Shonda Rhimes came to TCA on Monday to talk about the new Shondaland series For the People on ABC. During the Q&A, she was peppered with questions about made-for-TV workplace romance/sex in the #MeToo era.
In the real world, some people are struggling with what is OK and discovering it’s no longer OK to pursue romance in the workplace, one male TV critic described, “and yet we continue to see it on television.” Do TV series have a responsibility to make sure viewers are aware it’s now tricky territory, the critic asked, loaded-ly.
“I don’t think sexual harassment in the workplace is tricky territory,” Rhimes shot back. “I don’t happen to find it tricky territory.” She deferred specific storyline questions about new series For the People to creator/executive producer Paul Williams Davies.
“A lot of people think work is not the place for romance,” the critic insisted.
“That’s true. I agree with you,” Rhimes said.
“Does TV need to reflect that?” the critic continued to probe.
“I don’t think work is a great place to shoot people in the face,” Rhimes said, winning that round.
Things happen in TV programming for dramatic purposes that do not necessarily reflect the real world, Rhimes explained.
“Have your shows evolved because of there being less accepting of “romance” in the workplace, the critic persisted.
“I’m curious what your timeline is,” Rhimes said. “The last 11 weeks?”
The New York Times published its groundbreaking #MeToo-igniting report on Harvey Weinstein having paid off sexual harassment accusers for decades on October 5, 2017.
A critic tried to hone the conversation to Scandal.
“Scandal is ending” she said. “It’s not a storyline we’re addressing.”
Getting back to Rhimes having referred storyline questions to Davies, a critic noted, “You like to defer to writers – which is great. On a daily basis, how involved are you” with her various Shondaland series, the critic wondered, noting Ryan Murphy answers storyline questions about all of his many TV series at TCA.
“You know why? I think writers deserve to get credit for the work they do,” Rhimes told the critic, taking Round 2.
Davies holds a J.D. degree from Stanford and clerked for a federal judge before a nearly decade-long stint as a litigator at O’Melveny & Myers while aspiring to become a TV writer.
For the People, written by Davies, is set in the Southern District of New York Federal Court, aka “The Mother Court,” and follows new lawyers working for both the defense and the prosecution as they handle the most high-profile and high-stakes cases in the country – all as their personal lives intersect.
Davies executive produces with Don Todd and Shondaland’s Rhimes and Betsy Beers. ABC Studios, where Shondaland was based until recently moving to Netflix, is the studio.