Television writer and producer Shonda Rhimes has created a lot of memorable female characters on her high-drama shows. Each one has been strong, flawed and complicated in her unique way, but there's still one commonality they all share: There is a little bit of Rhimes' own personality in each one.
While most of these women have been outspoken and bold, the woman behind them was quite the opposite. As Rhimes recently told Oprah on "SuperSoul Sunday," she was always painfully shy, and this fact tends to surprise many of her fans.
"I feel like perhaps they're mistaking me for my characters," Rhimes says. "There is the beauty of getting to hide behind my characters."
While those characters were saving lives, taking lives, confronting rivals, having passionate affairs, reuniting with "dead" relatives and breaking all sorts of rules, Rhimes was living quietly in their fictional shadows -- perhaps a little vicariously so.
"My characters were living a much more exciting life than I was," Rhimes says. "They were saying all the things perhaps I would want to say or do, or having the courage that I was not having at the time."
Still, there's always been one particular character that Rhimes has always identified with.
"There's a lot of Cristina Yang in me," Rhimes says, referring to her "Grey's Anatomy" character who was fiercely driven, focused and very private with her emotions. "Starting out, I think I was a lot more Cristina Yang."
Now, however, Rhimes says she's morphed into a more vibrant version of herself, thanks to an experimental year where she pushed herself to say "yes" to all the things that scared her. Though Rhimes still feels personally connected Cristina Yang, the prolific showrunner says that there's another one of her characters that she now recognizes within herself even more than Cristina: "Scandal" protagonist Olivia Pope, known for exuding a potent mix of power, intellect, vulnerability and self-assurance.
"There's a lot of Olivia Pope in me, now that I've become much more of a professional woman," Rhimes says. "Now, I feel like I'm much more Olivia Pope."
Together, the Yang-Pope blend is one that Rhimes is happy to own. "[It's] a good combination," she says.
"SuperSoul Sunday" airs Sundays at 11 a.m. ET on OWN.
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