Although he was reading movie scripts that didn’t excite him, Columbus Short wasn’t interested in doing television, so he only reluctantly read the script for Scandal, Shonda Rhimes’s new ABC series starring Kerry Washington. "It taught me, ‘Don’t cut yourself off from what the universe has for you.’ This is the best thing that’s happened to me in my career.”
Not only is the Beltway milieu perfect for the self-described “political junkie,” Short was looking for a more provocative role that would allow him to transition to mature leading man roles, and finds that in his character Harrison Wright, a smart go-getter in sharp suits who “can sell an Eskimo ice” and is loyal to a fault. “It’s his strength and also his weakness,” says Short, adding that Wright’s “intelligence, wit, charm and the damaged human that he is all make for a character any actor would love to play.” As the series progresses, “You’ll learn more about his past and why Olivia hired him.”
He points out that Wright wasn’t written specifically as African American. “Actors of all colors and creeds wanted to play this role. That speaks to Shonda. She wants the best actors. Yes, she’s an African American woman, so is Kerry, but we’re beyond that. You get to see these people of strength, people you can look up to. That’s a great example to set.”
Short previously considered being a role model a “daunting burden I did not want to carry. I didn’t want to be accountable to people that might look up to me. But now, having a son and a daughter, I feel a responsibility to younger people, especially our people. Being an example at home first is important,” says the father of an eight-year-old son and an infant daughter, “Then going outward into the community.”
Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Short grew up in Los Angeles next door to Meagan Good, his eventual Stomp the Yard co-star, with whom he’s discussed re-teaming on screen. From an artsy family, he knew he wanted to act by the time he was four. During an awkward stage in his late teens when he wasn’t getting roles, he found work on stage in Stomp! and as backup dancer for Britney Spears and Brandy, which led to Stomp the Yard, and that hit opened doors, “catapulting me to a place where I could be a little more picky.”
These days, Short’s goal “is to be a good man, to better myself, to evolve. Career-wise I want to be doing this at the highest level, and I feel like I’m doing that right now.” He wants to make films—he has The Girl is in Trouble, a dark drama, in the can—“but I’m anxious for nothing these days,” he says. “I’m taking things as they come.”
Scandal premieres April 5 on ABC at 10 p.m.
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