The hitmaker and stars Ellen Pompeo, Kerry Washington, and Viola Davis dish on Hollywood sexism, McDreamy's death, and what's next for their shows
by Melissa Maerz
Posted September 3 2015 — 8:30 AM EDT
For most people, it’s hard to have a real-talk conversation with your boss in the room. Then again, most people don’t work for Shonda Rhimes. When Viola Davis (How to Get Away With Murder), Kerry Washington (Scandal), and Ellen Pompeo (Grey’s Anatomy) joined Shondaland’s mastermind for wine and cheese in Los Angeles, no one held back. There were many strong opinions about McDreamy’s death. There was frank discussion of racism and sexism in Hollywood. There was a lot of laughter, and some raw emotion. Pompeo perched on the edge of Washington’s armchair, and everyone hugged Davis when her husband whisked her away to celebrate her 50th birthday. It felt like an easy chat among four women who know one another well enough to be honest. Lucky for EW, they let us listen in. Below, some highlights from that conversation.
Ellen Pompeo on the sexist response to McDreamy’s death: “All of a sudden, Patrick [Dempsey] leaves, and it’s like, Oh my God, Meredith’s gonna get killed with Alzheimer’s! The show couldn’t possibly go on without the man!”
Viola Davis on colorism in the entertainment industry: “You have to come from Detroit or Atlanta to be black. If you have John Denver on your iPod and you come from Central Falls, Rhode Island, then: Eh, you trickle-down black woman.”
Kerry Washington on why it’s different to work for a female showrunner: “I was talking to an actress who’s pregnant and really worried about telling her bosses, and I said, ‘Yeah, when I told my boss I was pregnant, she literally jumped up and down in my trailer.’ I don’t know if there’s a male showrunner who would do that.”
Shonda Rhimes on why her parents were Gladiators: “When I encountered something that felt like racism—like my high school guidance counselor saying to me, ‘Honey, I don’t think you were made for Ivy League schools’—I called my mom at work and said, “Mom, this lady says I’m not made for Ivy League schools.” And my mother said, “Hold on, I’ll be there in five minutes.” My mom drove up to the school, walked into the guidance counselor’s office, came out, and said, “Everything’s fine now.”
We also talked to Rhimes and her stars about what’s coming up next for their shows. How will Grey’s Anatomy move forward from one of its darkest seasons ever? Now that Olivia (Washington) has chosen Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) on Scandal, will Jake (Scott Foley) try to destroy everything? When will we find out who killed Rebecca (Katie Findlay) on How to Get Away With Murder?
To continue reading more about Shondaland and the upcoming seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands Friday, or buy it here.