Don't try to tell Shonda Rhimes she's a trailblazer.
The Grey's Anatomy and Scandal boss, who has been praised for featuring diverse casts on her shows, accepted the Norman Lear Achievement Award at the Producers Guild Awards on Saturday, but insisted that "it's not trailblazing to write the world as it actually is."
Rhimes also gave credit to Lear, whom she says "had already done a bunch of trailblazing 40 years earlier." The two are collaborating on America Divided, a political documentary series about inequality that is scheduled to premiere on Epix this fall.
"I created what I know is normal. ... Basically, you are just giving me an award for being me, in which case I totally deserve this," Rhimes said. "Really, I am honored to receive it. The respect of this award does mean the world. It just makes me a little bit sad. First of all, [telling stories about] strong women and three-dimensional people of color is something Norman was doing 40 something years ago. So how come it has to be done all over again?"
Introduced by How to Get Away with Murder star Viola Davis, Rhimes said she faced little pushback from ABC when pitching the characters of Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) on Scandal or Annalise Keating (Davis) on Murder.
"I have, against no odds, courageously pioneered the art of writing for people of color as if they were human beings," she said sarcastically. "I've bravely gone around just casting parts for actors who were the best ones. I fearlessly faced down ABC when they completely agreed with me that Olivia Pope should be black."
Added Rhimes: "The thing about all this trailblazing that everyone says I've been doing, it's not like I did things and then the studio or the network gasped with horror and fought me. ... They were perfectly happy to say yes. You know what the problem was? I don't think anyone else was asking them. I think it had been a very long time since anybody had thought to, or tried."