Five questions with Judy Smith, inspiration behind 'Scandal'

Judy Smith
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Judy Smith is a crisis manager who has worked with the likes of Monica Lewinsky and Mike Vick. She is also the inspiration for ABC's hottest new show "Scandal," which has its second season finale Thursday night.

Smith is being honored by Spelman College Wednesday night at its annual Women of Color Leadership Summit along with actress Nicole Ari Parker.

I was given an opportunity to talk to Smith by phone. But Smith threw me off when she said she couldn't answer 1) any questions about clients, past or present and 2) any personal questions.

The conversation kind of went sideways from there and (my fault), I didn't end up getting in as many "Scandal" questions as I should have although that was one of the topics that was technically open to me. So I apologize for the brevity of this. And I'm certain she wasn't going to give me an spoilers for the season finale either way:

Q: How did the show come to be?

Smith: People have been telling me my life would make a great TV show for 25 years. I didn't pay much attention. My agent set up 15 minutes with Shonda Rhimes [creator of "Grey's Anatomy" and "Private Practice."] We ended up talking for 90 minutes. We talked about the kind of work I do and why I do it. why I love it so much.

Q: Did you have any idea it would be such a hit?

Smith: I had no clue. I just feel very blessed and very grateful that people are supporting the show.

Q: What's your role on the show as an executive producer?

Smith: Shonda might email or call me. 'I need something really bad like a plane crash. How would you handle that?' I really focus on the crisis. She handles all the relationship stuff.  I do read all the scripts and send notes. I go on set when I have time.

Q: So what aspects of Kerry Washington's character is most like you?

Smith: She's strong, compassionate and at the top of her game She' s not afraid to deal with issues head on.

Q: What's your take on Reese Witherspoon's arrest here in Atlanta?

Smith: It was sort of counter to the image she's been projecting through the years. I think people appreciated that she was upfront about making a mistake and apologized. When you are sincere about an apology, that comes across. The American public is very forgiving. If you look at Lance Armstrong on Oprah, the interview generated more skepticism than sympathy. That was certainly not its intent.

TV preview

"Scandal" season finale, 10 p.m. Thursday, May 16, ABC

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