TV maven Shonda Rhimes has achieved unprecedented success in Hollywood in the typically male realms of TV show creation. Rhimes began her career as a writer, slowly evolving in Hollywood until her breakout success as the showrunner and creator of the hit TV show “Grey’s Anatomy.”
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Along with her achievement as a showrunner, Rhimes helped Kerry Washington become only the second Black woman to star in a prime-time television TV show after Diahann Carroll, and helped Viola Davis become the first to win a primetime Emmy in the Best Actress in a Drama category.
Rhimes celebrates her 50th birthday today.
Rhimes was born in Chicago, the youngest of six born to Vera and Ilee Rhimes, a college professor and university administrator. After high school, Rhimes attended Dartmouth College, earning a bachelor’s degree in English in Film Studies in 1991.
After a stint working in advertising in San Francisco, Rhmes relocated to Los Angeles to study screenwriting at the University of Southern California known for its world-renowned film program. She excelled there, graduating near the top of her class and interning with established African-American producer Debra Martin Chase and working with Denzel Washington’s production company Mundy Lane Productions.
Pursuing her career as a screenwriter ultimately led Rhimes to collaborating on the 1999 script for “Introducing Dorothy Dandridge” and then writing the script of Britney Spears’ 2001 movie “Crossroads.” Though not a critical success it did well at the box office, affording Rhimes other opportunities.
In 2005, after a couple of failed shows, Rhimes hit with “Grey’s Anatomy” which went on to become one of TV’s most successful, longest-running shows in TV history. Rhimes followed up that success with “Private Practice” and then in 2011, “Scandal.”
Rhimes conceived “Scandal” based on the life of “fixer” Judy Smith. Smith is an African-American woman who ran a crisis management firm much like the fictional one that “Scandal” main character Olivia Pope, played by Washington, was head of. In 2014, she hit again with “How To Get Away with Murder,” with Viola Davis in the lead role, the third of her shows to star a Black actress in a leading role. In total, through her Shondaland production company, Rhimes has put nine shows on the ABC Network.
In 2017, Rhimes signed a deal with Netflix, ending her long association with ABC, although “Greys” and “HTGAWM” are both still aired on the network.
Rhimes has received just about every major accolade in television, including awards from the Writers and Producers Guilds, including 5 NAACP Awards. In 2015, Davis won an Emmy for her work on “HTGAWM.”
Rhimes lives in Los Angeles with her three daughters.
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