EXCLUSIVE: Why Shonda Rhimes Says She Wasn’t Interested in the #OscarssoWhite Debate

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"I don’t think that awards shows are the problem,” Rhimes told ESSENCE. They're the result of the problem.

Shonda Rhimes knows a thing or two about TV. The queen of Thursday nights is already at the helm of three ABC shows, and she has another four (yes, FOUR) in the works.

So naturally, Rhimes has a few thoughts about the conversation surrounding diversity—or lack thereof—in Hollywood. 

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“I personally was not very interested in #OscarsSoWhite, mainly because I don’t think that awards shows are the problem,” Rhimes told ESSENCE at our 9th annual Black Women in Hollywood event.

"Awards shows are the result of the problem. The problem really lies in how many people are given jobs in the industry, how many people are given access in the industry, which then tells you how many people are let into the Academy. It stems from the beginning of the pipeline rather than the end.”

Rhimes points to the fact that it is problematic that she can not only name all seven women of color nominated for a Best Actress in a Drama Emmy, but she has worked with every last one. 

Though Viola took home the award last year, Rhimes is worried that people’s complacencies will overrule our urgency.

“I’m fearful that there’s a sense that Viola won, so everyone will go like, ‘Ok, Viola won, and we’re good,’” she said. “That’s what happened in the Best Male in a Drama category.”

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How can we combat that attitude? Rhimes said that the solution lies in money, and she already sees a shift happening with what people are interested in seeing.

“Television audiences are being very clear about what they want to watch, and money talks,” she said. “If things like Star Wars are happening and people are embracing a female action lead or a man of color as the leading man, then that’s what should be going on…Things will get made because people will go see them and spend money on them. Period.”

Watch the interview in full above. 

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