Quoted: Shonda Rhimes on TV Diversity

While race on Rhimes’s shows is omnipresent, it is not often discussed explicitly. This has led to a second-order critique of her shows: that they are colorblind, diverse in a superficial way, with the characters’ races rarely informing their choices or conversations. Rhimes, obviously, disagrees. “When people who aren’t of color create a show and they have one character of color on their show, that character spends all their time talking about the world as ‘I’m a black man blah, blah, blah,’ ” she says. “That’s not how the world works. I’m a black woman every day, and I’m not confused about that. I’m not worried about that. I don’t need to have a discussion with you about how I feel as a black woman, because I don’t feel disempowered as a black woman.”

This season on “Scandal,” race has been more openly discussed. In one scene, Olivia remarked to Fitz that she was feeling “a little Sally Hemings-Thomas Jefferson” about their relationship, one of the first overt references to its racial aspect. Rhimes had written the line into three previous scripts and taken it out each time. She finally included it, but only as a flashback, later in the show’s run but early in Olivia’s relationship with Fitz, when Rhimes knew it would have been on Olivia’s mind. “I don’t think that we have to have a discussion about race when you’re watching a black woman who is having an affair with the white president of the United States,” she explains. “The discussion is right in front of your face.”

— “Network TV Is Broken. So How Does Shonda Rhimes Keep Making Hits?” by Willa Paskin, May 19, 2013

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