Shonda Rhimes is one of the most successful women in Hollywood, and during a recent event, ESSENCE was lucky enough to pick the showrunners brain about taking risks, the inspirations behind her empowering female characters, and her love for Grey's Anatomy favorite, Jerrika Hinton.
Before Rhimes took the stage for the American Express OPEN Success Makers panel, ESSENCE sat down for a quick chat with the woman who keeps us glued to our screens every Thursday with an incredible line up of shows. But TGIT and Rhimes' enviable career may never have come to fruition if it weren't for the showrunner's mom, who taught her the importance of going after what you want.
"I think being raised by a Black woman makes it interesting because I was raised by this mother who basically felt like you have to take what you need," Rhimes shares when asked about taking risks in order to succeed. "My sisters and I were kids who got in trouble if we didn't speak up for ourselves. If my mother had to march down to the school for something, her first question was 'Did you let them walk all over you?' And, if you didn't stand up for yourself that's when I would get into trouble."
She says that learning to speak up was what helped her move forward in her career, even when people immediately labeled her as the ''angry Black woman."
"I've been raised not to care," she said. "Silent people never get anything."
Her mother's words of wisdom have also rolled over into her characters. Rhimes' shows feature empowering women who take charge and are never too shy to say what they think. "Most of these characters are women I know. I have three other sisters who work, all my friends are women who work and are competitive. I don't know anyone who went the other way."
She adds, "Even the women who stay home and take care of the kids are hardworking and sometimes competitive and I never saw them on TV. And, that was weird to me. The women I saw were always unequivocally nice and well-behaved, I don't know any women like that. I really don't."
And, with word that one of those empowering characters, Stephanie Edwards, may not be returning to Grey's Anatomy, we had to ask the showrunner about the character's fate. Sources revealed to TV Line that actress Jerrika Hinton would not be returning as a series regular and, while Rhimes stayed mum about what's next for Stephanie, she had nothing but wonderful things to say about Hinton.
"She [Hinton] is so funny and what she's doing next is amazing," Rhimes said, "Jerrika is truly one of my favorite people. She is the star of a show, she is one of those people who deserves it. And, every once in a while I look at somebody and think 'You need to go fly' and she's one of them. I have very high hopes for her. She's one of those people who I truly think can do anything."