Who’s the most powerful person in US television?
Arguably, it’s not an A-list star, nor a channel head. It’s Shonda Rhimes, the 44-year-old writer and producer known for her high-octane dramas and whiplash plot twists.
Consider last Thursday evening, when Rhimes fans were treated to three hours in Shondaland (the name of her production company) as her current shows – medical saga Grey’s Anatomyand political thriller Scandal, which she showruns, and new legal drama How To Get Away With Murder, which she executive produces – premiered back-to-back on ABC. It was a decision Scandal star Kerry Washington called “extraordinary, historical, important – and fabulous”.
Speaking on the phone from California, Rhimes is rather more down-to-earth. “It’s a wonderful compliment,” she admits. “Although it does feel as though everybody else has had a bigger reaction to it … I find it fascinating that no one ever asks a man, for example [prolific sitcom creator] Chuck Lorre, if they’re going to find it hard juggling three shows,” she says dryly. “Plus I’m only producing How To Get Away With Murder. Pete Nowalk created it ….”
In conversation, Rhimes comes across as something of a contradiction: a romantic pragmatist. Refreshingly no nonsense about the industry – “I don’t feel like there’s a boy’s club … but I do know that people wouldn’t call Scandal a guilty pleasure if it wasn’t a show starring a woman and written by a woman” – she is also an unashamed idealist who admits she is “very dewy-eyed about politics, almost frighteningly so”, even as she ramped up the villainy in Scandal so as “to create a different world to the one we are in, where people said these wonderful things but behind closed doors were monsters”.
Read more of the Shonda Rhimes’ Interview here!