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Exclusive: George Newbern on the 'Scandal' finale, B613's future and more

"Scandal"'s George Newbern
Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

"Scandal" wraps up its season on Thursday night with an episode that puts the presidential candidates under pressure -- and nothing is off limits as they each try to capture votes. But first, they have a funeral to attend, one that is only taking place because Maya/Marie (Khandi Alexander), Olivia's mother, killed a prominent senator in order to get all the important people in Washington, D.C. in one place at the same time.

"We had a screening of it Friday night and it is so much better than I ever thought it would be," says George Newbern, who plays B613 henchman Charlie, in this one-on-one interview. "The bar for the writers is so high, I keep thinking they cannot possibly keep one upping themselves, but they really do on this one. I was unbelievably impressed."

As we saw last week, Olivia (Kerry Washington) has done her best to protect Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) from her mother by appearing onstage with him whenever possible, but he is still planning to speak at the funeral. Sally (Kate Burton) also is scheduled to attend the ceremony. But now that Cyrus (Jeff Perry) has an inkling that that is where the bomb will be detonated, he tells the president that things are running late to keep him out of harm's way -- and possibly eliminate at least one of the other candidates for the top office -- no matter who else may die.

And Newbern confirms that someone is going to die in this episode, but he is under strict sanctions not to reveal who, only saying, "There is some death."

We will have to wait until Thursday night to find out if Cyrus is really heartless enough to expose the attendees to the terrorist attack played by Maya. In the meantime, check out what Newbern has to say about the finale, the future of B613, the love triangle between Charlie, Huck (Guillermo Díaz) and Quinn (Katie Lowes), and more.

I know Shonda Rhimes doesn't like spoilers, so what can you say about the season finale without getting in trouble?

What they do is they tie up like five storylines and then, basically, explode the whole thing. Not literally, but the whole thing gets turned on its ear and everyone is in complete opposite directions. I can just tell you that it is a very satisfying episode and, at the same time, it recalibrates the whole show for when it comes back in the fall.

When we first met Charlie, he mainly had scenes with Huck. Now he is involved with Quinn. Can you talk about the growth of the character?

Charlie's evolution has been through me, Shonda and the writers finding him. I think initially he was set up to butt heads with Huck and to give a glimpse into Huck's past. We had a scene where I informed his backstory and there was some exposition. I remember on the way out of the scene I did with him, there was a little kid in the diner and I reached over and I rubbed his head as I walked out the door. I talked to some of the writers [and that made them think], "Hey, there is something going on with this guy." I think they thought, "Maybe there is something here we can exploit." It has moved to showing less about Huck and now, I think, Charlie is a part of the fabric of that world.

In terms of the story, I think he has been a facilitator between plotlines and servicing what Cyrus needs done, and Joe Morton (Rowan Pope) and then Scott Foley's (Jake) characters. In the middle of that, we found some life and humor with Quinn.

How is the triangle going?

It is not looking food for me. Huck is … I think it is something deeper. It is not about sex necessarily. I think it is about a sense of belonging and home. I think Quinn feels like she belongs to OPA [Olivia Pope & Associates]. I think Charlie initially was a refuge for her away from OPA when she got kicked out. I think there were strong feelings there. They had something together. In Charlie's mind, he thinks there is genuine feeling there, as far as he knows. He just doesn't know how to do it in a normal way, and he is immature.

Is Charlie really capable of love, or he just likes the fact that Quinn is a woman who can do the same dark deeds as he?

I think he is capable of it. Again, I think you can find people who are not fully formed. Charlie is not fully formed. He is fully formed in some ways, but he doesn't understand that part of life. I think he wants it, but he doesn't know how to do it. His way of realizing it is to try to hold onto her and, clearly, that doesn't work. That is like an eighth grader's version of love. He doesn't get it, except they are in the middle of this world, where they kill and torture people, so that is just a background.

You've played so many nice guys and this show has gotten so much more violent than in the beginning, how do fans react to you now that you are playing a cold-blooded killer?

It's really wild. We've managed to bring some humanity to him, but at the same time, it's what he does for a living. He hurts people and extracts information. He does really scary, bad things. I don't know if it is the path that my career as an actor has been, or the part of Charlie, but there is something there that people want to connect with … they want to tell me that I freak them out, but if I really, really freaked them out, they wouldn't come up to me.

Olivia Pope & Associates destroyed B613. What will be next for Charlie?

I don't know that they really, truly killed B613. I don't know that you can do that. They think they have. My guess is that it evolves into something else. I think Charlie will find a way to survive.

What does B613 mean?

I have said this a thousand times but to me it sounds like my multi-vitamin. I think it is just a file number for an offshoot of the CIA. Maybe there was a B612 and this is a later incarnation. I don't know.

How has "Scandal" changed your life?

Actually, it's been really lovely. I've been out here doing this for 20 plus years. I have had some successes and continued to work. This is the first job that I have felt that I have gotten real traction in terms of the audience connecting with me and me staying on a show so long. That's changed my life. Of course, people come up to you and that's fun, but it's nice to be part of something that's part of pop culture. It's hard to be in something like that that you're proud of the work. It's hard to get that combination as an actor. I've done plenty of work that I felt good about but no one ever saw it. It's nice to do something I feel good about that is getting seen.

Do you think anyone will hire you to do a comedy again?

I hope so. Yeah, I think they will.

You went to school with quite a few people that have gone on to be successful. What do you think it was about your school?

I don't know. There was a guy named John Cameron Mitchell, who was older than me and he is in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. He is a very well-known New York guy. There was Dermot Mulroney, and Stephen Colbert. Stephen Colbert was in my group of 10-15 folks that hung out. He was super quiet. I never knew that he had the wit that he has, but he clearly is a genius. David Schwimmer was a year younger than me, but we were all in the theater building talking to each other. There was Harry Lennix, who is on "The Black List" with James Spader. I think Northwestern had a great reputation before and, I think, it feeds on itself. It is just an amazing, well-rounded place.

"The Price of Free and Fair Elections" episode of "Scandal" airs Thursday, April 17 at 10 p.m. on ABC.

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