What do a team of doctors from Seattle, a colorful nineteenth-century English court and a self-styled heiress who turned out to be the biggest con artist in New York have in common? To unite stories and distant worlds there is a African American womanborn in Chicago in 1970, the youngest of six children, creator, author and producer of some of the most watched TV series ever. Shonda Rhimes it’s the mastermind behind it Grey’s Anatomy, How to get away with murder, Scandal, Inventing Anna, Bridgerton with the recent prequel Queen Charlotte, and various others. She has come to churn out three or four series at the same time, for 70 hours of TV a year, in 256 countries, in 67 languages, generating millions of dollars for herself and billions for the ABC (Disney) broadcaster for which she worked for 15 years and for the Netflix platform, with which, since 2017, it has an exclusive contract.
The TV giant
He defines himself, without modesty, «a giant», as well as «the showrunner (the one who creates, writes and produces, ed) highest paid of the tv». Time included her in the list of the 100 most influential people in the world. According to Forbes she is among the most powerful women and among the first self-made women in America, with an estimated fortune of 250 million dollars which includes a house in New York inspired by the Bridgerton set. She has received several Golden Globe and, in Great Britain, the special prize Bafta; she was nominated at the Emmy’s and was inducted into the TV Hall of Fame. There is a Barbie in her image and likeness of her. In 2005, when the first season of Grey’s Anatomy (now in its nineteenth season) saw the light, Rhimes founded, showing a certain self-referential flair, Shondaland, born as a vehicle for his television creations, today a global multimedia group, producer of podcasts, content digital and platform partnerships with companies such as Microsoft, Dove and MasterClass. “The only limit to your success is your imagination,” her father told her. And she, who has a lot of imagination, felt infinite. “Society is built so that women question their own worth from the moment they are born. I do not. I didn’t grow up like this », she says.
The touch of Shonda Rhimes: all the challenges (won) of the queen of Adriano Ercolani’s TV series 03 January 2021
Inclusive and feminine stories
His are inclusive storiesinhabited by female figures strong and representative casts of an ethnically diverse audience. The choice, whether ideological or strategic, works, as demonstrated by the apocryphal royal court of Bridgerton, whose first eight episodes were seen by 82 million families in just the first 20 days of broadcast on Netflix. “It’s embarrassing that television has taken so long to be inclusive,” comments Rhimes who, for Grey’s Anatomy had asked, as a prerequisite, a casting color-blind, free from racial bias. She says she is introverted and shy but, although she prefers to spend time in front of a computer screen imagining things, she made the effort to open up to the world quickly. During the years at Dartmouth College, where she is English and film graduate, ran a theater group. It was while watching a show written and staged by her that he met her vocation. After her master’s degree at the University of California Film School, while waiting to find her place in the world, she worked as an administrative secretary and as a counselor in a homeless center, while in the evenings she wrote screenplays and planted the first seeds destined to become forest. Her success came in 2005, with Grey’s Anatomy, launched by ABC once the season had begun, as is done with series in which one doesn’t believe much. Instead it turned out to be one of the network’s biggest hits of which Shonda Rhimes was crowned queen. Many said she was saving traditional TV.
The winning strategy
However the story with ABC, however long-lasting, has been stormy. She denounced the lack of creative freedom and the constant struggles to prove her worth (she received 250,000 dollars per episode) despite the two billion revenues brought to the network. «I am one of the greatest storytellers on the market. Why do I have to fight to get paid what I deserve or to have the freedom I deserve?” she wondered. «Never enter a negotiation from which you do not wish to withdraw» is his favorite advice. “Because if you don’t want to walk away from the table, then you’re not negotiating. You have already lost. It is crucial that you define your boundaries, your identity and your requirements before embarking on any interview.” It is in this spirit that Rhimes tackled Netflix’s number one, Ted Sarandoswhich assured her full creative freedom as well as a five-year agreement, renewed in 2021 for another five years, the value of which was initially erroneously indicated at 100 million dollars, but which, according to the Time, stood at between 300-400 million, excluding bonuses. Rhimes was the first showrunner to sign a streaming service, and there was no guarantee that the transition from peak-hour TV to one platform would be a success. History proved her right and, only in 2021, he earned more than in his entire career. But even for those who, like her, have 15-hour working days, life is made up of something else because “the dream job has nothing to do with dreaming”.
After the attack on the Twin Towers, he told himself that if the world ended tomorrow, there were still some things he wanted to do. The first was i children. She is a single mother of three girls, two of whom are adopted and the last one through surrogacy. “Since I was three, I wanted three little girls.” An husband Instead he never wanted it. In 2016, after having lost 53 kilos and the inspiration, and learned that true creative energy can only come from affection, he wrote “«Year of yes”, “L’anno del sì” (released in Italy with Rizzoli), in which he tells the impervious time of a saving choice (saying yes to everything). And now? In Shonda’s skilled hands is her future and ours too, destined to watch what our lady of the TV series will invent.