‘Grey’s Anatomy’ creator Shonda Rhimes on show’s early rejection

After kicking off its 19th season — yes, it’s 1-9 — this month in primetime TV, Grey’s Anatomy long ago established itself as a reliable hit, holding not only a spot on ABC’s primetime schedule, but time slots elsewhere in reruns. And part of what made it successful from the start was the relationship between the main character, Ellen Pompeo’s Dr. Meredith Grey, and Patrick Dempsey’s character, Dr. Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd, who left the cast in 2015.

On Tuesday, Grey‘s creator Shonda Rhimes explained that the way Meredith and Derek’s relationship began — they went home together after meeting at a bar — was a problem for some. At least Meredith’s actions were. And they weren’t at all enthralled when she found out the next day that Derek was her new chief at what was then Seattle Grace Hospital, where she was a new resident.

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“I remember being called into a room full of old men,” Rhimes said on the 9 to 5ish With the Skimm podcast,” and they brought us in to tell me that the show was a problem because nobody was going to watch a show about a woman who would sleep with a man the night before her first day on the job. And they were dead serious.”

Actually, they asked, after reading the pilot episode, who would do something like that, like get drunk and have a one-night stand with a stranger the night before starting a new job?

Betsy Beers, who is Rhimes’ production partner on that show and many others, volunteered that she would. The answer to the men’s probably rhetorical question shocked them and made them scramble.

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“They couldn’t call me a slut to my face,” Beers said. “They didn’t know what to say.”

<em>Grey’s Anatomy</em>-producers Shonda Rhimes, left, and Betsy Beers pictured in 2017. (Photo: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)” data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/vZQYTy2UuqaxCHFsW1O. cQ–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MA–/https://s.yimg.com/os/creatr-uploaded-images/2022-10/e5ec6ae0-5642-11ed-bbcf-8f39d2e8c27a”/><noscript><img alt=Grey’s Anatomy-producers Shonda Rhimes, left, and Betsy Beers pictured in 2017. (Photo: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/vZQYTy2UuqaxCHFsW1O.cQ- -/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MA–/https://s.yimg.com/os/creatr-uploaded-images/2022-10/e5ec6ae0-5642-11ed-bbcf-8f39d2e8c27a” class=”caas-img”/>

Grey’s Anatomy producers Shonda Rhimes, left, and Betsy Beers pictured in 2017. (Photo: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)

The whole point was that Beers and Rhimes, who have since worked together on shows including Scandal, How to get away with murder and Bridgertonhaven’t seen women like themselves on TV.

“There weren’t even really that many shows with a female in a middle part,” Beers said. “That in itself was surprising.”

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Rhimes said that she later realized why they got such a reaction.

“It feels really obvious now, I think. But at the time, you have to remember there had never been a show where there was a main character who owned her sexuality on network television,” Rhimes said. “There haven’t been shows where you’ve seen three or four people of color in a room talking, unless it was on a sitcom, with no one else in the room. You haven’t seen a lot of the things that we do. And I didn’t really think of it as revolutionary. I thought, like, ‘We’re just making a show that I want to watch.’

Four Emmys and countless other awards later, it still is.

And that Meredith-Derek pairing that the men in Rhimes’ story didn’t approve of went down in TV history as one of the most fan-favorite. Just last month, the actors behind the characters, Pompeo and Dempsey, happily reunited at the D23 Expo, where they swiped Yahoo Entertainment’s mic for a few laughs.


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