Shonda Rhimes and the Power of Keeping your Head in a Book

Before Shonda Rhimes was dominating our television experience (TGIT, it’s a thing–if you aren’t in on the hashtag you’re missing out) with critically acclaimed shows, Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, How to Get Away With Murder, this powerful showrunner had her “head in a book,” according to the new article on Ms. Rhimes by The Hollywood Reporter:

“Her parents, both academics, encouraged her voracious reading habit, implementing a rule early on that their daughter could read anything she wanted. “I remember very clearly being 7 or 8 and reading The French Lieutenant’s Woman and asking my mother what the definition of something was and her being like, ‘Dictionary’s over there,’ ” says Rhimes, who often has described her younger self as a Tracy Flick-type with her hand raised at the front of the class.”

When speaking to the graduating class at her alma mater, Dartmouth, Shonda said:

“I wanted to be Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison. That was my dream,”

That dream prompted Rhimes to quit her full-time job and attend USC where the rest has become television history. Grey’s Anatomy remains the number one drama among “that coveted 18 to 49 demographic,” and Scandal “is said to generate more than $200,000 for each 30-second ad” (not to mention Rhimes making history with Scandal having the first black woman lead a network television show since 1974).

Shonda is certain to continue such a profitable legacy with her new Shondaland produced show, How to Get Away with Murder, airing tonight at 10pm eastern standard time.

See how far reading can take you?

Check out more of what the most powerful showrunner in Hollywood had to say about race, gender, autonomy and the million dollar question “can one truly have it all?” in The Hollywood Reporter’s latest issue. 

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