Shonda Rhimes

Spotlight: Shonda Rhimes

By Kate Boyle

There are few people more recognizable in the world of television than Shonda Rhimes. She is an accomplished screenwriter, producer, and author. When her name is attached to a project, it guarantees a carefully woven plot filled with intrigue, tension, and gut-wrenching moments that will haunt viewers for years to come. I don’t know what’s more dangerous, getting attached to a Game of Thrones character or getting attached to a Shonda Rhimes character. She is the mastermind responsible for shows like “Grey’s Anatomy”, “Scandal”, “How to Get Away with Murder”, and most recently “Bridgerton”. Behind these wonderfully crafted worlds, is a highly driven, relatable, and inspirational woman. 

Born January 13, 1970, Rhimes was raised in the suburbs south of Chicago where both her parents had careers in higher education. Rhimes obtained a Bachelor’s in English and Film Studies from Dartmouth College, then studied screenwriting at the University of Southern California earning a Master of Fine Arts from the prestigious USC School of Cinematic Arts. 

Rhimes earliest credit was as research director on the documentary, “Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream” (1995), followed by a short film, “Blossoms and Veils”, starring Jada Pinkett-Smith and Jeffrey Wright in 1998. This film is her only credit as director to date. Rhimes then focused on her screenwriting, having scripts used by New Line Cinema and HBO. She wrote the script for “Crossroads” (2001) starring Britney Spears and worked on both “The Princess Diaries” (2001) and it’s 2004 sequel “The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement”. 

Shonda Rhimes became a household name after the debut of her show “Grey’s Anatomy” (2005-) on ABC. Rhimes served as executive producer and head writer for the medical drama. “Grey’s” immediately developed a cult following and soon spurred the show’s first spin-off “Private Practice” only two years later in 2007. In 2012 Rhimes’ next hit ABC series, a political thriller “Scandal”, debuted. As with her previous shows, “Scandal” quickly developed a dedicated fanbase. Fans of Shonda and her work will watch anything with her name attached. They know she will deliver a fantastic show no matter what it’s about or who is starring in it. This includes her latest drama-thriller for ABC, “How to Get Away with Murder” which premiered in 2014. In 2017 Rhimes secured a multi-year deal with Netflix to create original content. Rhimes has said, “they understood what I was looking for — the opportunity to build a vibrant new storytelling home for writers with the unique creative freedom and instantaneous global reach provided by Netflix’s singular sense of innovation. The future of Shondaland at Netflix has limitless possibilities.” Her first series released for Netflix was the Regency era drama based on Julia Quinn’s novels called “Bridgerton”. 

Rhimes has her own production company, Shondaland, which produces  all of her projects. Her shows are easily identifiable due to their unapologetic depiction of real people; the cast is diverse, life is messy, characters aren’t perfect -it’s refreshing to see on screen. The shows listed are just examples of how Rhimes is able to create complicated, multilayered plots and addictive stories that make viewers come back week after week. Rhimes has a gift for complex storytelling that is almost unequaled in Hollywood.

Shonda Rhimes has recently added “best-selling author” to her list of accomplishments. Her book “Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person” was published in 2015 and is a New York Times bestseller. “Year of Yes” is a non-fiction, self-help, inspirational memoir. Even people who are not normally fans of this genre will find that reading this book feels like having a chat with a best friend over a glass (or two) of wine. I highly recommend checking it out. The fitness group Peloton recently partnered with Rhimes to create a program based on her “Year of Yes” mentality. 

Throughout her career Shonda Rhimes has been nominated for many awards and honors. Her hard work has been recognized by the Golden Globes, Directors Guild of America, GLAAD Media Awards, the Emmys, NAACP Image Awards, and the Writers Guild of America Award. She has received accolades for her writing, her achievements as a woman, and as a woman of color, in an industry dominated by white men. As Rhimes continues to produce groundbreaking and compelling stories, this list of accomplishments will only keep on growing.

Shonda Rhimes is one of the most talented and inspirational women in the entertainment business. She’s worked hard to get to where she is and is consistently able to enthrall audiences around the world with her captivating storytelling. Her work continues to have a significant role in diversifying the face of television both on and off the screen. Rhimes has an infectious quality about her that can make any person feel ready to take on the world. I cannot wait to see what Rhimes has in store for us with her future projects. Thank you for the years of entertainment Shonda, the world cannot thank you enough.

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