Shonda Rhimes hates the word “diversity.”
Participating in a panel that addressed the under-representation of women in the media at the White House summit, Rhimes said the word “suggests an ‘other-ness’ to me.”
When she gets a suggestion to “get a writer who is diverse,” she said, her response is, “A person is not diverse… Color of skin is not what makes people diverse.” Content should look to create the “actual world,” she said simply.
And yet, the TV industry still is predisposed to cast white straight males “unless otherwise stated,” which means spelling out, “I want a gay judge or female.” In a perfect world, Rhimes said she should be able to tell casting execs “I want a judge” and get a selection that reflects the real world.
Rhimes’ company Shondaland is behind five drama series on ABC. The recently picked up Romeo & Juliet sequel Still Star-Crossed joins returning series Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, which Rhimes created, as well as How To Get Away With Murder and The Catch.
This afternoon, she rejected the notion that what she is doing is “revolutionary.”
“I have a real problem with that concept of being revolutionary,” she said, describing what she does as creating a world “that looks like the world looks.”
“I don’t understand why that’s revolutionary.”
Content creators, she said, have “a responsibility to always be holding the door open behind you.”
“The best thing you can do is to not make someone the only one in the room,” she said of her writers’ rooms. If someone is the only person of color in the room, or the only woman in the room, they run a higher risk of being dismissed as “weird and wrong, and that person gets ejected.”
“That’s my solution to really keep that happening.”