WIF's Lucy Award goes to women of 'Grey's Anatomy'
"We're heavily chick around here," jokes Shonda Rhimes, creator and executive producer of ABC's award-winning series "Grey's Anatomy." "Most of the writing staff is women, and we have a lot of women working on the show."
That fact alone might make the series' cast and crew deserving of Women in Film's Lucy Award -- which was named for legendary comedian Lucille Ball and honors professionals of both genders whose work in television has positively influenced attitudes toward women. As Rhimes sees it, though, she and actresses including Ellen Pompeo, Sandra Oh, Katherine Heigl, Chandra Wilson, Kate Walsh and Sara Ramirez are being honored because "what the show does is enhance the perception that women are as capable and hard working as anybody."
Rhimes herself has demonstrated that she can multitask with the best of them. Since earning widespread acclaim for her screenplay for the 1999 Halle Berry-starrer "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge," Rhimes has had a successful career as a screenwriter and, of course, creating and shepherding "Anatomy." She has taken home a host of honors, too -- her collection includes Golden Globe, Writers Guild, Producers Guild and NAACP Image Awards.
But the Lucy Award puts Rhimes in the company of venerable past recipients such as Carol Burnett, Lily Tomlin and Barbara Walters, and it recognizes the contributions the former Dartmouth University grad and MFA recipient from USC's School of Cinema-Television has made to the advancement of women in the industry as a whole.
Says Wilson, who plays "Anatomy's" Dr. Miranda Bailey on the Seattle-set drama: "I still have men who come to me and tell me they love the show and my character. They love how I get on the interns. They think I'm a tough nurse to deal with. They just can't quite click over to the fact that Bailey is a doctor."
Rhimes points out that she also is trying to change how women perceive themselves. "If you're a young girl, you might get a different perception of what a woman can do for a career," Rhimes says.
"If you're working in the industry, it might give you a different perception of what women can do in television."
Walsh, whose Dr. Addison Montgomery is set to star in ABC's upcoming "Anatomy" spinoff "Private Practice," believes that the series' success is rooted in its fundamental approach to the characters.
"I think that what Shonda and the rest of the writing staff are great at is having this magical formula for being able to show women that are really multidimensional," Walsh offers. "And by that I mean characters who are deeply flawed yet very successful and likable."
Of course, "Anatomy" also is one of the few shows on television to feature a believable multiethnic cast, something Ramirez, who portrays orthopedic surgeon Dr. Callie Torres on the drama, says she deeply appreciates.
"The women I hear from relate to me personally because they're either Latina or they've dealt with weight issues or they're tall or big-boned," she says. "And it triggers something in them. They tell me, 'We love your character. We think she's kickass. We really like that there's a strong woman on TV who doesn't take any crap!'"
While the characters on "Anatomy" continue to deal with a host of issues facing real women in the workplace, Rhimes and the actresses starring in the series have managed to create engaging characters and compelling story lines that resonate with viewers of both sexes.
Ultimately, Walsh says that what sets Rhimes apart from others working in the business today is that she "humanizes" women, enabling the viewers who tune in each week to "see themselves and their friends in the characters, and it's a relief. They feel like someone's finally speaking their inner monologue and making it OK and attractive and lovable."
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