Scandal's Jeff Perry on That Confession Twist: Cyrus "Sees a Way Out of This"

[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers about Thursday's episode of Scandal. Read at your own risk.]

Cyrus Rutherford Beene is innocent -- and so is Tom.

In the final minutes of Thursday's Scandal, Tom (Brian Letscher), while being strangled by Cyrus' (Jeff Perry) new prison buddy Ralph (William Duffy), admits that neither of them were behind the killing of Frankie Vargas (Ricardo Chavira). Tom claimed Cyrus ordered the hit because he "wanted to see him suffer."

He also had some monetary incentive. At the same time, OPA figures out Tom's whereabouts the night of the murder (uh, shouldn't someone have already been on top of this?): He was grabbing dinner down in Atlanta. Not only that, but someone wired $2 million to Tom's bank account, likely to take the fall and implicate Cyrus in Vargas' murder.

So what's next for Cyrus, who was so defeated and prepared to die? What's next for Olivia (Kerry Washington), who refused to hear Cy's plea for help and said they'll never see each other again? We caught up with Perry to get the scoop.

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So Cyrus is innocent!
Jeff Perry:
I know! What's interesting is that Cyrus doesn't know there's outside corroboration of that.

I loved the smile on your face at the end when you kept repeating, "I'm innocent." What is Cyrus' mindset now? Is he reinvigorated? He was so defeated and desperate the whole episode.
Perry:
I think he is reinvigorated. He was absolutely desperate. I think he assumed, "I'm headed to the chair." I think this is the beginning of Cyrus rising from the ashes. He believes Tom, he believes [Tom] will somehow formally recant and he sees some light. He sees a way out of this, a way to survive.

Cyrus seemed content to just kill Tom. He was so taken aback when he said they were both innocent. If Tom hadn't said anything, was Cyrus truly ready to accept his own fate?
Perry:
I think in Cyrus' head, it was, "Tom, between my relationship with you and my using of you, if it led to robbing the world of Frankie Vargas, we both have to go. You will go and then I will go." When that gets split, I think what he was left with was one simple survival thought. Something I use for fuel is what's in Cyrus' heart. I know sometimes the audience wonders if he has one at all [Laughs]. But I can look Frankie's widow and child in the face and say, "I wish this had never happened. I had nothing to do with it. I loved your husband, I loved your father."

What's the next step for both Cyrus and OPA?
Perry:
Even though we've shot a number of episodes, that is still in the writers' secret bag. That hasn't been revealed to the cast. We don't know who is going to be president yet, we don't literally know how, if, when Cyrus gets out of prison. In a way, the next couple of episodes are both going forward to an extent and going backward.

So you don't know who paid Tom to make the confession yet? The No. 1 suspect has to be Rowan (Joe Morton).
Perry:
That's where my brain goes to. As a Scandal fan and as Cyrus, it's, where the hell is Rowan? Somebody account for his time and his whereabouts. [Laughs] We'll see if you and I and the majority are right.

He planted the idea in Olivia's head that you killed Frankie and he had Tom kill Fitz's son.
Perry:
That's right. He's a prime suspect.



Who are Cyrus' allies now? Abby (
Darby Stanchfield) seems to be the closest. She didn't want the death penalty for him.
Perry:
I think Abby is the closest ally and champion. I don't think Cyrus knows to what extent she is, but the audience has more revelations about Abby. Abby is doing everything she can to have his back.

Do you think Olivia has always known deep down that Cyrus didn't do it? It's almost like she doesn't really care who actually killed Vargas; she just wanted to take Cyrus down. During the phone call, she says, "It doesn't matter what I believe."
Perry:
Yeah, I think there's a very nice believable ambivalence, a duality there. Olivia is a professional investigator and fixer and will follow the facts. Enough of the white hat is intact that she will do that. There's another side in which she's thinking, "Cyrus, if it's not this, then it might be one of the seven other horrible things you've done. But the big karmic bill has to be paid." It feels like both things are in operation for Olivia. I think the stark evidence that Tom couldn't have done this will force her to obey the facts.

She wanted to bring you down and now she can be your savior.
Perry:
Yes, she could. I wouldn't put that past her.

Is Cyrus and Olivia's relationship irreparable?
Perry:
I think it's hard to repair, but I can't imagine it's irreparable. The relationships with Olivia, with Fitz (Tony Goldwyn), with Michael (Matthew Del Negro) -- and is there any kind of relationship with Tom going forward? You'd think that Cyrus has somehow learned a lesson. But in Tom, he's almost dealing with Lenny from Of Mice and Men. It's almost a separate rulebook for Tom's particular impairment. [Laughs] It's very interestingly fraught. How do these relationships go forward? I think Cyrus will try to repair them. It makes you wonder, how capable is Cyrus of remorse, forgiveness? He's certainly been in the most dire circumstances that could change a person, but how much can you change the wiring that's usually about, "Wait a second. You hurt me, I'll hurt you." That'll be interesting.

She tells him to "be a man you can be proud of." Is he going to take that to heart?
Perry:
I think when Fitz visited him in the hospital and said, "I need you to make a promise to me. I'm about to hand you something: America. I need you to be better, better than me, better than yourself. Be better." And I think Cyrus is really going to try.

I think what's tragic about the whole thing is he's being framed, and now we know that Vargas making him VP was completely genuine and Cyrus' distress over his death was genuine too, even he already knew that Vargas was probably going to oust him over the whole Jenny thing.
Perry:
Yeah, you're completely right. Cyrus has true respect and admiration for Vargas.

Do you think Cyrus actually loves Tom?
Perry:
[Pauses] Yeah, but if he's going to be committed to being better, he's either got to figure out how to be the best teacher in the world or Tom has to be sent to an island with a bank account. [Laughs]

Did you ever believe that Cyrus killed Vargas? Cyrus is a monster, but he's a smart monster. He wouldn't have been this sloppy and he would've waited until he was sworn in, right?
Perry:
No, I didn't. I always thought that if there was anything pure about Cyrus, it was his adoration of Frankie Vargas. He wouldn't do that. I think it was sincere when he said, "I don't need to be vice president. I love to help make presidents." But there is that duality, going back to the scene with James (Dan Bucatinsky) when they got naked -- "Are you wearing a wire? I think you're wearing a wire."

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And he said he could've been president.
Perry:
Yeah, he said, "You think I wanted to be chief of staff? I wanted to be president." There are these warring urges in the man. I don't know. I think the major question right now is, can this guy change enough of his spots?

Cyrus has so much dirt on everyone else, the rigging and murders and cover-ups. Would he ever reveal those to save himself?
Perry:
When Olivia when called him when I was about to go to the photo op of the official ticket ... as he's walking out there, Olivia says, "I know what you did to get Vargas here. I know what happened in that State Capitol." And I blithely reminded her, "Yeah, well, I know what happened with a certain chair over the head of a certain vice president." So, you know, let's leave it at that. ... But if he's capable of the level of change you and I are speculating about, he'd just say, "Put that stuff away. Lock it up. No, you're not going to use any of that."

Your daughter [Zoe Perry] will be on the show. What can you say about her character? No one knows who she's playing.
Perry:
Here, I'll give you the big scoop: She's playing a character named Mystery Woman.

Oh, cool. Capital M, capital W?
Perry:
Yup!

Do you have a lot of scenes with her?
Perry:
I'm not allowed to talk about that! [Laughs]

You can probably talk about this: What's it like having her on set?
Perry:
I love it. We get to giggle and talk. I just know she's been having a blast doing it.

Scandal airs Thursdays at 9/8c on ABC.

This article originally appears on TV Guide.com.

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