Shonda Rhimes opens up about being black, recognizing herself as a powerful person and how mad fans still are about the death of McDreamy in a new feature in Elle magazine.
In the wide-ranging interview with Elle editor-in-chief Robbie Myers, Rhimes discussed everything from her critics to “Scandal’s” prophetic Ferguson episode and how TLC reality shows inspired her to create “Grey’s Anatomy.”
Rhimes is credited with creating some of the most diverse shows on TV, so perhaps not surprisingly, race is often at the forefront of her mind and in her writers’ rooms.
“There is this weird belief from people on the outside and from people in black communities that there is only one way to be black,” she said. “And I say it in the writers’ room all the time: My Black Is Not Your Black. What’s terrifying is that, just the same way we’ve all accepted that normal is white, everybody seems to buy into the idea that there’s only one way to be black or one way to be Hispanic. That’s as damaging as anything else.”
Below are five takeaways from the extensive interview.
1. She doesn’t appreciate critics who brush off her shows as not serious enough
“I was really pissed when we won a Peabody [Award, for excellence in broadcasting], and all the articles were like, ‘Nine amazing shows and one fluffy show won the Peabody.’” she told Elle. “It was as if we didn’t deserve to be there. I was like, Did you watch our show at all? Clearly you have never seen ‘Scandal.’”
2. You can thank Shondaland for the live-tweeting phenomenon
Rhimes’ Thursday night block of dramas is one of the few “appointment television” shows on the air currently, according to the magazine, and the EP is happy to take credit for the phenomenon of creators and stars of shows interacting with fans live during new episodes.
“Kerry and I sort of engineered the concept that people live-tweet shows, and now I feel like every show does it,” Rhimes said. “What I like about being online is that you can put your message out there immediately, and I can respond to something instantaneously. Fans get very intense.”
3. She has good advice for future would-be showrunners
“I realized I was never going to get any further than I was if I just allowed myself to be the very nice girl who wrote stuff,” Rhimes said. “And I had other things that I wanted to do. All of the things that are possible are never going to happen if you’re busy waiting for someone to give you something. You have to take it. You were talking about what you do once you have the power, how do you spend it. What’s great about where we are now: I’m in a lovely place where our notes are very collaborative, where [the network executives] trust what we’re doing. So now I can make a comfortable place for other writers to make their shows, which I think is very exciting. Betsy [Beers, her producing partner] and I are curating new shows very carefully. A lot of producers like to make a ton of shows and see what works. I don’t want to make a ton of shows that are crappy.”
4. She gets feminism
Rhimes doesn’t have any patience for people who try to dictate how women should carry the banner of feminism. Intelligence and a fashion sense shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.
“The beauty of being a feminist is that you get to be whatever you want, and that’s the point,” she said. “And you may be a person who doesn’t give a crap about fashion, but maybe you do. I have a very, very large handbag collection that says I do.”
5. “Grey’s” fans are still really mad about McDreamy.
Rhimes was pretty taken off guard by the passionate response the death of Patrick Dempsey‘s character elicited in longtime fans of her first hit ABC drama.
“I’ll be honest; I was very surprised at how large that reaction was,” she said. “I think it’s because we exist in this bubble here in L.A., and everything is about what’s new, what’s now, what’s next here, and you don’t remember that in the outside world, that show is very, very powerful with the fans.”
Rhimes’ three dramas, “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal” and “How to get Away With Murder” air Thursday nights starting at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.