Shonda Rhimes makes television that gets people talking.
The award-winning executive producer has proven it in big ways this year with her two ABC series: “Grey’s Anatomy,” which ended its sixth season with an intense gunman-loose-in-the-hospital episode last spring; and the “Grey’s” spinoff “Private Practice,” involving in its current fourth year the workplace rape of hospital chief of staff Charlotte King (KaDee Strickland) and its aftermath.
“I’m thrilled with how it’s gone,” Rhimes tells Zap2it about “Grey’s Anatomy” post-hospital-shootings. “It did exactly what I was hoping it would do, which was to take the characters back to square one. It’s really opened things up and allowed us to take some characters in new directions. A lot of them have pushed forward this season in a way that’s been really wonderful.”
To set up the current “Grey’s” season, ABC scheduled the repeat of the two-part shooting story for Thursday, Sept. 16. That day at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, a man shot a doctor, then killed himself and his mother (a patient at the facility). ABC responded by placing additional viewer warnings in the “Grey’s” airing, and also by letting affiliates opt for a different “Grey’s” rerun.
“I thought they did the responsible thing,” Rhimes reflects. “I wrote those episodes, and I had a lot of concern about having them out there … that they might confuse people, or hurt someone, or whatever. Mostly, what I wanted to do was to present the best anti-violence message I could come up with.”
About the sexual-assault story still playing out on “Private Practice,” Rhimes says, “I was gratified that so many people watched and really responded to it. KaDee and I talked a lot about wanting to honor the experiences of survivors. It was really powerful to do, and I’m glad it came out the way it did.”
Rhimes will have another credit when ABC’s South American medical-clinic show “Off the Map” premieres Wednesday, Jan. 12. Series creator Jenna Bans is another of its executive producers, and Rhimes calls it “really Jenna’s show. She has the relationships with all the actors and what’s going on down there (in Hawaii, where ‘Map’ is being filmed). It is an amazing team, and it’s working quite well.”