Shonda Rhimes, the prolific TV showrunner whose hit series “Grey’s Anatomy” became the longest-running primetime medical drama in U.S. television history last year, recently opened up about her decision to leave ABC ― and how a Disneyland ticket helped drive her out the door.
Rhimes told The Hollywood Reporter, in a cover story published Wednesday, that she had battled with the Disney-owned network for some time over issues related to creative content, budget and a new multiyear deal.
“I felt like I was dying,” she said, referring to her creative process and the constraints surrounding network TV. “Like I’d been pushing the same ball up the same hill in the exact same way for a really long time.”
But her breaking point came when she said she was given a hard time about requesting an extra all-inclusive pass to Disneyland.
Rhimes explained that she had been given a pass for her own use as part of her work for the company ― work that has reportedly generated more than $2 billion in revenue over the years for Disney. She noted that her pass was non-transferable and that she had previously negotiated another one for her nanny. Then one day she sought to obtain a pass for her sister, who planned to accompany one of Rhimes’ daughters to the park. She said she was met with pushback before being given the additional pass.
But when her family arrived at the park, they found that only one of their passes worked. Rhimes said she then got in touch with a high-ranking executive to address the matter, who asked her, “Don’t you have enough?”
That was it.
She brought her production company, Shondaland, to the streaming service and inked an exclusive multiyear deal. She noted in 2018 that she hadn’t corrected rumors about her salary figure at the time, but then declared, “I am the highest-paid showrunner in television.”
Rhimes’ Disneyland ticket story struck a nerve with people on Twitter, who were appalled that the Hollywood powerhouse would receive any flak over such a small request of the company she made so much money for.
Furthermore, Twitter users pointed out that the all-inclusive pass debacle represents the larger problem of companies undervaluing Black talent ― a dynamic that Black women are all too familiar with.
Rhimes is often celebrated for her contribution to Black women’s visibility on TV. Speaking to Business Insider in 2017, she said, “I don’t think I ever sought out the idea, ‘We’re going to show a diverse group of people!’ I wanted to see people on television who look like me, and I wanted to see people on television who look like my friends.”
Read Rhimes’ entire Hollywood Reporter profile here.