6 Things We Learned About ‘Shondaland’ From Our ESSENCE Cover Story
Nino Muñoz

We all know what happens in Shonda Rhimes’ on-screen world, but what about what goes on behind the scenes? Some of Shondaland’s biggest stars sat down with ESSENCE and dished on what happens when the cameras aren’t rolling (Spoiler: It’s everything you could hope for). 

1. Shonda Started Writing at the Age of 4
At the age of 4, when most people are just learning how to read, Shonda Rhimes was already a writer. She recalls dictating her stories into a tape recorder, then passing the recordings along to her mother to transcribe. 

2. Shonda Rhimes Doesn’t Write Until the Time is Right
Shonda may be the biggest showrunner of the decade, but she admits that she doesn’t use outlines or storyboards to write. “Once [an idea is] in my brain, it clicks, and I go, ‘Okay, I’m done,'” she said, adding that she wrote the Scandal pilot in four days in a Mexico hotel room. “And I can write it ’cause it’s fully cooked first in my head.”

3. Viola Davis was Attracted to the ‘Mess’ of Annalise Keating
Viola Davis admits that it was the complexities of Annalise Keating that attracted her to her How to Get Away With Murder character. “What drew me to the character was her mess and her mystery,” she said. “Because with mystery, there is an opportunity to peel off the layers as each season goes by. And with the mess, I think what’s introduced is that with Black women, we’re just as complicated as anyone else.” Amen!

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4. Shonda Isn’t Interested in Explaining How She ‘Balances It All’…
One question Shonda hates answering? How she balances her professional life with her home life (she has three daughters). “Nobody every asks a man how they balance it all,” she said. “Men go to work and take care of their families all the time. So when people ask women, ‘How do you go to work and take care of your family?’ you’re somehow suggesting I am no as capable as a man.”

5. …But She’s an Inspiration to Other Celeb Moms!
Kerry Washington said that, as a fellow working mom, she uses Shonda’s hustle as a playbook. “To have her as an example of somebody who is living life fully and attempting to bring the best version of herself to so many different areas of her life has been really powerful for me,” Washington said.

6. ‘Shondaland’ is a Well-Oiled Machine (Duh!)
If Shonda wants results, then results are what Shonda is going to get! The Shondaland family agrees that if a problem arises, everyone is swift to make sure it is handled efficiently. “[Shonda] is like, ‘Well, that’s a hell of a problem. We need to get that fixed,'” Grey’s Anatomy star Jason George said. “And when she says it, you know that your job is now to fix that.”

Be sure to check out the October issue of ESSENCE Magazine, on newsstands Saturday, Sept. 19!