Grey's Anatomy can be soapy, over the top, and yes, even sometimes cheesy. But one thing this show does better than almost any other program on prime time network TV is present a diverse cast, and that's no accident. One look at creator Shonda Rhimes' roster of shows makes it obvious that she is committed to ensuring her casts reflect a range of human identities and experiences.
Recently, Shonda spoke to CNN about diversity on TV and why she approaches her shows the way she does.
"For me, Grey’s was about me making a statement," she explained. "I was making a television show that I wanted to watch and part of that was putting people of all colors in it so that you saw people like you on television."
She explained that as far as she's concerned if she, as a black woman, can relate to the mostly white characters she sees on TV all the time, there's no reason it can't work in reverse. Her characters are meant to be humans first, and hopefully that means all sorts of people kind find something to relate to in them. "People suggesting that just because you’re a certain color that you couldn’t write something or be relatable to different characters is sort of horrifying to me at this point."
She also weighed in on the controversy around the all-white cast of HBO's new comedy Girls, noting that she blames HBO for not pushing creator Lena Dunham to make the show more diverse. That said, while she enjoys the show, she doesn't like Lena's reasoning that she was drawing from her own (white) experiences and therefore would have found it tough to add a person of color. "The idea that she felt her experience wasn’t relatable to anybody who wasn’t white is disturbing to me ... I don’t understand why it would have to be a different story because the person was a different color."
In the end, though, Shonda's not exactly sure why everyone keeps asking her why there's still a lack of racial diversity on TV. "My response always is: 'Why don’t you pick up the phone and ask some white guys? Why ask me, the black woman who casts black women, why there aren’t more black women on television?'" Fair enough!
We think she sums it up best with this statement: "It’s 2012: why are we still having this conversation?" Maybe if more showrunners were like Shonda Rhimes, we wouldn't have to.
For much more from Shonda, check out the full interview here. It is well worth a read.
And for more on Grey's diversity and the impact it's had on TV, check out this thoughtful interview with Chandra Wilson (Miranda Bailey), where she discusses her casting, what race means to Dr. Bailey, and more.
Miss Grey’s? Us too. Luckily the show will return to Thursdays at 9 p.m. with all-new episodes in the fall on ABC.
Rebecca Martin is an editor at Wetpaint Entertainment. Follow her on Twitter @BeccaMartin47.
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