Private Practice creator Shonda Rhimes tells me that with series star Kate Walsh committed to exiting the series after just 13 more episodes, she is going for broke. "The writers and I have approached this season as a no-holds-barred, all bets off season," she says. Yet that 13th episode isn't necessarily being planned as the series finale. Rather, Rhimes tells me, "I've been asked by [Disney] and [ABC] to come up with ideas. I've been percolating on this for a while and my thing is this: if I come up with something that I am excited and thrilled about and feels really creative and right, then that's how we're going to go."
And if she doesn't? "I don't want to continue to just continue," says Rhimes, who also runs Grey's Anatomy and Scandal while developing other shows for her Shondaland production company. "I'm busy. I have other jobs. I want to continue only if we have something exciting to write."
What Rhimes and her writing staff are already genuinely excited about is the new form of storytelling they've planned to give the series a jump-start. "Any episodes we've ever wanted to do we're doing," says Rhimes. "Any idea we ever had we're playing. Every single episode will be a special episode and none will seem like your typical episode of Private Practice. No two will even seem alike. It's really freeing and the actors are really energized."
While Rhimes is describing Grey's Anatomy's ninth season as the "season of romance," the producer has dubbed Private's upcoming year as "the Rashomon season [a reference to the classic 1950 Japanese film], where time has no meaning, stories overlap one another and everyone has a point of view." She says the idea began when they started asking themselves, "what if we weren't bound by the regular rules of our television season? What could we do then?" When Rhimes sent the Private cast an e-mail teasing her radical plans, several actors wrote back to say, "I don't know what the hell his means — but I'm excited!" Everyone, says Rhimes, "is game!"
So what can we expect? "We're going to be doing some episodes that are just focused on one character — seeing the entire world through one person's eyes," she previews. "We'll get a taste of this in the season premiere, with each act focusing on a different character. And the second episode all takes place outside the Practice with almost nothing medical. We have some really spectacular fun things planned."
The premiere episode will follow Grey's Anatomy's lead and time jump two to three months after the Grey's plane crash. And speaking of that horrific plane crash, might Walsh's Addison be impacted by the impending departure — perhaps death? — of former love Dr. Mark Sloane, with Eric Dane set to leave Grey's after just a few episodes? That got a firm "no comment" from the keeper of the secrets."If you never watched before this is the time to watch it because this is when stuff's going to get real and good," promises Rhimes. "And if you have watched a long time, I think you're going to be fairly shocked."