'Scandal' Inspiration Judy Smith Talks Life Behind the 'Murder Board': 'I'm Used to a Crisis'

Ten years ago, the hit ABC series took a cue from Smith when it came to showing how DC fixer Olivia Pope ensured every situation was "handled"

Judy Smith is opening up about her life experiences that inspired the storylines on Scandal.

Smith, 63, previously served as deputy press secretary in President George H. W. Bush's administration. In 1991, she became the first Black woman to deliver a White House press briefing.

She eventually left her position to start the crisis management firm, Smith & Company, which has gone on to represent several high-profile clients, including Angelina Jolie, Monica Lewinsky and Wesley Snipes.

Her real-life work eventually inspired Scandal, which was created by Shonda Rhimes. The ABC series featured Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope, a fictionalized version of Smith. Though she wasn't a household name during her time in the first Bush administration, Scandal thrust Smith's life and career into the spotlight.

Now, a decade after the show hit the airwaves, Smith is answering PEOPLE readers' burning questions about her life, her work and how closely the show lines up with her own experiences.

FAN QUESTION: How close were the early seasons of the show to your own professional life, in terms of handling crises?

JUDY SMITH: I think they did a good job. We work as a team, look at all the angles, the possible risk and devise a strategic plan to manage the risk and protect the brands and the reputations of our clients. We use a murder board to map it all out, the facts, what could happen, our response, etc.

However, one of the things that was not close is that I don't look that good every day going to work! I do love white, and the white on the show symbolizes wearing the white hat — and we always make sure we are doing the best by our clients.

FAN QUESTION: Where should you start to become a crisis PR [public relations] manager after graduating with a PR degree? Like, what route? What jobs or internships to start with? Agency or on your own?

JUDY SMITH: When I graduated from college, my first job was with a nonprofit organization where I did communications. Of course, I did not have much experience, but that turned out to be a plus because it was a nonprofit and they were short on staff so I got to do almost everything and I learned an awful lot.

I think any internship or job you can get that is related to communications would be great. It could be in politics, public affairs , non profit, etc. Just dive in and see if you like it.

FAN QUESTION: How do you get your adrenaline in check following a crisis?

JUDY SMITH: I am used to crisis because I have been doing it for a while. So, it feels normal to me. But, like with any job, you always need to take a break and practice some self-care!

I love walking, I started rowing. But most of all, having downtime when you are doing absolutely nothing . Need to cut the brain off sometimes!

judy smith
Judy Smith. Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

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Scandal debuted on ABC in April 2012. In addition to Washington, the series starred Scott Foley, Bellamy Young, Katie Lowes, Guillermo Díaz, Darby Stanchfield, Jeff Perry, Joshua Malina, Joe Morton and George Newbern.

The show ran for seven seasons until April 2018 and was historic in that it was the first primetime network drama with a Black female lead in 38 years.

"I think it's amazing because it opened the door for what you see happening right now in television: more black women are cast in lead roles," Smith told PEOPLE in April. "For so many decades, there seemed to be, obviously, people who were hesitant to cast women in lead roles, and so I think it showed to the industry and to people that that could be successful. I think the other thing that it also showed is a different way to galvanize an audience."

Smith added that Scandal "was able to demonstrate to an industry that thought that this wasn't possible, that it actually was — and it was a hit."

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