'I'm 'Just A Writer'

2:56 AM PST 06/23/2011 by Stacey Wilson
ABC/ADAM LARKEY

Shonda Rhimes reveals the thinking behind two Emmy-contending episodes she wrote last year and how she felt pressure to 'employ new tricks' in her new series.

Rhimes is the only showrunner with three dramas slated for next season and still has her hands in every script. She reveals the thinking behind two Emmy-contending episodes she wrote last year and how she felt pressure to 'employ new tricks' in her new series.

Grey's Anatomy
"The Song Beneath the Song"

"I've always felt our show had a distinct sound. We kept trying to figure out a way to do a musical episode without straying from that sound, so we chose to use songs that had become famous from being on the show; essentially, we Glee'd ourselves. We were telling Callie's story mostly by music, but it was important that we do it in a way that felt Grey's -- finding moments where there could be fun while still honoring the opera of Callie fighting for her life, the love story between her and Arizona and her waking up to say, 'Yes, I'll marry you.' I learned more about writing this episode than I ever had. I also had to have it written much earlier than normal -- in September to film in January. That was tough. Mostly, though, it was totally new to me writing for actors who were also singing. There was such an overall level of joy in this one. Frankly, my favorite part was watching the cast have a blast."

Private Practice
"Did You Hear What Happened to Charlotte King?"

"I've seen a lot of those Lifetime movies about rape. But I wanted to make it real and ugly, without cliches. I read a lot of testimonials. In addition, we got a lot of support from RAINN (Rape and Incest National Network), which allowed [actress] KaDee [Strickland] to have an authentic experience by talking to rape survivors and medical researchers. Even the little details, like the photos we took of Charlotte and the process by which the rape kit was processed -- we wanted all of it to feel authentic. To give the episode a more focused narrative, I chose to craft the script from when the attack ends to when she leaves the hospital -- all the action happens in one night. I don't make outlines or spend months writing. I'm also not a weepy person. But I cried a lot writing Charlotte's dialogue. To even pretend this happened to a fictional character was very difficult."

Scandal
"Sweet Baby"

"I was most proud of just finding the time to write this thing! I hopped on a plane to Mexico last fall and wrote for four days in a hotel. I wanted this show to feel very different from Grey's and Private -- not because I don't love those shows but because I wanted to do something different. I have my bag of Shondaland tricks, but I wanted to leave that bag at home and employ new tricks. It felt liberating. And people have told me, 'Scandal doesn't feel like anything from your other shows.' That was a huge compliment. I also tried to be very restrained in terms of the dialogue. It's easy to have your characters say a billion things and have witty dialogue. It's not as easy to tell the story with actions. My visual storytelling skills have definitely improved since I wrote the Grey's pilot. I look at Scandal and Grey's, and they were written by two totally different people. That feels really good."

 
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