Sharing details of her childhood and youth, Scandal creator, writer, and showrunner Shonda Rhimes on her own eccentric biographical data.
Shonda Rhimes—writer-creator ofGrey’s Anatomy, Private Practice,and Scandal, three smash hits once simultaneously on the air—is a three-time Emmy nominee, a powerful spokeswoman for racial diversity on television, and a deft coiner of pop-lexicon mainstays (McDreamy! McSteamy! Va-jay-jay!) that we challenge you to try to forget. But the higher Rhimes ascends in the Hollywood pecking order, the more she clings to her writerly, Dartmouth-educated roots, skipping L.A. nightlife to raise her two adopted girls, listen to composer Rachel Portman’s tunes, or plow through heaps of books on her nightstand. Here, the show-running geek gone chic on her habits, habitats, and (childhood) habiliments.
A POLITICAL junkie turned political-thriller writer, she says her first memory of televised politics is the grainy flicker of the Watergate hearings, watched from the kitchen floor as a toddler.
STORY IDEAS, overheard juicy conversations, and other creative scribblings all reside in her iPhone’s Notes app, which she whips out to read from in the writers’ room.
SHE STOPS short of believing in earbuds. In the early days, she wrote Grey’s Anatomy scenes by herself at a picnic table out on the show’s back lot. She wore huge headphones—big, old, tarmac-traffic-directing headphones—to “keep people from coming up to talk to me.” Now she has a private, sleek office, one for each show—and yet the bulky mufflers are “the one thing that stays the same.”
THE TIC she bets drives her assistants most crazy is that she is “very beverage-oriented.” The day starts with fresh green juice—“kale-apple-ginger-spinach-cucumber-celery-parsley!”—and continues apace with constantly replenished water and iced green tea. It terminates, around five P.M. every day, “no matter where I am,” with a glass of red wine.
THE THREE worst days of her life were consecutive: when she decided to kick coffee.
HER TIME machine is liturgical incense, the smell of which—encountered at random—takes her immediately back to church at age 10, when she first became a plaid-uniformed Catholic schoolgirl.
SHE SPENT all her time in a tree reading books for a spell in grade school. Next, she spoke only French, pretending her real family lived in Paris and were due any minute now to come whisk her off to the Sorbonne. (There was a brief period of overlap in which she spoke just French and kept to treetops.) Her parents celebrated these flights of fancy: “ ‘That’s interesting! Do that more!’ ” Her classmates? “Not so much.”
HER BEST FRIEND adopted “weird” new girl Shonda, a fifth-grade transfer with Coke-bottle glasses and French braids, casting the glow of tween popularity upon her by association. Thirty years later, they still talk every day.
SHE BEGAN writing early. Hundreds of journals chronicling those formative years—going back to first grade and filled with angst-y couplets on unrequited crushes—remain in her possession. The younger the writer, the more “pink and curlicued” the notebooks, progressing to leather-bound, unlined volumes. She’s reluctant to crack them now, “terrified to re-discover” who she was.
WITH PURSUITS outside of work, she has but two modes: disinterest and all-consuming obsession, “because I am only able to become obsessed with things.” Her latest fixation is “endorphins,” after she remembered she had a treadmill—bought with purpose two years ago, promptly forgotten. Now, for one hour a day, she’s on it with no interruptions: no children, no phones, no beverage-freighting assistants. Only, of course, television.
IF PRESSED, she’ll acknowledge the presence, somewhere in her home, of a full-on, Etsy-fied, jewelry-making, quilting-happy, hot-glue-gunning, “secret psycho” craft closet.
SHE MAKES weekly episodic television, but she’s also a bona fide TV binger. She watched all ofFringe in three weeks, then all of Game of Thrones. Next: The Wire.
THERE IS one favored show that she watches only live—that she pseudonymously live-blogs—and despite her allegiance to scripted television, it’s a reality program: the National Spelling Bee, or to her, simply, “the Bee.” In her professional view, it’s even better television now that the kids aren’t swept off to compose themselves in a quiet comfort room. They’re put right in front of the cameras as soon as they whiff. “So much more brutal,” she says, chuckling. “The Hunger Games of spelling.”
This close-up shot of Fitz from Crash and Burn (Scandal Season 1, episode 1x05) has always been one of my favorite Scandal Moments. (Standing O to the episode’s director, Steve Robin!)
It shows Fitz with a decision already made/formulated in his mind before Tom & Hal stepped into the room. He was going to see Olivia security measures be damned, although I love how Tom and Hal broke it down to him about leaving the White House. I also love how they made it happen for him.
Sometimes, we just need to be real, and Woman Thou Art Loosed at MegaFest is doing just that by bringing back our most popular segment–Girl Talk! Discussing the situations faced by today’s women, Girl Talk is calling all women together as we confront contemporary issues such as domestic violence, self-esteem, relationships and even finances! This is one symposium you don’t want to miss. Hosted by Mrs. Serita Jakes and Sarah Jakes, Girl Talk will include various segments featuring a dynamic panel of speakers that will challenge your perception on the hard-hitting issues, present a fresh perspective that will improve your outlook on life and inspire you to greatness.
