Shonda Rhimes: 7 Interesting Things To Know About The Grey's Anatomy Creator

Shonda Rhimes on Jimmy Kimmel Live

The TV medical drama has never been the same since the debut of Grey’s Anatomy, the long-running hit for which series creator Shonda Rhimes cast a diverse ensemble of actors to portray a group of closely knit doctors. In fact, you could say that television itself has undergone a dramatic transformation amid the rise of Shondaland, which has become more than just the name of Rhimes’ production company, but practically a world of its own.

The Chicago-native, born on January 13, 1970, landed her first major gig penning the teleplay for the 1999 HBO original movie Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, starring Halle Berry in an Emmy and a Golden Globe-winning performance as the tragedy-stricken singer. More than two decades later, Shonda Rhimes is one of the most celebrated TV producers in the business for, in addition to Grey’s Anatomy and its two spin-offs, creating political drama Scandal and producing How to Get Away with Murder, among other notable projects that have earned her much praise for her devotion to cultural diversity in entertainment.

However, Shonda Rhimes did not achieve her success by accident and her story, from the roots of her creative ventures to her more recent partnership with Netflix, is as fascinating as it is inspiring. Take a more in-depth journey into Shondaland with these intriguing facts.

Ellen Pompeo on Grey's Anatomy

Shonda Rhimes’ Masters Degree Came Out Of A Self-Made Challenge

One secret to Shonda Rhimes' prosperity is her defiant personality, such as, for instance, how she stands her ground when fans urge the firing of a cast member over a political dispute, but probably the most important challenge she has faced in her career is one that she set up for herself. In 1991, after earning a Bachelor's in English and film studies, the Dartmouth College graduate read a New York Times article claiming that getting into the University of Southern California's film school was more difficult than getting accepted into Harvard Law. For Rhimes, this was a competition she was willing to win and, four years later, graduated from USC with her MFA.

Kelly McCreary, Camilla Luddington, and Ellen Pompeo

Shonda Rhimes Faced Her Fear Of Public Speaking

Speaking of college, Shonda Rhimes would return to her alma mater of Dartmouth College to speak to the Class of 2014, which would have a nerve wracking ordeal any other time of her life having suffered from Glossophobia, which is a fear of public speaking. However, Rhimes also describes that year as the "Year of Yes," which is also the title of her 2015 memoir in which she recounts her newfound desire to face her fears. In the book, she describes her commencement address as a moment she became "someone new" feeling joy instead of fear as she looked out to her audience that day.

Britney Spears, Zoe Saldana, and Taryn Manning in Crossroads

Shonda Rhimes Wrote The Movie Crossroads

For all the awards recognition that Shonda Rhimes has received, from Emmy nominations to wins from the NAACP and GLAAD organizations, the most surprising "honor" is her 2003 Razzie nod penning her first screenplay to received a theatrical release, Crossroads. The MTV Production starred Orange is the New Black's Taryn Manning, Guardians of the Galaxy's Zoe Saldana, and then chart-topping pop star Britney Spears in her first major film role as three childhood friends friends who join a handsome stranger (Anson Mount) on a cross country road trip. Despite the critical backlash it received, the movie, which Rhimes still looks back on fondly, was a modest box office success and has since garnered a bit of cult following.

Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey on Grey's Anatomy

Shonda Rhimes Sums Up Grey's Anatomy's Uniqueness With A "Silly Detail"

There are those who look at Grey's Anatomy and cannot seem to tell the difference between it and other medical dramas. These would most likely also be the kind of people who cannot see the show for the strong, authentic, three-dimensional characters it focuses on. Yet, when speaking with Oprah Winfrey in 2006, creator Shonda Rhimes was able to explain one of the most crucial ways her show sets itself apart from series like ER with one detail that even she admits seemed a bit "silly"... at first:

ER is high-speed medicine. The camera flies around, adrenaline is rushing. My show is more personal. The idea for the series began when a doctor told me it was incredibly hard to shave her legs in the hospital shower. At first that seemed like a silly detail. But then I thought about the fact that it was the only time and place this woman might have to shave her legs. That's how hard the work is.

Joshua Malina on Scandal

Scandal Star Joshua Malina Was Scared By Shonda Rhimes’ Table Read Prank

These days, scoring a regular cast member gig does not necessarily ensure job security with how often many hit shows kill off their main characters, with Scandal being no exception. Apparently, no one was more cautious about the fate of their character on Shonda Rhimes' hit political thriller than Joshua Malina, who played Attorney General David Rosen on the series, and who would apparently begin every table read by checking the last page of the script to see how the episode ended. As his co-star Tony Goldwyn revealed on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Rhimes took this as an opportunity to troll Malina by slipping a fake final page in his script that detailed his character's death, which naturally came as a shock to the actor.

Chandra Wilson on Grey's Anatomy

Shonda Rhimes Has Written And Ending To Grey’s Anatomy Six Times

After sixteen seasons (and counting), Grey's Anatomy has lasted longer than any primetime medical drama in history with no end sight, which Shonda Rhimes has ultimately accepted. When speaking to Entertainment Weekly in 2018 about the series' longevity, the creator revealed that she has actually written a proper ending to the series "at least six times" only to see the story continue forward after each instance. Now, Rhimes does not bother envisioning what the finale might be anymore, jokingly adding that her daughter and producer Krista Vernoff's daughters might take over the show one day.

The logo for the Shondaland website

(Image credit: Shondaland)

Shondaland Has Become An Online Hub For People To Share Stories

Since it was founded in 2005, Shondaland, the name of Shonda Rhimes' production company, has become synonymous with the moving stories that she has brought to television. However, in recent year, it has become synonymous with the moving stories that she has given real people a venue on which to share them. In 2017, Rhimes launched, a lifestyle website that offers tips on health, social living, and cultural awareness through various mediums and is open for contributions from anyone who, like Rhimes, aims to make a difference in the world through inspiration and positive change.

Be sure to check back more updates on Shonda Rhimes and her forthcoming creative projects, as well as more fascinating bits of trivia about your favorite celebrities, here on CinemaBlend.

Jason Wiese
Content Writer

Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.