Darby Stanchfield goes the distance for her art. Even when it calls for getting dirty.
“I couldn’t wash my hair for six days. I could have, but I was on camera the whole time and it was so muggy there that my hair couldn’t dry in time. By the end, I was a little itchy to get back to washing my hair,” she tells Yahoo Style.
No, she’s not referring to her day job, on ABC’s Thursday stalwart Scandal, as the outspoken, opinionated Abby Whelan, a former member of Olivia Pope’s crisis management firm (aka a Gladiator) and now a powerful and powerfully shady chief of staff. Stanchfield shed her D.C. suits and explored a very different side of herself while heading to Indonesia to film a documentary about the making of Pure Leaf teas, shot at a remote tea estate. For the actress, who was born in Alaska and grew up on her dad’s fishing boat, it was almost like being back home — almost.
“I’m a crazy outdoors person. I grew up in the middle of nowhere in a fishing town. So when Pure Leaf came to me, it felt like a good fit. We ended up spending most of our time in this isolated, tiny tea estate in the middle of nowhere,” says Stanchfield.
She got to forget that back in Los Angeles, she’s a celebrity. At the Dewata Tea Estate, “I felt right at home. It was like a fishing village. We drove around in the back of a Jeep. It was like being on a fishing boat. I had the wellies, the raincoat, no makeup. I changed in the back of the van,” she says. “It felt like a combination of camping and documentary film. It felt like play.”
For her, the experience was humbling: “It was really nice to not look in the mirror for a long time. It felt great. It was like being at one with nature. In my crazy Hollywood life, which I love, you’re always in hair and makeup touchups. You see yourself on TV.”
Stanchfield, born and raised in Kodiak, is the daughter of a commercial fisherman; she graduated from the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. Between shooting the documentary in remote Indonesia and playing a forthright, candid politician on one of primetime’s most talked-about shows, Stanchfield doesn’t question her own worth.
“It’s having a sense of your value and your self in the world, male or female. Why should it be different? It’s not something I’ve thought about because I’ve always done it. My parents raised me to do whatever I want — I was told that my whole life,” she says.
As for Scandal, it’s ending after seven seasons. And, yes, Stanchfield will no doubt miss Abby Whelan. “We’re both real straight-shooters and say it like it is. I like her direct nature and identify with that immensely,” she says about her character.
Given that her character has been the show’s moral compass, Stanchfield has no trouble pinpointing Scandal’s most shocking moment, at least to her: “When Abby was the mole. It was completely shocking. We found this out at the table read. I didn’t sleep that night. Then we find out she’s been blackmailed and manipulated.”
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