How Grey's Anatomy And Shonda Rhimes Impacted NBC's Council Of Dads

council of dads nbc larry michael o'neill
(Image credit: NBC)

Council of Dads hit the airwaves this spring as a family drama with an expansive cast of characters carrying a variety of intertwined stories. The Perry family alone has five kids who lost their dad and a mom who lost her husband, but a "council of dads" rose to the occasion to step in for Scott after his death and help the people he left behind. While Council of Dads is clearly no medical drama, showrunner Tony Phelan has shared how Grey's Anatomy and the legendary Shonda Rhimes impacted the show.

Tony Phelan and wife Joan Rater served as co-showrunners on Grey's Anatomy for ten years before launching Council of Dads together. Explaining how his time on Grey's Anatomy impacted his work in TV, Phelan noted to CinemaBlend that working alongside the "absolute genius" Shonda Rhimes was key, then continued:

Shonda Rhimes is an absolute genius at I think really innovative storytelling, and the ability of that show to keep so many storylines up in the air at the same time with so many characters and give each character a three-beat story in every episode. And also I think the thing that was really revolutionary about Shonda was, and we talked about this early on on the show, was we had a multiracial cast. And Shonda said to us in the writers room, she was like, 'I don't know about the rest of you, but I don't spend all of my time with the people that I work with or the people in my life talking about race.' So we had to kind of the same attitude towards gender and towards sexuality as well. So you can have a very diverse cast, but you're not doing movie of the weeks about race relations or what it means to be gay or what it means to be trans or any of that. You're just telling the story of people's lives.

While Grey's Anatomy is obviously named for Meredith Grey, the show has always featured a large and diverse ensemble of characters. Some have been doctors, some have been nurses, and some have even been patients who changed the whole course of the show.

Similarly, while Council of Dads is named for the three dads, there is a wide and diverse variety of characters. They're dealing with grief and recovery and balance rather than what Tony Phelan refers to as "movie of the weeks" in every episode.

Tony Phelan elaborated on how Grey's Anatomy impacted Council of Dads:

And that's certainly something that Joan and I aspire to do as well. And just the fun of that show, the fact that that show balances humor and drama, and music, in a kind of great mix that just allows you to emotionally connect to the characters and get taken on this great roller coaster ride. That's the joy of Grey's Anatomy for me as a writer and a director. That's the fun of the show, and we were lucky on that show, and I think we're lucky on Council of Dads to have actors who can kind of effortlessly move between comedy and drama.

With The Walking Dead's Sarah Wayne Callies serving as the strong center of the Perry family and the men of the council of dads brought to life by Michael O'Neill, J. August Richards, and a cleaned-up Clive Standen, there are plenty of TV veterans in the cast along with the relative newcomers playing the Perry kids.

In a fun bit of trivia, Grey's Anatomy also impacted Tony Phelan and Joan Rater in their casting for the show. Phelan shared that the characters of Larry and Oliver were written with Michael O'Neill and J. August Richards in mind after they appeared on Grey's Anatomy. Richards played the younger version of Richard Weber, whereas O'Neill played the shooter who wreaked havoc at the hospital back in Season 6. Hopefully Council of Dads doesn't deliver that kind of deadly twist for Larry!

In all seriousness, Council of Dads is only getting started with the council and the Perrys. Be sure to tune in to NBC on Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET for the next new episodes of Council of Dads.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).