Childhood & Early Life
Shonda was born Shonda Lynn Rhimes, on January 13, 1970, in Chicago, Illinois, to Vera P. (Cain) and Ilee Rhimes Jr. She is the youngest of the six children of her parents. She has two elder brothers and three elder sisters. She was raised in the village of Park Forest South, which is now known as University Park, in Will County, Illinois.
Her mother was a university administrator, and her father was a university professor. Her father later became the chief information officer at the ‘University of Southern California’ (USC), where he served till 2013.
She attended the ‘Marian Catholic High School’ in Chicago Heights. After graduating high school, she joined ‘Dartmouth College.’ She earned her bachelor’s degree in English and film studies. She wrote articles for the college newspaper. She was a member of the ‘Black Underground Theater Association’ at ‘Dartmouth.’ She directed and performed in student plays and also wrote fiction.
After earning her degree in 1991, she moved to San Francisco, where she worked with ‘McCann Erickson’ for a while. Following this, she moved to Los Angeles and earned her MFA degree, from the ‘School of Cinematic Arts’ at the ‘USC,’ majoring in screenwriting. She graduated at the top of her class and was awarded the ‘Gary Rosenberg Writing Fellowship.’
While at the ‘USC,’ she was hired as an intern by producer Debra Martin Chase. Chase became her mentor and brought her an opportunity to intern at Denzel Washington’s production company, ‘Mundy Lane Entertainment.’
After graduating, she started doing minor day jobs to support herself. She began her career as an office administrator and later worked as a counselor at a center that taught job skills to the mentally ill and the homeless. She also worked as a research director for the documentary ‘Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream,’ which won the 1995 ‘Peabody Award.’
In 1998, she made a short film titled ‘Blossoms and Veils,’ which starred Jada Pinkett-Smith and Jeffrey Wright. It is her only film as a director. In 1999, ‘New Line Cinema’ purchased a script of hers. This was her first major success as a scriptwriter. The same year, she got an assignment to co-write the ‘HBO’ TV movie ‘Introducing Dorothy Dandridge.’ The film won many awards for its lead actor, Halle Berry.
In 2001, she wrote the script of the film ‘Crossroads,’ which was pop singer Britney Spears’s debut film. The film received negative reviews but earned over $60 million worldwide.
She also wrote the screenplay for the ‘Disney’ film ‘The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement,’ which was the sequel to the highly successful 2001 film ‘The Princess Diaries.’ The film did not do as well as its prequel but managed to earn almost $135 million at the box office. She once stated that she loved working with Julie Andrews, who was part of the film.
In 2003, she wrote her first TV pilot for ‘ABC.’ It was about female war correspondents. However, ‘ABC’ later turned it down.
Following this, ‘ABC’ asked her to write another script. This time around, she decided to write about something that she would have herself liked to watch. She was always interested in doctors and surgical processes. She and her sisters would often watch medical programs on ‘Discovery Channel’ and would later discuss about them with each other. This led her to conceptualize and write the series ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’ In 2005, ‘ABC’ approved it as a mid-season replacement for the series ‘Boston Legal.’ The series premiered on ‘ABC’ on March 27, 2005. As of 2018, the series has run for 14 seasons and has been renewed for the 15th season.
‘Grey’s Anatomy’ has been both critically acclaimed and commercially successful. It is believed that there is usually a significant drop in traffic in major US cities such as New York when the final episode of each season is aired. It is the longest-running scripted primetime show on ‘ABC.’ It is the second-longest scripted primetime show ever on ‘ABC’ and the second-longest scripted primetime medical drama after the series ‘ER.’ Shonda founded her own production company, ‘Shondaland,’ to produce ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’ The company has grown with the popularity of the series and is now a major TV production house in the US.
In 2007, she wrote and produced the ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ spin-off series, ‘Private Practice.’ It first aired on ‘ABC’ on September 26, 2007. The series continued till January 22, 2013, and ran for a total of six seasons.
In 2010, she created a new plot for ‘ABC.’ The plot was tentatively called ‘Inside the Box.’ It was a female-oriented drama set in a news organization based in Washington DC. The lead character, ‘Catherine,’ was portrayed as an ambitious news producer pursuing news stories at all costs while balancing office politics and ethical dilemmas. The plot, however, was not approved by ‘ABC.’
In 2011, she served as one of the executive producers of the medical drama ‘Off the Map,’ which was written by her ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ staff writer Jenna Bans. The show was first aired on ‘ABC’ on January 12, 2011, but was canceled soon after. The last episode of its first season was aired on April 6, 2011.
In May 2011, ‘ABC’ approved her political thriller ‘Scandal.’ The series was first aired on ‘ABC’ networks on April 5, 2012. It was highly acclaimed by critics and was popular with the audience, too. The series ran for seven seasons, and the last episode was aired on April 19, 2018.
In 2012, she developed a plot for a period drama. The plot, titled ‘Gilded Lilys,’ was about an aristocratic family managing the first luxury hotel of New York City. The filming of the project began in Boston, but it was not picked up by ‘ABC’ and was ultimately abandoned.
In August 2013, ‘ABC’ bought the rights of a plot from her company, ‘Shondaland.’ It was about a criminal law professor and defense attorney and her students interning at her law firm. The plot and the pilot episode were written by Peter Nowalk, the supervising producer of ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’ In December 2013, ‘ABC’ decided to order the pilot. In July 2014, the network announced that the series based on the pilot would be called ‘How to Get Away with Murder’ and that it would be a limited series of a few episodes per season. The series premiered on September 25, 2014. On October 9, 2014, the network announced that it would be a full series of 15 episodes. As of 2018, the series has been renewed for its fifth season, as announced by ‘ABC’ on May 11, 2018.
In March 2016, ‘ABC’ broadcast a comedy–drama series produced by her company. The title of the series was ‘The Catch.’ It was created by British writer Kate Atkinson and TV scriptwriters Helen Gregory and Jennifer Schuur. It was developed by American film, TV, and comic-book writer Allan Heinberg. The series ran for two seasons on ‘ABC’ and was canceled thereafter.
On August 14, 2017, ‘Netflix’ announced that they had signed an exclusive multi-year development deal with ‘Shondaland.’ According to the terms of this deal, the content developed for ‘Netflix’ by ‘Shondaland’ would be exclusive and original and would be known as a ‘Netflix Original Series.’
In June 2017, a series called ‘Still Star-Crossed’ produced by ‘Shondaland’ premiered on ‘ABC.’ The series was a period drama based on author Melinda Taub’s book of the same name. The series was canceled after the first season.
On March 22, 2018, the second spin-off series of ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ titled ‘Station 19,’ premiered on ‘ABC.’ The series follows the lives of firefighters of station number 19 of the ‘Seattle Fire Department.’ The series has been renewed for a second season.
Her first legal drama series, ‘For the People,’ premiered on ‘ABC’ on March 13, 2018. It was produced by ‘Shondaland’ and was created by Paul William Davies. ‘ABC’ renewed the series for a second season on May 11, 2018.