Oprah Talks to Shonda Rhimes
Oprah: I have to tell you, before I flew here, so many people said, "Tell Shonda I said hi. Give her a shout-out." I'm like, "Shonda doesn't know you."
Shonda: That's what's surreal about this whole Grey's Anatomy experience—people feel as if they do know me. They think maybe I have some love answers for them—which I don't.
Oprah: There are other hit shows, but it's rare to see so much focus on the writer.
Shonda: I didn't expect this. When the press began asking me for interviews, I freaked out. My instinct is to hide. Luckily, the set is a bubble—when we're here, things can feel the way they used to.
Oprah: Is there a lot of pressure to keep up the ratings?
Shonda: It's a huge amount of pressure. The night before we aired this season's premiere, I couldn't sleep. All week I drove everybody crazy with my doom-and-gloom attitude. I knew there was a chance no one would watch, and I just had to breathe my way through it.
Oprah: How did you hear that you were number one?
Shonda: Usually, that call comes at 6:30 the next morning. At 8 A.M., I'm lying in bed in pajamas, with my daughter [Harper, 4] running in and out of the room, and I'm thinking, "It must be really bad." Then it hit me: "Nobody knows my new phone number." I'd just moved. So I called and heard the news.
Oprah: Where did you get the idea for Grey's Anatomy?
Shonda: I wrote it on a whim....
[Sandra Oh enters the room]
Oprah: Hello, Miss Oh.
Sandra: I have ten minutes before I start taping, so I thought I'd drop in. We're about to start filming in the OR.
Oprah: Do you watch yourself on Thursday nights?
Sandra: I catch 20 minutes here or there, but I find it hard to watch. I want the show to be everything we shoot. After an episode is edited, there are whole chunks you guys won't get to see. I'm like, "Oooh, that was such a good scene." But I like watching the other actors.
Oprah: I loved seeing Diahann Carroll on the show [Carroll made a guest appearance as the mother of Preston Burke, a cardiothoracic surgeon played by Isaiah Washington].
Shonda: She was unbelievably fantastic. I never thought we'd get Diahann, so when she said yes, I couldn't believe it. She called up and said [imitating Carroll's voice]: "Now, do you want Diahann Carroll—or do you want something else?" I was like, "I want Diahann Carroll." For the first time, viewers got to see that Preston was a mama's boy.
Oprah: That was a big surprise.
Shonda: That's how my brothers are. They're such powerful men, but the second our mother shows up...