'Grey's Anatomy' Showrunner Pens Tribute to Suzanne Patmore Gibbs: "She Was Pure Talent"

Courtesy of Sony; David Livingston/Getty Images
Suzanne Patmore Gibbs and Krista Vernoff (inset)

The TriStar Television exec vp died March 29 at age 50. Her longtime friend and onetime colleague Krista Vernoff recalls her passion for supporting female voices and willingness to fight the good fight.

It is unimaginable to be writing about Suzanne in the past tense. She was so full of life that there is an aggressive cognitive dissonance in the idea that she is no longer alive. I am not alone in this and that is the sole comfort. Since Friday, my phone has exploded with messages from old friends and colleagues, reaching out across the years and miles to connect because through shared grief, the shock softens for a moment.  

It is hard in this town to find successful people who are primarily driven by a desire to make great art and support great artists. It has been said that if Los Angeles had to be summed up in one word, it would be "ambition." But if I had to sum up Suzanne in one word, it would be "passion." Or maybe "warmth." Possibly "laughter." Or maybe "wine." Or "conversation." Or "creativity." Or "joy." Suzanne is so much bigger than one word, I can’t do it. She would give me a note on this paragraph. She would smile and laugh and start with a compliment and use a lot of mollifying words and then she would tell me gently that I’d lost the thread.

Suzanne made my first pilot — fought like hell to get my vision through the gantlet of network television when I was too young to understand how rare that shot is or how passionate an advocate that requires. And I am one of countless young, often female artists Suzanne successfully fought for. What’s even more extraordinary about that is fighting was Suzanne’s least favorite thing. Her voice would shake and her face would flush and when she was particularly angry or passionate, her eyes would brim with tears, and that made her crazy. She was afraid it made her look weak or overly emotional when it was simply her biological response to adrenaline. And she would push through it and fight the good fight anyway. She was fierce while also being fiercely feminine like the heroines in the Jane Austen novels that were her favorites.

Suzanne walked down the aisle at her wedding to the theme song from The Princess Bride. Suzanne named her beloved children Dashiell and Violet even though The Incredibles did it before her. She worried a little, but she did it anyway because those were the names she loved. Suzanne was brave. She was funny. She was kind. She was good. She was all heart. And she was pure talent. Last summer, she took a fall in Italy, punctured a lung and had to convalesce over there for a month. The emails she sent during that time were so well-written, so witty and prosaic, so Jane Austen-esque that I spent a fair amount of time urging her to take a sabbatical year and write a novel. She thought about it. She thought there would be time down the line.   

Our beloved Suzanne died on Good Friday, like Jesus. She would have a note about that, for sure. I wish so desperately that she were here to give it.

A version of this story appears in the April 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.