Shonda Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes

Rhimes on the cover of Ms. in 2015
Born Shonda Lynn Rhimes[1]
(1970-01-13) January 13, 1970
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Alma mater Dartmouth College
USC School of Cinematic Arts
Occupation Television producer, television writer, screenwriter
Years active 1995–present
Children 3

Shonda Lynn Rhimes (born January 13, 1970) is an American television producer, screenwriter and author. She is best known as the creator, head writer, executive producer, and showrunner of the television medical drama Grey's Anatomy, its spin-off Private Practice, and the political thriller series Scandal, all of which have aired on ABC. Rhimes has also served as the executive producer of the ABC television series Off the Map, How to Get Away with Murder, and The Catch.[2]

In 2007, Rhimes was named one of Time magazine's 100 People Who Help Shape The World,[3] and in 2015, she published a memoir, Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person.

Early life

Rhimes was born in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Vera P. (Cain), a university administrator, and Ilee Rhimes, Jr., a college professor.[4][5] Her mother attended college while raising six children and earned a PhD in educational administration in 1991; her father, who holds an MBA, was the chief information officer at the University of Southern California until 2013.[6]

Rhimes lived in Park Forest South (now University Park, Illinois), with two older brothers and three older sisters. She has said she exhibited an early affinity for storytelling[7] and that her time spent as a hospital volunteer while in high school sparked an interest in hospital environments.[8]

Rhimes attended Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, Illinois, before enrolling at Dartmouth College, where she majored in English and film studies and earned her bachelor's degree in 1991.[9] At Dartmouth, she joined the Black Underground Theater Association and divided her time between directing and performing in student productions and fiction.[9]

She wrote for the college newspaper. After college, she relocated to San Francisco with an older sibling and worked in advertising at McCann Erickson.[10] She subsequently relocated to Los Angeles to attend the University of Southern California to study screenwriting.[7] While at USC she was hired by Debra Martin Chase as an intern. Rhimes credits her early success in part to mentors like a prominent African-American producer, who hired her as an intern at Denzel Washington's production company Mundy Lane Entertainment.[11] Chase would later serve as a mentor to Rhimes and they would work together on The Princess Diaries 2. Rhimes was ranked at the top of her class and earned the Gary Rosenberg Writing Fellowship.[10] She obtained a Master of Fine Arts degree from the USC School of Cinematic Arts.


Career beginnings: 1995–2004

After graduation, Rhimes found herself an unemployed scriptwriter in Hollywood.[7] To make ends meet, Rhimes worked at a variety of day jobs, including an office administrator, and then a counselor at a job center that taught mentally ill and homeless people job skills. During this period, Rhimes worked as research director on the 1995 Peabody Award-winning documentary, Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream (1995).[7][10] In 1998 Rhimes made a short film, Blossoms and Veils, starring Jada Pinkett-Smith and Jeffrey Wright, which is her only credit as a director.[7] A feature script Rhimes wrote was purchased by New Line Cinema. This was soon followed by an assignment to co-write the acclaimed 1999 HBO movie Introducing Dorothy Dandridge. It earned numerous awards for its star, Halle Berry.[7][10]

In 2001, Rhimes wrote Crossroads, the debut film of pop singer Britney Spears.[12] Despite being panned by critics, the film grossed over $60 million worldwide.[13][14] She then moved on to Disney’s sequel to its popular 2001 movie The Princess Diaries. Though 2004's The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004) did not score at the box office like its predecessor, Rhimes later said that she treasured the experience if for nothing else – the opportunity to work with its star, Julie Andrews.[7] In 2003, Rhimes wrote her first pilot, about young female globe-trotting war correspondents, for ABC, but the network turned it down.[10][11]

Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal and other projects: 2005–present

Rhimes is the creator and currently executive producer and head writer of Grey's Anatomy. The series debuted as a midseason replacement on March 27, 2005. The series focuses on the surgical staff at the fictional Seattle Grace Hospital (later to be named Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital), in Seattle, Washington. The series features an ensemble cast with Ellen Pompeo serving as titular character Meredith Grey, who provides narration for a majority of the series' episodes. On May 16, 2006, ABC announced plans to relocate Grey's Anatomy from Sunday evenings to Thursdays to anchor the network's Thursday evening programming,[15] by airing Thursdays at 9 p.m.

In 2007, Rhimes created and produced the Grey's Anatomy spin-off series Private Practice, which debuted September 26, 2007, on ABC. The show chronicled the life of Dr. Addison Montgomery (Kate Walsh) as she left Seattle Grace Hospital for Los Angeles to join a private practice. The series featured an ensemble cast, including Tim Daly, Amy Brenneman, Audra McDonald and Taye Diggs among others. The first season was shortened because of a writers' strike and consists of only nine episodes. In May 2012, ABC picked up Private Practice for the 2012-13 television season with 13 episodes. The series finale was aired January 22, 2013.

