Fans of Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice, take heed: Shonda Rhimes says her new ABC series won't be more of the same.
"It's not a procedural, it's not romance-y, there is no MerDer," Rhimes told reporters Tuesday during ABC's winter TV previews, comparing her upcoming drama, Scandal, instead to a British miniseries "full of intrigue."
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In the show (premiering Thursday, April 25 at 10/9c), Kerry Washington plays a "professional fixer" who formerly worked at the White House and is looking for a new start in opening her own crisis management firm. The character is based on real-life consultant Judy Smith, whose career has included handling aspects of the Iran Contra investigation, the Los Angeles riots and the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
Rhimes said that because of the confidential nature of Smith's work, the show's stories will be merely inspired by her famous clients. Smith, who serves as a co-executive producer on the show, provides her expert opinion. "I'll call [Judy] up and say, 'What if I have this conservative soldier who's secretly gay and he's getting the congressional medal of honor?' Rhimes said. "She's been a fascinating and amazing resource for us."
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The Grey's boss added she is neither relieved nor worried about tackling a series that doesn't revolve around, as one reporter put it, people with stethoscopes. "This is just a different story," Rhimes said, adding that the through line in her shows is "strong women and flawed people."
Scandal is so tense and un-soap operatic that not only do the characters not have time for love, but they speak at a breakneck pace — an element that drew some comparisons to Aaron Sorkin's The West Wing. "That was about me not wanting the actors lingering in the moments," Rhimes said. "It's a world where everyone's incredibly busy... the pace really serves the story."