Another shot that I credit as one of my favorite Scandal moments is this close-up of OPA headquarters with Fitz’s White House looming in the background. There are many things I caught just from this one shot…
I also thought back to the times Olivia has said that he’s (re: Fitz) always in her mind. Taking this photo into literary context, I’ll say pretty much, right? I also thought back to that moment Fitz was seen looking outside his window back in “White Hat’s Off.”
I also thought of the height ratio difference and how Olivia left the White House to create her own establishment - Olivia Pope & Associates. (HIgher Ground, eh? Of course OPA will have the top floor at a high rise building.) I also thought of the irony of Olivia’s love for the color white and how the Fitz’s current residence is also white.
I also thought of the time Olivia told Huck that they are on the dark side of the moon when I caught this shot.
All of the things I mentioned is simply why I enjoy this shot of OPA headquarters as one of my favorite Scandal moments.
WE tv is officially in the scripted business. The AMC Networks-owned cable network has handed out a 10-episode series order to The Divide, a drama originally developed at AMC from Richard LaGravenese (Behind the Candelabra, The Fisher King) and Tony Goldwyn (Scandal).
Oscar and Emmy nominee LaGravenese penned the script and executive produces alongside Goldwyn (Conviction) and John Tinker(The Practice), who is on board to serve as showrunner.Andrew Sugerman(Conviction) will co-executive produce the series, which is slated for a 2014 premiere. .
“The Divide is the kind of compelling, high-quality storytelling that we think will set the right tone for our entry into scripted drama, a significant step in our network’s evolution,” WE tv president and GM Kim Martin said. “We could not be more excited about this project and the talent behind it.”
Divide stars Marin Ireland as Christine Rosa, an impassioned caseworker with the Innocence Initiative who delves into the case of a death-row inmate she believes was wrongly convicted of a young family’s heinous murder 11 years earlier. She chases down new evidence in a search for the truth and confronts an equally passionate district attorney, Adam Page (Damon Gupton), whose view of justice is colored by shades of gray. Throughout the journey, Christine and Adam’s pasts resurface as they are faced with the question of one man’s guilt or innocence intertwined with their own personal histories. Joe Anderson (Across the Universe), Aunjanue Ellis (The Help), Clarke Peters (The Wire) and Paul Schneider (Parks and Recreation) co-star.
AMC originally ordered the project to pilot in May 2012, with the project moving to WE tv in the spring.
In addition to Divide, WE tv also put three more scripted drama projects in its development pipeline as it becomes the latest cable network to expand beyond its reality offerings.
• All American Woman (working title) hails from Oscar nominees Chris and Paul Weitz(About a Boy) and Andrew Miano via through their Depth of Field banner. The drama takes place in three different years – 1964, 1988 and 2013 – during decades that changed the country’s cultural landscape. The entry will follow the lives of three women with one thing in common: All American magazine. All American Woman was originally developed at NBCUniversal-owned Bravo, and is based on Black List writer Jenni Ross’ mother’s stint as fashion editor at Seventeen magazine in the 1970s.Emmy nominees Josann McGibbon and Sara Parriott (The Starter Wife) will executive produce and pen the script. Ross will co-executive produce the Fox Television Studios drama.
• Dirty is penned by Nancy Fichman and Jennifer Hoppe (Damages, Nurse Jackie) and revolves around Lucy, a financier who has fallen on hard times and is forced to live and work with her housekeeper, Maize, in an unexpected and clever enterprise. RJ Cutler (Nashville) will executive produce the Fox Television Studios drama.
• Headhunters hails from Tom Fontana (Homicide: Life on the Street, Copper) and Academy Award winner Barry Levinson (Rain Man, Copper) and centers on generations of women who are being encouraged to “lean in” in new and innovative ways and examines their attempts to confront the ambiguity and conflicting choices that surround their lives today. Susanna Styron (Borgia) will pen the script.
WE tv, home to Braxton Family Values, Joan & Melissa and more, becomes the latest AMC-owned network to enter the original scripted business. AMC, home to The Walking Dead, Mad Men and Breaking Bad, aired repeats of Sundance Channel's Rectify followingMad Men, while Breaking Bad aired on Sundance. Sibling network IFC, meanwhile, recently unveiled its largest scripted roster yet with three pilots and eight other projects in development. For its part, Sundance has two scripted dramas – Rectify and recently ordered The Red Road – in addition to its miniseries offerings. The cabler last week picked up 10 Emmy nominations for miniseries Top of the Lake and Restless.
“Originally developed and piloted at AMC, The Divide gives WE tv the opportunity to enter the scripted space with a truly engaging series. It will join other series such as The Walking Dead (AMC), Low Winter Sun (AMC), Mad Men (AMC) and Rectify (Sundance Channel) that AMC Networks has developed or produced in our commitment to telling distinctive stories and bringing viewers quality, cinematic entertainment,” AMC Networks COO Ed Carroll said.
WE tv’s scripted foray comes as other female-focused networks including Bravo and Discovery are making similar moves.
They might not be the president, but they’ve played one (or at least his press secretary) on TV. Here they decree their summer-feast recommendations.
HOW TO GRILL LOBSTERS By Tony Goldwyn, President Fitzgerald Grant, “Scandal”
I get one-and-a-half-pound lobsters from the docks, fresh. Right before we’re going to eat, I surgically, with a large knife, bisect the lobsters. Then, I split the tail so the shell is exposed on the top and put them right on the grill. The hardest part has to do with traumatizing the children.