In 2010, Rhimes created a new pilot for ABC called Inside the Box, a female-centric ensemble drama set in a Washington, D.C. network news bureau. The lead character was Catherine, an ambitious female news producer who, with her colleagues, pursued "the story" at all costs while juggling their personal animosities and crises of conscience.[16] It was not picked up by the network.[17]

In 2011, Rhimes served as executive producer for the medical drama, Off the Map, which was created by Grey's Anatomy writer, Jenna Bans. It focused on a group of doctors who practice medicine at a remote clinic in the Amazon.[18] The series was officially cancelled by the ABC network on May 13, 2011.[19]

In May 2011, ABC ordered Rhimes's pilot script Scandal to series. Kerry Washington stars as Olivia Pope, a political crisis management expert who is partially based on former Bush administration press aide Judy Smith.[20][21] The series debut aired on April 5, 2012.[22]

In 2012, she developed the period drama Gilded Lilys, which was not picked up to series.[23][24]

In December 2013, it was announced that ABC had ordered to pilot the ShondaLand production How to Get Away with Murder.[25] Actress Viola Davis joined the cast as the lead character in February 2014.[26] It was officially picked up to series on May 8, 2014.[27] Rhimes appeared as herself in the 5th episode of Season 3 of The Mindy Project, which aired October 14, 2014.

In 2015, Rhimes developed a pilot called The Catch, based on the Kate Atkinson novel, which columnist Cindy Elavsky described as a "thriller ... about a woman who is about to get married ... and about to get conned."[28] Mireille Enos stars. The show got picked up by ABC and premiered Thursday March 24, 2016, at 10 pm, taking over How to Get Away with Murder's time-slot after the show ended its second season.[28]

In March 2016, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder and Grey's Anatomy were respectively picked up for their sixth, third and thirteenth seasons, and will air during the 2016-2017 season.


Main article: ShondaLand

ShondaLand is the name of the production company.[29] ShondaLand and its logo also refer to the shows that have been created,[30] and to Rhimes herself. Shows that are included in ShondaLand are

Personal life

Rhimes adopted her first daughter in June 2002 and adopted another girl in February 2012.[31] In September 2013, Rhimes welcomed her third daughter via gestational surrogacy.[32]

In 2014, Rhimes spoke at her alma mater Dartmouth College's commencement and received an honorary doctorate.[33]

In September 2015, Rhimes revealed she had lost 117 pounds via exercise and dieting.[34][35] She is an honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.[36]


Year Title Credited as
Creator Director Writer Producer
1995 Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream No No No No
1998 Blossoms and Veils No Yes Yes No
1999 Introducing Dorothy Dandridge No No Yes No
2002 Crossroads No No Yes No
2004 The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement No No Yes No
2005–present Grey's Anatomy Yes No Yes Yes
2007–13 Private Practice Yes No Yes Yes
2009 Inside the Box No No No Yes
2009 Seattle Grace: On Call Yes No No Yes
2009 Seattle Grace: Message of Hope Yes No No Yes
2011 Off the Map No No No Yes
2012 Gilded Lilys No No No Yes
2012–present Scandal Yes No Yes Yes
2014–present How to Get Away with Murder No No No Yes
2016–present The Catch No No No Yes
Coming 2017 ''Still Star-Crossed No No No Yes


Shonda Rhimes has won a Golden Globe award and was nominated for three Emmy Awards. She has also won awards from the Writer's Guild of America, Producer's Guild of America, and Director's Guild of America. Below is a more complete list.

Banff Television Festival

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2011 Best Continuing Series Grey's Anatomy Nominated [37]

Black Reel Award

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2005 Best Screenplay, Adapted or Original The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement Nominated [37]

Directors Guild of America Award

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2014 DGA Diversity Award Shonda Rhimes Won [37]

GLAAD Media Awards

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2012 Golden Gate Award Shonda Rhimes Won [37]

Primetime Emmy Award

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2006 Outstanding Drama Series Grey's Anatomy Nominated [37]
2007 Nominated

NAACP Image Award

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2006 Outstanding Drama Series Grey's Anatomy Won [37]
2007 Won
2008 Won
2009 Won
2010 Nominated
2011 Won
2013 Nominated
Scandal Nominated
2015 Entertainer of the Year Shonda Rhimes Nominated
2016 Nominated

Producers Guild of America Awards

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2005 Television Series - Drama Grey's Anatomy Nominated [37]
2006 Television Series - Drama Won
2007 Television Series - Drama Nominated

Writers Guild of America Award

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2005 New Series Grey's Anatomy Won [37]
Dramatic Series Nominated
2006 Nominated
2015 Laurel Award for TV Writing Achievement Shonda Rhimes Won


