4:35 pm EDT, July 16, 2014

Shonda Rhimes says ‘Scandal’ will be less than 8 seasons, teases return to core characters

In a wide-ranging Scandal interview with the Hollywood Reporter, series creator Shonda Rhimes speaks about what the future holds for her beloved show.

Concerning Scandal season 4 (which ABC just announced will be returning Thursday, September 25 at 9 p.m. eastern/pacific), Rhimes says that there will be a small time jump between the previous season and the new one.

Speaking of a jump, the show will also be addressing the departure of actor Columbus Short following his run-ins with the law. Rhimes says that the character’s departure will be “explained definitively,” and that his death will be felt by all of the Gladiators. “It will be very devastating for Abby in a surprising way. You’ll see how she’s coping with it in a very different way than you would expect,” Rhimes added.

A new Gladiator will not be added to the show to make up for Harrison’s death, and season 4 will see the show narrow its storytelling down to the core characters. “As we’re telling stories, the stories really do seem to be more focused on our core people. By necessity, in a weird way, last season we had to expand our universe. We had a lead actress who for reasons that are private [Washington’s pregnancy] was moving slower and could work less. So we had to hold things in front of her and tone it down a lot more.

“It just meant for us that it was a different energy for her and we were taking care of somebody. She couldn’t work 14 hours a day so we had to tell our story in a different way and that necessitated other people both picking up the slack in beautiful ways — we got to really see Bellamy Young (first lady Mellie Grant) sing and all the amazing moves she could do. We got to see those people sing in amazing ways and bring in other people for them to play against. We had to expand the universe for those things to happen.”

With Kerry Washington now back in the saddle in terms of her physical capabilities, Rhimes promises that they’ll be using her “the way we need to use her” for season 4.

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Elsewhere in her interview the Scandal creator addressed how long Scandal can stay on the air when you consider the story ultimately revolves around the Fitz/Olivia romance. “I’ve already decided when Scandal is ending. I think there’s only so much Scandal you can tell satisfactorily,” she said. “The Fitz-Liv thing can only be told so long and in such a way. It’s not a 10-season or eight-season show. I’ve already decided how long that is and what that’s going to be. I’m not really worry about that.”

When asked if Scandal will end at the end of Fitz’s second term as President of the United States, Rhimes only said that would be an “interesting” idea. “I’ve given myself a parameter of what [the end] is and whether or not that means that we end up deciding to stretch or shrink his presidency based on that remains to be seen.”

Read more over on THR.

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