, slick, Shaft-like individual who has a rapport with the ladies and can still tag the bad guys. All Underwood needs to do is bring just a tenth of that bravado to a new character on Scandal, and he’ll be golden.
Underwood is known for playing suave characters. Sometimes, those characters are actually good citizens, but Underwood seems to be known more for the suave characters that have turned out to be slimeballs, such as Carlos Armstrong from Madea’s Family Reunion.
His ability to flip from awesome to scary is a great asset for a new Harrison-esque character, especially one that might be more intense and terrifying than the first. If Underwood became Olivia’s second, his character would probably rival Rowan in terms of the sheer amount of scenery-chewing and monologue spouting.
Most notable film role: Older Salim, Slumdog Millionaire; currently starring in Million Dollar Arm as Dinesh
Mittal’s rise in Hollywood is gaining full force as we speak. He’s starring in Disney’s upcoming Million Dollar Arm, meaning that he’s now has a spot open to become a recurring Disney/ABC player in films and, hopefully, television. Seeing how Scandal is on ABC, Mittal already has a foot in the door.
Knowing the right people isn’t the only thing Mittal has on his side. In Slumdog, we saw him play Older Salim with a level of expertise and intensity usually expected from well-seasoned, Oscar-winning actors. Mittal played Salim as more than a villain; Mittal showed the audience that Salim was a product of his circumstances. While his brother Jamal (Dev Patel) still held hope and love, Salim’s mentality was much more complex, revealing his frustration with his life, his ambition for power, and his need to protect his brother by trying to steer him towards joining his crime mob.
Mittal could bring a lot of Salim to a Harrison-type character and create a character who is deeply-layered and alluring in his complexity. In fact, the levels Mittal could bring to a character on Scandal could possibly outshine Olivia and her issues.
Last television role: Gabriel Lowen, Beauty and the Beast (CW)
Ramamurthy is another person on this list whose attractiveness is almost annoying in its aggressiveness. But apart from being aggressively attractive, Ramamurthy has a following among us hardcore television viewers. He’s had tons of appearances on the small screen, including Psych, Covert Affairs, The Office, CSI: Miami, Heroes and plenty more.
Ramamurthy’s calling card is pure charm all the time. Many of his characters exude charm and class–a great example is his character from Covert Affairs, Jai Wilcox. Jai was so charming that he was a serious threat to the show’s canon relationship, Annie (Piper Perabo) and Auggie (Christopher Gorham). Since Jai was a part of the CIA, it makes sense that charm would be a part of his arsenal.
It would be fun to see Ramamurthy bring Jai back to life in the form of a Scandal character. It would be awesome to see Ramamurthy use the charm he naturally exudes in a character that uses that skill to weasel his way into getting the info he needs.
Currently starring in AMC’s Mad Men as Dawn Chambers and in Dear White People as Colandrea Conners
In the event that a woman is cast in Short’s place, I think Teyonah Parris should be given a shot. She is currently known for playing Dawn in Mad Men, but the show is nearing its end. After the show takes its final bow, a role on Scandal would be a great next step for her. She plays Dawn superbly, showing the intense pressure she faces as the first black secretary at SC&P to fit into white society while trying to keep her head down and make her way in the corporate world.
But playing an amoral, glamorous woman who is also Olivia’s second-in-command would be amazing. Also, instead of having her begin to go against her boss and upstage her in the hopes of claiming Pope & Associates for herself, it would be heartening if she had a sisterly-type of relationship with Olivia, making their scandal-fixing that much stronger.
Taraji P. Henson
Last television role: Joss Carter, Person of Interest (CBS). Currently starring in Think Like a Man Too as Lauren
Henson has tremendous acting chops, as shown in films ranging from Think Like a Man and its sequel to the likes of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (which earned her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress), I Can Do Bad All by Myself and Hustle and Flow. She’s also been on plenty of television shows, including ER, Half & Half, House, CSI, Eli Stone and most recently, Person of Interest.
Henson also is vivacious, sultry and exciting to watch, which would fit a character designed to be Olivia’s right hand. With every role she has, she generally shines. Even in I Can Do Bad All by Myself, she brings some reality to the otherwise soapy proceedings. Her ability to chew scenery and engage an audience would bring an intense punch to the Scandal proceedings (as if things aren’t already punchy already).
Vivica A. Fox
Last television role: Casandra Washington, Mr. Box Office (Centric)
Fox, who I will always remember as Jasmine from Independence Day, deserves better than starring in Sharknado 2: The Second One. Call me elitist, but seriously? Fox is much more talented than the C-list status she’s somehow fallen into. One way she can find her footing again would be to land a role on a hit show like Scandal, especially if that role is as Olivia’s second.
Fox has been in the business a long time, starring or featured in works like True Jackson, VP, Law & Order, the Kill Bill series, The Slammin’ Salmon (which also starred Ramamurthy), Raising Hope and the upcoming Golden Shoes. And, as mentioned, she also supported her man (Will Smith) as he fought aliens in Independence Day. She also had a guest spot on the WE TV reality show L.A. Hair, in which she got into a verbal altercation with one of the stylists. More than likely, the altercation was partially scripted, showing that Fox knows how to play a character who can bite back when necessary. Fox can bring that bite as well as her beauty and talent to a character that uses her smarts and talents to get the best of her (and Olivia’s) enemies.
What do you think about this list? Who is not on this list that you’d like to be the new Harrison?
Give me your selections in the comments section!
Monique Jones is a freelance journalist and writer for the Miami New Times. You can read her newest articles about Miami’s arts and culture weekly in the Miami New Times and online at cultistmiami.com. Monique also runs entertainment site Moniqueblog.net and will be launching WhatWouldMoniqueDo.com, a site focusing exclusively on the race-crazy world of Hollywood, September 1, 2014.