Shonda Rhimes on 'Oprah's Next Chapter'
Last night on Oprah’s Next Chapter, TV maven Shonda Rhimes and EW Entertainer of the Year Kerry Washington sat down with Oprah Winfrey for a wide-ranging chat that covered everything from Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy to… a–holes. (Before you ask, yes, they semi-bleeped.)
Below were the five most revealing moments from the trio’s chat:
* Oprah learned about Scandal via Twitter. Good work, #Gladiators! Even someone like Oprah, who one would assume is the first to know about pretty much everything, gets TV suggestions via Twitter! “On my Twitter feed, everybody was talking about it, and I was like ‘What is this show?!’” revealed O. “So I started watching because of Twitter.” Meanwhile, Washington admitted that she only watches Scandal because of the cast’s live chats on the social media network. Otherwise, she says, “I don’t really like to watch my work when it’s done. It’s a little bit uncomfortable. I literally watch because I want to be able to chat with the fans.”
* Washington traveled two centuries in two days. In the upcoming film Django Unchained, Washington plays a slave named Broomhilda who is separated from her husband (Jamie Foxx). As one might guess, the actress says bringing the character’s sad and tortured story to life was a great “challenge.” An even greater challenge? Switching gears after filming was over. Just days after she wrapped, Washington was back on set of Scandal, where she plays powerful and smart “fixer” Olivia Pope, and the stark contrast of the two roles was not lost on her. “Going from playing that woman to playing Olivia Pope felt like such a responsibility and an honor that I would be blessed with the challenge to play these two women,” she said. “These characters are so intertwined — even though they exist worlds apart in media. They are the same woman hundreds of years apart. [Olivia] is the answer to Broomhilda’s prayers about what might be possible one day.” Oprah responded, “That is so perfect, I could weep.” They both almost did.
* Rhimes has taken Grey’s Anatomy “back from the fans.” When Rhimes joined the chat, talk turned to Grey’s Anatomy, a show with one of TV’s most passionate fanbases. And whereas Scandal is one of many examples of how social media can benefit a TV show, Rhimes is careful not to let vocal fans take the reigns. “I reached this point where I thought, ‘The show really doesn’t belong to me anymore,'” Rhimes said. “I suddenly realized that if we were just going to continue to tell stories that were just for them — that were just going to make the audience happy — we weren’t growing at all.”
* Rhimes has a no “a–hole” policy. “Shonda Rhimes vetted [the actors on Scandal] like we were going to be part of the Administration,” Washington said with a laugh. And that goes for the crew on her shows, too. Asked when and why she developed the “policy” and background check, Rhimes simply replied, “I have other shows, and I did learn some very difficult lessons in the past about not vetting people and finding yourself with groups of people who don’t gel, as we know.”
* On a TOTALLY unrelated note… Oprah asked Rhimes about the comments made in 2008 by former Grey’s Anatomy cast member Katherine Heigl, when the actress took herself out of Emmy contention because the writing didn’t “warrant” a nomination. And the showrunner admits, Heigl’s comments “stung,” but “on some level I was not surprised…. when people say who they are, believe them. I carry that with me a lot.”
BONUS REVELATION: Rhimes has FOUR offices — one on set of each of her shows and another at her production company’s headquarters. Earlier in the episode, she joked that she used to say she was going to “rule the world through television.” Four offices later, that’s one she can probably check off her to-do.