The "Grey's Anatomy" Creator Says This Is Why She Left ABC
Shonda Rhimes moved to Netflix after a trip to Disneyland went wrong—but there's more to it.
Stalwart medical drama Grey's Anatomy, whose 17th season kicks off in November, is the longest-running primetime show on ABC. It was the first major series success for creator Shonda Rhimes, though more would follow, including Scandal (which she also created) and How to Get Away With Murder (which she executive produced)—both also hits for the same network. So it was a shock to the industry when it was reported in 2017 that Rhimes (and her production company Shondaland) was making the move from ABC Studios to Netflix to create shows for the streaming service. While it's a fair bet that the move was at least partially motivated by the bottom line, Shonda Rhimes opened up about another reason why she left ABC in a recent Hollywood Reporter interview, and it involves passes to Disneyland.
Working for ABC, which is owned by Disney, got Rhimes the perk of all-inclusive passes to Disneyland. She told the outlet she had two: one for herself and one for her nanny. When Rhimes's sister came to visit, she attempted to get a pass for her as well, so that she could help keep an eye on the creator's three children during a trip to the park. Rhimes wasn't able to give her own pass to her sister, as it was personalized. After a frustrating negotiation process with the network during which, Rhimes claimed, she was told over and over again, "We never do this," the pass was arranged. When the family arrived at Disneyland, it didn't work at the gate. And when Rhimes called again to sort it out, an ABC executive who she didn't name asked her, "Don't you have enough?"
To Rhimes, this was last straw. It put a point on her increasingly strained relationship with the studio, for whom she was running so many tentpole shows, and the exhausting demands of network television in general. "I felt like I was dying," she told THR. "Like I'd been pushing the same ball up the same hill in the exact same way for a really long time."
Meanwhile, Netflix and specifically Chief Content Officer and co-CEO Ted Sarandos had been trying to woo her over to their side. In their very first meeting, Rhimes said that she made it clear that she wasn't looking to make carbon copies of her existing shows.
"'You're not going to get another Grey's Anatomy—not Grey's Anatomy in a cornfield, Grey's Anatomy on a baseball field or Grey's Anatomy at an airport, that's just not happening,'" she remembered telling him. "And then I said, 'I just want to be in a place where I can make stuff and no one's going to bother me or make me feel like I'm beholden.'" Sarandos assured her that would be the case. And on that fateful Disneyland day, Rhimes was finally moved to call her team and put the shift in motion.
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While Rhimes is still the end of the creative line at Grey's, she confirmed in a 2018 interview with Entertainment Weekly that she no longer signs off on each episode script, trusting new showrunner Krista Vernoff, who also runs the spinoff, Station 19, to keep the ship afloat.
As for Rhimes's Netflix first projects, Bridgerton, a period drama based on a series of Regency-set novels, comes out on Christmas Day, while a documentary about the dance school run by Debbie Allen (who not only acts on Grey's but has also directed episodes of Grey's, Scandal, and HTGAWM), Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker, premieres on November 27. Fans of Rhimes's eye for juicy drama are no doubt most excited for Inventing Anna, her drama about Anna Delvey, a real young woman who posed as a fake heiress to live it up in New York City society. A release date has yet to be announced for that show, but one thing's for sure: if you're a Shonda Rhimes fan, you're going to need that Netflix subscription.
And for more beloved series, check out The 50 Most Popular TV Shows of All Time.