Q&A: Shonda Rhimes

One-time TV series newbie Shonda Rhimes keeps 'Grey's Anatomy' stable and vital

You have to believe that ABC wasn't expecting miracles when it gave a midseason episode order to "Grey's Anatomy" in 2005, given the TV track record of its creator. It isn't that Shonda Rhimes had a bad one; she merely lacked one. Rhimes had written the 1999 HBO original "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge." And that was it. Yet here Rhimes is with "Grey's ," having achieved 100 episodes . She spoke about getting her baby to this point with The Hollywood Reporter's Ray Richmond.

The Hollywood Reporter: So why do you think "Grey's Anatomy" was able to make it to 100 episodes?

Shonda Rhimes: The truth is that it's the fans loving the show who are responsible for keeping you on the air. If they weren't watching, then we obviously wouldn't still be here.

THR: Was 100 episodes a goal for you to reach from the start?

Rhimes: Not necessarily. We were just hoping to go as long as we could tell good stories and not get stale, or static. But I feel like we helped to ensure that by having a large cast. In hindsight, that was a pretty smart thing to do. Besides putting Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) through quite a ringer, we've been able to effectively explore pretty much all of the characters on this show.

THR: What's been the most difficult part about getting "Grey's" to this point?

Rhimes: At the end of the day, it really is about making sure the characters keep moving forward. In a sitcom, you can have your people stay relatively the same and tread similar situations. That isn't how it is in drama.

THR: Was your having the cast be essentially a cultural melting pot a goal from the start, or a happy accident?

Rhimes: It's incredibly encouraging that our viewers haven't gotten hung up on the race thing. It's not about the fact that she's Asian and he's black. It's about the fact that she's a slob, and he's a neat freak. That's what the whole relationship is all about.

THR: Is it still difficult to strike a balance between the medical and personal details in the episodes?

Rhimes: I can feel it when there's too much medical and not enough personal, and that's the most important balance to keep. We've done episodes where there's a ton of personal and not very much medical. Works just fine. But when the medical sort of overtakes the personal, the show doesn't feel like the show.

THR: Where do you see the show heading now?

Rhimes: Let's just say it's a different place than I'd ever expected at the beginning.

THR: How long do you see "Grey's" going? Have you always had an end-point in mind?

Rhimes: I used to say I knew exactly how the show was going to end. But now, after 100 episodes, I have no end story or date in mind at all. I just want us to tell stories as long as we feel it's relevant. We're essentially working without a map and have been for a little while now.