However prescient Scandal may seem about our real-world political landscape when it returns for season six later this month, Shonda Rhimes wants to make it perfectly clear that the intention isn't to mirror our stranger-than-fiction reality.

Addressing journalists via satellite during the show's panel at the 2017 Winter TCA Press Tour, the prolific producer fielded plenty of questions about how the results of Scandal's fictional election would compare to how it went down in the real world. "I don't really equate the two. That's not really the goal, obviously. If that had been goal, we would have waited until after the election," she admitted, reminding the room that production on the new season began back in July to accommodate Kerry Washington's pregnancy. "The goal had been really to tell the story we had been telling."

Scandal, Kerry Washington

ABC

This season, that story will get a bit more streamlined as the episode count is a bit smaller than previous seasons—and Rhimes is happy about it. "I was delighted. It was a thing I wanted and asked for," she admitted. "It was a relief knowing that the season would be shorter. You don't have to tread water every once in a while. I think it actually made our storytelling more powerful, I hope." 

While we've still got a few weeks to go before we learn who will replace Fitz in the Oval Office, we know with certainty that we'll be watching President Grant begin his transition back to private citizen. And Tony Goldwyn is looking forward to exploring that. "I think Fitz will be a great ex-President. I'm feeling a little uncomfortable speaking those words," he said. "I honestly always just imagined…from the very beginning, one of Fitz's personal struggles was I think he felt very much that he could be perhaps more effective and happier outside of the presidency than within it. So I think he would have great dreams of being an effective, impactful ex-president, but again, I have no idea whether that will come to pass."

As for how the show's leading lady has adjusted back to work following the birth of her second child, she admitted that it's still a work in progress. "I'm still figuring that out because we're just back at work, but I guess the nice thing is I did it once before because this is my second child that I've birthed," Washington said. "It's been really interesting for me as an actor because I work very physically…so the challenge of my physicality changing dramatically two times now in the life of the show and Olivia's body not changing…has been a real exercise for me and has kind of taught me to grow my tool box."

Scandal returns Thursday, Jan. 26 at 9 p.m. on ABC.

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