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The stars of 'Anatomy of a Scandal' unpack their characters' endings

Michelle Dockery, Sienna Miller, Rupert Friend and Olivia Scott spoke to TODAY about the show's explosive finale.

What sound does a scandal make when it breaks? In Netflix's "Anatomy of a Scandal," the news of scandal starts in a whisper, taking the form of a private conversation shared between husband and wife. Then it gets louder, making headlines and filling courtrooms. And by the end, a whole new scandal has erupted.

Created by David E. Kelley and Melissa Gibson, each season of the anthology series will explore a different public scandal. Out April 15 on Netflix, the first season is based on a book of the same name by Sarah Vaughan, and is heavy in subject matter.

In the show's first episode, Tory MP James Whitehouse (Rupert Friend) tells his wife, Sophie (Siena Miller), that he had an affair with a parliamentary researcher in his staff. Olivia Lytton (Naomi Scott), the employee in question, is haunted by their final interaction: She accuses him of sexually assaulting her in an elevator.

What ensues is a long trial, in which James' life, and the nature of truth, are at stake. The prosecution, Kate Woodcroft (Michelle Dockery), and the defense, Angela Regan (Josette Simon), wield public perception and morals to influence the jury.

Meanwhile, secrets from Sophie and James' past at Oxford come out, affecting the plot in unexpected ways.

At a junket, TODAY spoke to stars Scott, Dockery, Friend and Miller about what happens to their characters in the finale — and, in this show about justice, whether they got what they deserved in the end.

Warning: Spoilers for the ending of "Anatomy of a Scandal" follow.

Kate's secrets come out at the end of ‘Anatomy of a Scandal'

Turns out that Kate is much closer to the case than she originally let on. In fact, Kate had been Sophie's tutorial partner and roommate at Oxford, around the time Sophie and James got together. At the time, she was called Holly Berry.

On one James' last nights at Oxford, he encountered Holly outside — and assaulted her in a similar way to what Olivia experienced. He used the the same phrase during both acts.

In the aftermath of the traumatizing incident, Holly dropped out of school and rethought her life, becoming Kate Woodcroft (it's her middle name and her ex-husband's last name).

Speaking to TODAY, star Dockery said the trial gave Kate "closure," even if the verdict didn't go the way she had hoped.

“For the majority of what you see in the show, she’s not at peace with who she is as a person, her past."

Michelle Dockery

"For the majority of what you see in the show, (Kate) is not at peace with who she is as a person, her past. Through this journey, this big risk that she takes — prosecuting someone that she knows, her attacker — she comes closer to who she really is. She becomes both: Holly and this new person that she’s become as a result of what’s happened to her," Dockery said. "I think there’s resolve at the end for Kate. I hope she’s happy at the end." 

Dockery is confident that James' due will come. "Eventually the truth will be told," she said.

As for what's next for Kate? There's no official word about plans for a season two, but based on this season's final image — Kate, standing in court, looking determinedly at the camera — she's about to start a new case. "There’s definitely the momentum that could potentially lead into something else," Dockery said.

James is found not guilty at the end of 'Anatomy of a Scandal,' but his story is not over

Despite Olivia's wrenching testimony and Kate's compelling arguments, the jury finds James not guilty of rape.

James' defense lawyer frequently pointed to the fact that James and Olivia did have a consensual relationship before the encounter in the elevator in question. Likely, James and Olivia's prior relationship affected the jury's decision.

But James isn't off the hook. Speaking to TODAY, Friend called the ending of “Anatomy of a Scandal” another beginning.

At the end of the series, Sophie, James' wife, publicly reveals something he did in college — on the same night he assaulted Holly. "Court correction for the greater good," Sophie explains. "Her Majesty's government is about to implode."

“There’s the beginning of a sense of justice."

Rupert Friend

At Oxford, James was friends with the current prime minister Tom Southern (Geoffrey Streatfeild). During a night partying with their secret society, a pal of theirs takes heroin. Tom encourages him to jump from a building — and he falls to his death. James covers up their involvement in his death.

In the final moments of "Anatomy of a Scandal," James is taken away in a police car — as is Tom, the prime minister. "There's the beginning of a sense of justice there," Friend said.

"We don’t know what’s going to to happen to James, but the idea that he has to be accountable to his actions is right and proper. Clearly his actions and his words have not aligned in the past," Friend added.

 "There's the beginning of a sense of justice there," Friend said.
"There's the beginning of a sense of justice there," Friend said.Netflix

Siena Miller on why Sophie decides to speak out against James

In the wake of the scandal, Sophie spends the six episodes of "Anatomy of a Scandal" reconsidering her husband's personality, and the sense of privilege that informs and upholds nearly every aspect of her life.

She also interrogates her own complicity in their relationship. After all, the night that James came to her in college, distressed, she didn't question what he had done — she simply pledged her loyalty.

Ultimately, Sophie decides to leave James, despite his begging her otherwise. "I don't know who the f--- you are anymore. And I don't know who the f--- I am, because I always defined myself through you. I can't stay, because if I do, who will our children become?" she said, by way of reasoning.

"Sophie has taken the first few steps toward some form of self analysis, " Sienna Miller said.
"Sophie has taken the first few steps toward some form of self analysis, " Sienna Miller said.Netflix

Then, by leaking James' college history to the press, Sophie is rebelling against the value system that, until now, had shaped her.

"Sophie has taken the first few steps toward some form of self analysis, and independence from the life that she was raised to want: To be the perfect wife to the perfect man with the perfect children in the perfect house," Sienna Miller said. "She’s really questioning what she’s compromised for that, and discovering who she might be had she made different decisions."

Sophie ends the season on vacation by the sea with her two children, looking liberated. "I think she’s on a good path towards something better or at least more truthful," Miller said.

Olivia almost had a different, happier ending in a deleted scene

Of all the main characters, audiences get to know Olivia least — she's only shown on the witness stand and in harrowing flashbacks. Then, when James is pronounced not guilty, her story ends on a note of disappointment.

Speaking to TODAY, Naomi Scott said Olivia almost returned for a final, somewhat hopeful scene of her walking into Parliament — implying she was able to continue with her political ambitions after the trial. But the scene "didn't feel right" to Scott and director S.J. Clarkson.

Naomi Scott as Olivia Lytton in "Anatomy of a Scandal."
Naomi Scott as Olivia Lytton in "Anatomy of a Scandal."Netflix

"I felt it would’ve done a disservice to see her in a state of ... marching onto the future. There is hope there, and a way through, but I wouldn't want to undermine (her) process to get there," Scott said. "The process to get to the point where she would be able to face that is so important to depict."