Recap: Shonda Rhimes Sits Down at the Smithsonian

by Mia Fields-Hall
shonda rimes

Shonda Rhimes, creator of hit ABC shows such as Scandal and Greys’ Anatomy, was in town over the weekend for an intimate conversation at the Smithsonian’s Natural Museum of Natural History (10th & Constitution NW). Rhimes spoke to the crowd about everything from her childhood to what it’s like to be a woman creator in the spotlight.

Check out some of our favorite quotes below:
On The New York Times article: The writer of the article doesn’t know me, therefore I don’t know how she knows they’re like me.  I don’t wear white. I don’t like a lot of popcorn. I don’t teach law students and I don’t have a murder anywhere around me. And I woke up this morning as a happy black woman, not angry.

On woman creators: You never hear the media describing male creators as being like their characters, but when a woman creates a character it must be personal.

On her childhood: I’ve always been a writer, always. When I was a little girl I would speak into a recorder and make up these stories. I knew writing was what I was going to do.

On her first job: When I graduated I worked at an advertising firm and I hated it. I quit after a year. I read an article in the New York Times (ha!) that said it was harder to get into USC film school then it was to get into Harvard. That seemed competitive to me so I applied and I got in.

After film school: I worked as an assistant and I was the worst assistant ever! After that I started writing feature films and I was pretty content at home in my pajamas writing films all day.

What she thought she’d be: I thought I’d be this great novelist, but what I discovered is that I’d start all these great novels, but I’d never finish them and looking back it’s probably because it bored me.

How to know if you’re a writer: You’ll know you’re a writer if you write everyday. If you don’t write everyday you are not a writer. You have to exercise that muscle everyday. And because I’ve done it for so long I never get writers block.

On how she became a TV writer: When I had adopted my first child I would be at home binge watching all kinds of shows like Buffy and 24. I was so intrigued by what you could do with television shows that I wrote my first TV script, pitched it and it got rejected.

On writing Grey’s Anatomy: Grey’s was the second television script I wrote and I was such an awful pitcher. I honestly cannot believe ABC went with it because my pitch meeting was so bad.

On Scandal: It amazes me when people try to moralize Scandal characters. None of them are good people — not one of them are good people and that is the point. I remember someone on Twitter said Jake has become “too violent,” which really made me laugh. Fans get really passionate about the characters.

On How To Get Away With Murder: A writer whose been with Shondaland for a long time approached me about this show, wrote a script and it was amazing. Still, I was like wait what happens next? Hw can there possibly be a season 2? And he had his entire season 2 outlined. I was sold.

On why she loves being the boss: I love that for instance if the creator of How To Get Away With Murder feels he’s being constrained creatively by the network I can release the dragon and protect him. That’s a good feeling

On getting the same treatment as men in Hollywood: I always ask what “the boys” are getting, I always inquire about their deals because women are always likely to get less.

On the best decision she ever made: Besides having kids, I’d have to say packing my bags and moving to L.A.

On the best life lesson she’s learned: I don’t need anyone to legitimize me. Whether it’s a script, whether it’s getting married, whatever it is in life you want to do, just do it! Don’t wait for someone to say “It’s okay for you to do this.”