Minus creator/show-runner Shonda Rhimes, the PaleyFest session feting ABC’s Washington-set soap Scandal sounded more like a gathering of inside-the-Beltway mid-level bureaucrats than the White House hot-shots they play on TV.

Rhimes was a no-show “because she’s writing 12 shows,” the session’s moderator and Scandal fan Jimmy Kimmel told the Dolby Theater audience and those watching via live stream.

Asked if Rhimes no longer runs episodes by ABC before broadcast, as he has been told, star Kerry Washington responded to Kimmel, “That’s a Shonda question.”

“I’ve heard they go right on the air – I’m not kidding. It’s what I’ve heard,” Kimmel said.

“Have any of you ever argued with Shonda or disagreed?”  Kimmel wondered.

“She knows what she wants. We trust her,” responded show POTUS, Tony Goldwyn.

Washington admitted she had little interaction with Rhimes as episodes are being crafted. “Occasionally I get these very strange questions…like “are you okay running barefoot’ or “Do you haves any negative history with this person.” Once, she said, she asked Rhimes a follow-up question. “I never got any response.”

Washington said she gets asked how a story arc will end, when, in actuality, “We have no idea how the episode ends.”

They did confirm to Kimmel that Rhimes checked all their backgrounds before hiring them.

“You guys seem terrified,” Kimmel told the cast at one point in the Q&A. And, when a 10-year-old boy in the audience asked if any of the cast members on stage knows whether Guillermo Diaz’s character, Huck ever sees any of his family again, Kimmel responded, “They have no idea what’s going to happen on the show – it’s all up to Shonda.”

Sensing this was going to be a lot harder than interviewing Rhimes after last season’s finale,  Kimmel vamped. He read tweets coming in, about Goldwyn:

I would pay so much money for him to do nothing…He could literally drink apple juice and I’d pay money.

I would let Tony Goldwyn put it anywhere.

Kimmel asked the cast what kind of scenes they best like to shoot. Joshua Malina loves phone scenes. “Because you don’t’ have to work with anyone else and when you’re filming your off-camera side you could be at home in bed,” he explained.

Kimmel asked them what series, other than Scandal, they like to watch. They named HBO’s Looking, but not Girls, and HBO’s late night star John Oliver – after which Malina had the good sense to jump in with Jimmy Kimmel Live.

“Boom!” Malina added, as well he might.

Kimmel mentioned Katie Lowes had a large wad of gum stuck to the bottom of one shoe. “There’s a nail stuck in the gum on my shoe,” she confirmed, showing the crowd the huge gum wad.

“Wasn’t the cast of Girls just here?” Kimmel asked innocently.

Sometimes talk was interrupted as cast members tweeted and took selfies. “If they don’t tweet every 14 seconds Shonda goes nuts,” Kimmel joked..

He asked the cast to pinpoint their favorite lines from the show, and learned Scott Foley likes to make fart noises before every single take.

“Were you making fart noise during the Ferguson-themed episode?” Kimmel asked.

“When I was there – yes, absolutely,” Foley said.

Too bad Foley painted that picture in people’s minds before Washington began to talk about it being “such an honor” to participate in that episode, saying,  “I was very moved that Shonda had a lot of feelings about what was going on, and her form of protest, and her way to contribute, was to write, and for all of us to be able to tell the story.”

The session sprang to life when Kimmel selected someone from the audience to deliver a question to the cast, asking the man, “What’s that around your waist?”

“It’s called fashion,” the man shot back, advising Kimmel, “Don’t come for me when I’m holding the mike.”

“I am such a true gladiator…I make my clients watch every single week,” the man continued. He asked: “Since the show is called Scandal, how doe the cast handle the true life scandal” of an actor whose character is killed off, adding “I won’t say the name (cough) Columbus Short (cough).” The packed theater laughed.

“That is a good question no one’s going to answer,” Kimmel forecast – correctly –  of the reference to the actor who announced last spring he was leaving the show, after his option was not picked up. The move was widely expected in light of his brushes with the law, including his arrest for an alleged brawl at a West L.A. restaurant, being accused by his wife of threatening to kill her and himself with a knife. The fate of Short’s character, lawyer Harrison Weight, was left up in the air in the third season finale, in which he was last seen with a gun to his head. “You know I can’t tell you whether or not he’s dead,” Rhimes had told Kimmel after last season’s finale.
“One thing I would say, just so it’s clear,” Washington responded. The cast considers “family” everyone who has worked on the show, whether they’re on it at present or not. “So we never, I don’t, celebrate the laughter in response to that,” she told the man. “I appreciate the laughter. Thank you for giving us so many viewers. And understand why we’re not going to answer that.”

Kimmel wondered what famous people, besides the First Family, are fans of Scandal. That question the cast was happy to answer. They ticked off such names as Magic Johnson, Justin Bieber, and Lena Dunham, who’s in an upcoming episode and has her Girls characters watch the show. And, model Iman apparently told several cast members she and her husband are big fans.

“How many of you have no idea who David Bowie is?” Kimmel asked the crowd.