  1. "Shonda L. Rhimes '91 (Doctor of Arts)". Dartmouth College. June 8, 2014. Retrieved October 9, 2014.
  2. "Profile". TVLine. Retrieved November 28, 2014.
  3. Oh, Sandra (May 3, 2007). "The TIME 100, ARTISTS & ENTERTAINERS". TIME. Retrieved 2007-05-05.
  4. Paskin, Willa (May 9, 2013). "Network TV Is Broken. So How Does Shonda Rhimes Keep Making Hits?". New York Times Magazine. Retrieved May 9, 2013.
  5. Stated on Finding Your Roots, January 19, 2016, PBS
  6. "'USC selects new vice provost and CIO'". June 11, 2013. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Shonda Rhimes profile,; accessed January 28, 2015.
  8. Maureen, Ryan (December 21, 2005). "Shonda Rhimes, creator of 'Grey's Anatomy' and a Chicagoan of the Year". The Watcher. Retrieved January 21, 2008.
  9. 1 2 Hardwick, Zac (April 22, 2014). "Shonda Rhimes '91, 'Scandal' producer, to address graduates". Retrieved October 9, 2014.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 Wilson, Stacey (June 26, 2011). "'Grey's Anatomy's' Shonda Rhimes Turns Up The Heat In New Series 'Scandal'". Retrieved October 9, 2014.
  11. 1 2 Rose, Lacey (October 8, 2014). "Shonda Rhimes Opens Up About 'Angry Black Woman' Flap, Messy 'Grey's Anatomy' Chapter and the 'Scandal' Impact". Retrieved October 9, 2014.
  12. Moss, Corey (November 6, 2011). "Britney's heart into 'Crossroads,' outtakes from flick appear on Britney". MTV. MTV Networks. Retrieved July 15, 2011.
  13. Snetiker, Marc (2012-02-15). "Crossroads Tenth Anniversary". Entertainment Weekly. Time Warner.
  14. "Crossroads Daily Chart View". Box Office Mojo. 2002-02-15. Retrieved 2002-02-15.
  15. "ABC Fall 2006 Schedule". Zap2it. 2006-07-11. Retrieved 2006-10-25.
  16. Andreeva, Nellie (March 4, 2009). "Indira Varma to star in ABC's 'Inside the Box'".
  17. "Tweet on Shonda Rhimes's Twitter Account". Twitter. Retrieved November 28, 2014.
  18. Hanh Nguyen (May 18, 2010). "ABC's fall TV schedule, night by night". Zap2it. Retrieved May 18, 2010.
  19. Updated: "V" Canceled; "Brothers & Sisters", "Mr. Sunshine", "Detroit 187", "Off the Map", "No Ordinary Family" Canceled, Too, TV By the Numbers, May 13, 2011
  20. Chozick, Amy (May 13, 2011). "Shonda Rhimes on Owning Her Characters And Her New Show". The Wall Street Journal.
  21. Abrams, Natalie, "ABC Picks Up Charlie's Angels, Tim Allen Comedy, Cancels Brothers & Sisters, V", TV Guide, May 13, 2011.
  22. Seidman, Robert (January 10, 2012). "'Cougar Town' Tentatively Slated for March Return; 'Scandal' Premieres April 5, Bumps 'Private Practice' to Tuesdays at 10 + 'Don't Trust the B----...'". TV By the Numbers. Retrieved January 10, 2012.
  23. James Hibberd (January 13, 2012). "Shonda Rhimes period drama 'Gilded Lillys' gets pilot order". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved March 9, 2012.
  24. Lesley Goldberg (January 13, 2012). "'Gilded Lillys': ABC Orders Shonda Rhimes's Period Drama Pilot". The Huffington Post. Retrieved March 9, 2012.
  25. "". TheWrap. Retrieved 28 November 2014.
  26. Goldberg, Lesley (February 25, 2014). "Viola Davis to Star in ABC Drama 'How to Get Away With Murder'". Retrieved October 9, 2014.
  27. Andreeva, Nellie (May 8, 2014). "ABC Picks Up Shonda Rhimes 'How To Get Away With Murder', John Ridley's 'American Crime', Comedy 'Black-ish' To Series". Retrieved May 9, 2014.
  28. 1 2 Elavsky, Cindy (March 12, 2015). "Celebrity Extra". King Features. Retrieved March 18, 2015.
  29. Lebeau, Jordan (September 22, 2014). "The Angry Black Women of ShondaLand: What The New York Times (and Slate) Got Wrong". Retrieved September 23, 2014.
  30. "About Us". The Shondaland Source. 2014. Retrieved September 23, 2014.
  31. "Shonda Rhimes adopts second baby girl". Essence. April 7, 2012.
  32. "Shonda Rhimes' Twitter". September 18, 2013.
  33. Sundberg Seaman, Kelly (April 21, 2014). "TV Producer Shonda Rhimes '91 to Speak at Commencement". Dartmouth College. Retrieved October 9, 2014.
  34. "Shonda Rhimes reveals 117-pound weight loss, admits she 'hated' dieting". Retrieved 2015-11-12.
  35. "Shonda Rhimes reveals airplane incident that sparked her 117-pound weight loss". Retrieved 2015-11-12.
  36. "Shonda Rhimes Delta Sigma Theta". Retrieved 2016-05-12.
  37. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "Shonda Rhimes". IMDb.
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