Shonda Rhimes, Viola Davis and Kerry Washington on Early Lessons and Great TV
The TGIT trio and THR Power 100 honorees cast actors to play them in their biopics and open up about their roles in the business.
A version of this story first appeared in the Dec. 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
There are few more significant illustrations of power in Hollywood than owning an entire night of primetime, which is precisely what Rhimes can claim Thursdays on ABC. All the better when each of the series comprising that night resonates with millions, as Rhimes' shows do on a weekly basis: Grey's Anatomy, still a ratings powerhouse with 11 million viewers in its 12th season; Scandal, the No. 2 drama behind only Empire among the core 18-to-49 demo in its fifth season; and sophomore How to Get Away With Murder, which regularly garners 10 million viewers.
In September the world was reminded that Rhimes' impact extends beyond the ability to generate enviable ratings when Davis became the first African-American woman to win an Emmy for lead actress in a drama. Davis, a married mom who co-stars in DC's forthcoming feature Suicide Squad, used the platform to thank Rhimes and Murder creator Pete Nowalk for helping to create roles that have "redefined what it means to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be a leading woman [and] to be black."
Washington, nominated for her work on Scandal a year earlier, also has Rhimes to thank for her perch on TV's A-list. That status already has yielded the married mother of one a starring role as Anita Hill in HBO's upcoming telepic, Confirmation. But it's Rhimes' growing profile that is arguably most impressive. The prolific showrunner, who will add thriller The Catch to her Thursday lineup March 24, embarked on a press tour for her first book, Year of Yes, in November, with stops on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.
She continues to add projects to her Shondaland development queue, too, just as she does magazine covers and Twitter followers (1.08 million), for whom she live-tweets each of her shows. Rhimes also has become a vocal supporter of women's rights, both on her shows (a recent Scandal episode tackled Planned Parenthood defunding) or in the media. In fact, when this publication asked the mother of three to complete the sentence, "Men are better at …" Rhimes responded: "Are you kidding? You're kidding, right? Because … no, seriously. YOU ARE KIDDING ME?"
FIRST JOB IN HOLLYWOOD
Rhimes: "I was an assistant at Paula Weinstein's Spring Creek Productions on the Warner Bros. lot. I got coffee and fed the fish!"
Davis: "A movie called The Shrink Is In with Courteney Cox and David Arquette."
FAVORITE TV SHOW (THAT I'M NOT INVOLVED WITH)
Rhimes: "Veep. Brilliant and funny."
Washington: "Game of Thrones and Super Soul Sunday"
MOST HOLLYWOOD THING ABOUT MY LIFE
Washington: "The only car I've ever owned is a Prius."
Davis: "Getting free 'stuff.'"
ACTOR I'D CAST TO PLAY ME IN MY BIOPIC
Rhimes: "Beyonce. Obviously."
Davis: "An unknown powerhouse actress who looks like me."
THING I WISH I KNEW WHEN I FIRST STARTED
Washington: "How much I would love being on the producing side."
Davis: "Be yourself."
HOLLYWOOD HAS BECOME … Washington: "Less frightening."
AS A WOMEN IN THIS BUSINESS, I'M STILL SURPRISED WHEN …
Davis: "Women are demeaned."
Rhimes: "People ask me questions about being a 'woman in this business.'"
Other Power Squad honorees: Shari Redstone, Bonnie Hammer, Elizabeth Banks, Cindy Holland, Kathleen Kennedy, Donna Langley, Nancy Dubuc, Jennifer Lawrence, Dana Walden, Megyn Kelly, Amy Schumer, Ilene Chaiken, Taraji P. Henson, Barbara Broccoli