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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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May 16th, 2013
07:09 PM ET

Behind the scenes of 'Scandal' with creator Shonda Rhimes

Election rigging, waterboarding, backstabbing, and bed-hopping

Also known as another day at the office for the characters on the hit TV show "Scandal," which stars Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope, the head of a D.C. crisis management firm.

In just two seasons, "Scandal" has gained a loyal following of fans. Last Thursday's episode, which featured Pope and the President of the United States renewing their forbidden love affair, reeled in 8.9 million viewers.

If fans are wondering who to thank for their insatiable appetite for all things Olivia, look no further than executive producer Shonda Rhimes, the creative force behind ABC's smash hit.

"Scandal" is based on legendary Washington, D.C. crisis management expert Judy Smith, who handled the then-President Bill Clinton's scandal with Monica Lewinsky.

"What was fascinating to me wasn't just who [Judy Smith] had handled, but when she talked about a process, and why she does what she does, and how she handles these problems, there's something about it that sucks you in," said Rhimes.

Viewers of "Scandal" are not just sucked in, they are also clicked in. Episodes of the show often dominate social media chatter, as well, with fans tweeting and sending Facebook messages every second of the jaw-dropping action.

"I feel really excited about the fact that we somehow managed to get this Twitter audience that is like crazy. Like every Thursday night, their goal is to like break Twitter, tweeting about the show," said Rhimes.

On average, scandal generates 2,200 tweets a minute! Proof, perhaps, that Rhimes has found a winning formula for prime time success.

She also created the critically acclaimed medical drama "Grey's Anatomy" and its popular spinoff, "Private Practice," which just ended its run.

"If I knew what I was doing right, then I probably wouldn't be able to do it," Rhimes said of her success. "I have no idea. I feel like I love to tell stories and I'm a workaholic. I really like to work really hard. And I don't know. I think it's fun."

Unlike her first two shows, which tell the stories of dedicated doctors, "Scandal" gives Rhimes an opportunity to delve into her dark side.

"I was definitely interested in getting my hands dirty a little bit. It feels like you can get away with a lot more on television these days," said Rhimes.

All of Rhimes hit shows have been on a traditional network channel, ABC. She said she sometimes wishes her shows were on cable networks, such as AMC, or HBO, because she could do more.

"What's interesting about doing it on network, though, is that I feel like I've had to be more creative in a way. We have to ... have incredibly sexy sex scenes, where we don't show anything," said Rhimes. "In a weird way, it sort of forces you to find another way to go at it. And that's been really fun for me."

That creativity along with edgy story lines have made "Scandal" a ratings champ. But that is not all that sets it apart from its primetime competition. It's the first network drama in nearly 40 years to feature an African American leading lady.

But Rhimes said the casting Kerry Washington contributed to just a part of the success of the show.

"There is definitely a part of our audience that is very supportive of the show because of that fact. And they've stayed because they like the show," said Rhimes.

Working with some of the biggest names in hollywood might sound like a pretty decent day at the office for most of us, but for rhimes, a major perk of working on a show like scandal is getting to experience the life of an american president...Without actually having to deal with members of congress.

"It's very fun and cool going to the Oval Office set. I have to say that there have been days that I'm, you know, waited till everyone's left and sat behind the desk a little bit," said Rhimes.

Rhimes is tight lipped about any spoilers, and said she honestly does not know whether whether or not the president and Olvia Pope end up together.

"Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. Now we're at a place where I'm just watching where they're going," said Rhimes. "I know what I'd like to happen, but we're following the story right now."

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