Grey's Anatomy: Why Shonda Rhimes has taken a hands-off approach
It’s Shonda Rhimes’ baby, but the creator of Grey’s Anatomy doesn’t spend her days lording over the writers room. She doesn’t even sign off on the scripts! For EW’s latest cover story, we talked to Rhimes about her hands-off approach to the hit drama, and how she’s given up — for now — on figuring out how to wrap up the show.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Now that the day-to-day duties of running Grey’s Anatomy have fallen to Krista Vernoff, can sit back and enjoy the show, or do you still wake up in the middle of the night with a good idea about what will happen to Meredith?
SHONDA RHIMES: No. Now get the lovely experience of having Krista come and say, “Here is what I’ve got planned for the season,” and I go, “That’s fantastic,” and I get to enjoy that part of it.
So how does it work? Do you still sign off on every script?
Nope. I don’t. It’s a big deal for me, and it was really great to have Krista come in, ’cause you know, Krista was there for the first seven seasons. It’s been a real experience for me to actually let go, or as I say, send a kid of to college. I don’t think that I could be a person who sat and signed off on every script. If I allow myself to have input, then I’m going to have notes, and if I have notes, then everybody has to take my notes. I can’t give a few notes. I have a lot of thoughts. Krista is the only person that I’ve ever known who has my sensibility and understands the voice of what I’ve always been saying about the show, and it’s been really exciting to let her run with it.
Was that hard for you, or were you able to just rip off the Band-Aid and turn your cheek and move on?
I’ve been doing day-to-day almost for 13 seasons so there was a level of exhaustion of like, this has been a marathon. However, it was surprisingly hard in the beginning. I thought I would feel a little relieved to have a break, but in the beginning, it was really hard. Then it felt really good because the show was still really good. I think it would’ve been difficult if I had pulled back and I didn’t like what was coming out.
Grey’s is on its way to becoming the longest running primetime medical drama. Of your list of accomplishments, where would that rank to you once you achieve that?
I don’t keep a list on accomplishments. I’m incredibly proud of the show, and I still, every day, pinch myself that we even got on the air and that people watch and people care about it as much as they do. Everything about that show has been a miracle to me, so I love it.
Meredith has definitely demonstrated that she doesn’t need a man in her life to feel content. Now looking back, was that partly out of design? You and Krista wanted her to take a long time to get over Derek. Is there part of you that would like to keep her that way, just as a fan of the show?
After Derek left, it was about really allowing Meredith to stand on her own two feet and figure out who she is and make it more about her career and not about who she’s gonna date. Ellen also had strong feelings about that. I don’t have strong feelings about what I want to have happen to her. I do have strong feelings about any one of my female characters basing her existence on whether or not she has a man. So it’s not really about proving whether or not she can exist without a man, it’s simply that none of our characters base their existence on whether nor not they have a guy.
If and when this does finally wrap up, can you see yourself being a part of that finale?
I absolutely can see myself being part of it.
At one time you seemed to have an idea of how it would end. Is that now up in the air?
I have written the end of the show at least six times. Seriously, every time I felt like, “this will be how the show ends,” we’ve gone past those moments so many times that I’ve stopped trying to come up with envision for it. We just don’t end. I have no idea now. Krista and I have joked that my daughter, Harper, and her daughter Coco will end up running the show one day.
For more about season 15 of Grey’s Anatomy, pick up the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly on newsstands now.