Spelman honors inspiration behind ABC’s ‘Scandal’

TV preview

“Scandal” season finale, 10 p.m. Thursday, ABC

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

Smith, who was honored Wednesday night by Spelman College at its annual Women of Color Leadership Summit, wouldn’t talk about her clients, past or present, but had her thoughts about Reese Witherspoon’s recent run-in with the law.

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 are 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 traffic incident 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.