This reserve also extends to the television show and her book.
While “Scandal” is clearly based on Smith’s career — an African American crisis manager who once worked at the White House — Rhimes says none of the episodes stems from behind-the-scenes drama Smith told them, because Smith told them almost nothing.
Writing the seven-episode first season, Rhimes said, was a process of her and her staff creating situations, then asking Smith how she would handle them. One thing that did bleed through: Smith’s habit of telling her staff, “I need more.”
“She’s the inspiration for the show,” Rhimes says, “but Olivia Pope is not Judy.”
“Good Self, Bad Self,” meanwhile, is a self-help book, with a subtitle of “Transforming Your Worst Qualities into Your Biggest Assets.”
It’s a step-by-step approach to identifying your strongest traits — say, ambition or patience or a healthy self-regard — and understanding that these same traits can lead you over the cliff. To save yourself and your career when you screw up, she writes, you have to examine these traits, understand where you want to be when this mess is behind you, then rearrange your company or your self to reach that point.
She uses lots of examples — not her clients — of people who have emerged from the abyss, such as actor Rob Lowe. Once ensnared in a sex scandal with a teenage girl, he has since revived his life and career. The key? A sincere apology, a return to what you do well, and years of living that example.
“A wonderful quality about America is that we love redemption stories,” she writes. “We’re quick to lash out and assign blame, but we also draw from deep reservoirs of forgiveness.”
That’s her target, she says — guiding her extremely flawed clients into a second act, in which they are forgiven for their sins.
It might make for good television, it might not. But in Washington or in L.A., it’s a career with legs.
debuts Thursday, April 5, on ABC at 10 p.m. EST.