MIPCOM: Shonda Rhimes Celebrated as Personality of the Year

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Shonda Rhimes

"A lot of it is about how America has changed," she said of how what's acceptable on television has shifted during her 13-year small-screen career.

Shonda has landed in Cannes.

Prolific writer, creator and Emmy nominee Shonda Rhimes on Wednesday received the Personality of the Year honor at MIPCOM, featuring a keynote speech and intimate awards dinner on the last day of the annual TV confab.

Her Shondaland production partner Betsy Beers divulged the showrunner’s secret of success: “She works her ass off,” she joked. “She never stops making everything its best — not ‘better,’ the best.”

The Catch star Mireille Enos also was on hand to honor Rhimes, saying she “goes to the heart of the matter” both personally and professionally.

Scandal’s Tony Goldwyn said Rhimes has “the ability to see people and their potential in ways they don’t see themselves,” and thanked her for bringing out characteristics in himself that he didn’t know he had.

In a video that showcased the many stars of Shondaland, including Viola Davis, Kate Walsh, Justin Chambers, Peter Krause, Ellen Pompeo and Kerry Washington, who called her “the personality of the century,” ABC Studios president Patrick Moran also sang Rhimes' praises, calling her “The Beyonce of television" who can go by only one name.

In her acceptance speech, Rhimes promised to remember that and use it — strategically — when needed.

Recalling Grey Anatomy’s characters, Rhimes said Beers is “the Cristina to my Meredith, although I’m the Christina and you’re the Meredith and you know why."

The creator also briefly addressed her upcoming Romeo and Juliet project, saying the title is still in play. “When I figure out what to call the new show, maybe I will annunciate in Shakespeare. I still haven’t figured it out yet,” she said.

During her keynote speech earlier in the day, Rhimes also addressed the project, noting that the title is not set in stone.

“We call it Romeo and Juliet Are Dead right now,” she said of the political period drama that explores what happens to the Montague and Capulet families after the young star-crossed lovers off themselves.

Rhimes also said that her perspective on work and being a boss has changed following a period when writing, managing and doing publicity for shows led to personal unhappiness. “And then I thought, 'That’s not what ABC Studios is paying me for,'" she said.

Rhimes says she has learned to delegate and has returned to her creative roots. “I’m just starting to get a handle on trying really hard to make sure that people feel valued when they come to work,” she said of her newfound leadership philosophy. “If work isn’t fun, we are doing it wrong, because it is a creative endeavor and it should be for everyone who is doing it.”

Rhimes also reflected on her long career on the small screen, noting that the culture surrounding what is acceptable on TV has changed while she has been on air, especially dealing with censorship.

“A lot of it is about how America has changed. Really the standards have changed to match the American people, the same way gay marriage is now legal in every state in the nation, you can now show a gay couple kissing on television and it’s not a big deal,” she said, recalling an early Grey’s Anatomy episode with a lesbian sexual encounter causing an uproar. “I had to fight for it, I had to threaten to call GLAAD. And that seems really silly now and almost puritanical.”

Rhimes noted that a Scandal character’s abortion was a “feminist moment” that passed without causing an uproar.

And while the audience gave her a standing ovation and precious Q&A time was devoted to praise, Rhimes acknowledged what keeps her down to earth. Referring to her 14-year-old, she added: “My daughter still thinks my shows suck.” 

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