The Inside Scoop: Shonda Rhimes' FAQ
The good news is that we now know that Season 3 of Grey's Anatomy is set for September 21. The bad news? That's still over a month away. All we can do between now and then is look forward to the dram that's to come, while reflecting back on what was, what might have been, and what will never be.
On her official blog, Grey Matter, series creator and executive producer Shonda Rhimes occasionally takes the time to answer fan questions. For those of you eager for more Grey material, here is a Q & A session straight from the source, with plenty of food for thought.
Q: When will the Season 2 DVD be released?
A: The Season 2 DVD will be released on September 12, 2006.
Q: On the DVD, what does "uncut" mean?
A: There were several episodes that aired in Season 2 that, were it not for the fact that we only have 42 minutes and 30 seconds of air time, would have been longer. And they were good longer - some of them were even better longer. There were also some moments in episodes that we had to delete because of the rules of Broadcast Standards and Practices. Nothing too racy but perhaps more racy than what is usually shown on television. We go to battle with the extremely kind people at BS&P and sometimes, we lose. Those important moments we lost are restored in the DVD versions of the episodes.
Q: Is it possible ever to see the writers breaking story in the writers' room?
A: Our writers' room is super-secret, incredibly crazy, sacred place. It is Narnia. It is Oz. It is... well, some other place it's really difficult to get into. In that room, we talk, we laugh, we eat a LOT of cupcakes, we jog on the treadmill to burn off those cupcakes and most importantly, we come up with the story lines for the season and for each episode. No one gets in. Not the press, not the actors and -- I'm sorry -- not you. You might have heard that I am obsessive about secrecy. It's true. I am.
Q: Can you tell us anything about your new show with Jeffrey Dean Morgan?
A: No. Again, I'm obsessive about secrecy. You'll just have to wait...
Q: Why has the show moved to Thursday?
A: Here's what I was told by Steve McPherson, the head of ABC: Grey's is a strong show that can stand on its own in the 9 o'clock hour. Thursday night is a big night for television and the network would like to see Grey's compete on that night. Here's what I say: Thursday nights rock. I love 9 pm because it means I can stay up and watch my own show. And I think it's kinda awesome that Steve and the network have that kind of confidence in our show.
Q: Where do you get the characters' names?
A: A couple of names were thought up by other writers. Kip Koenig came up with the name Denny Duquette. But, mostly, I make up the character's names. They pop out of my head. And then ABC legal checks the names to make sure that, say, there's no surgical interns named Meredith Grey in Seattle. If they clear the name, we use it. If not, I keep thinking. I can tell you that I came up with the name Finn and when searching for a last name, I glanced up to my wall and saw the movie poster for the movie "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge" which hangs over my sofa - and thus, Finn Dandridge was born.
Q: When is the first year of residency over?
A: On our show, the first year of residency will be over sometime near the end of Season Three or the beginning of Season Four. Our show is odd in that an episode may air that is actually in real time only moments after the last episode ended. So much less than a year of time has passed on the show since the pilot aired. And I wanted to honor that.
Q: How much input do you (Shonda) have on the editing?
A: I have incredible, smart, funny editors. And they are kind enough to allow me to sit behind them in the editing room and scream and complain and whine and make all kinds of changes. Editing is my favorite place to hang out. To me, the shows are truly shaped in editing and I enjoy being a part of it.
Q: How much of the back story of each character have you already determined? And, have you ever written yourself into a corner where you wish you had done something different with a character's back story?
A: Back stories for characters have been planned from Day One. And we write ourselves into corners all the time. It's part of what I love about the show. Every season, we paint ourselves into crazy corners and then we sit down and figure out how to get ourselves out.
Q: How do you pick the song titles for the episodes?
A: Each writer picks his or her own song title. Each writer has their own sensibility and, part of writing an episode, is choosing a song that fits both the show and the personality of the writer writing the episode.
Q: Will there be a Season 2 soundtrack?
A: Yes. And it's going to have great songs on it. Executive producer Betsy Beers, music supervisor Alex Patsavas and I are busy choosing the song list right now.
Q: In your eyes, how long do you see the show lasting?
A: As long as they'll let me air it. Seriously. I love these characters. I love spending time with them. I can't imagine letting them go.
Q: How long does it take to write an episode versus how long it takes to shoot an episode?
A: Writing is an interesting process. First there's the time we take planning the season and each episode. That can take weeks. Then there's the time each writer takes to write an episode. Some people write slowly, carefully going over each line and word. Some spend a long time with the episode in their head and then barf it out onto the page quickly. Me? I'm a barf writer. But both ways result in great episodes. We shoot the episodes in 8 days. 8 fast, furious, exhausting days for the crew and the actors.
Q: Can we see a floor plan of Seattle Grace?
A: I'll ask the production designers if that is possible and get back to you.
Q: Will you or Peter Horton ever make a guest appearance on the show?
A: I'm not an actor. I don't pretend to be. Acting is serious business and requires this thing called talent. I don't have talent. None. So you're never going to see me in an episode. Now, Horton is a real, honest to God, actor. He's chock full of acting talent. So I'm not ruling him out. But I have tried to cast him in the show before. I tried to get him to play Derek and Addison's marriage counselor. But Peter truly prefers to direct these days and so I have to work on him…
Q: How involved are you in directing each episode?
A: Wonderful directors come and give their all to directing the episodes. I have what is called a story meeting where I tell them what is in my head, what I imagine. And then I step back and let them do their thing. Directing is a supremely creative process - honoring the vision of the directors is part of the fun of making the show.
Q: Why are you nervous for Mer and Der?
A: Because they had sex. And Derek is married. And Finn has plans.
Q: Does Meredith's locker keep changing?
A: Yes and THANK YOU for noticing. I'm obsessed with it. That locker... it changed and changed and changed. I thought I was crazy but finally Bossy McBossy Rob Corn noticed it too, confirmed I was sane and fixed it.
Q: How is it possible that Callie actually lives in the hospital? Will Callie ever sing on an episode? Can we see where Richard or Alex lives? Is McSteamy ever returning to the show? Will we see more of Thatcher next season? Can we have more of Richard's back story? Is Cristina's mom ever coming back? Can we have something on Alex's family situation? Is Izzie really leaving the show? What will happen to Izzie? Why didn't Thatcher ever check up on his daughter?
A: Wait and see. Wait and see. Wait and see. Okay, at this point, you probably want to throw things at me but I can't tell you about plot that may or may not be coming.
Q: When will we get background information on Addison and Derek's relationship?
A: Ooooh... really wait and see.
Q: How did you come up with the idea of "McDreamy?"
A: Here's a question I can answer. Patrick Dempsey was on the set shooting the pilot of our show. Every day for 14 hours a day, Betsy Beers and I sat on set watching him. And we like to add "Mc" to things. McTired, McBossy, McSilly. And there was one phrase we kept saying when looking at Dempsey - McDreamy. The man is McDreamy. He is. Look at him. Just look at him. There isn't another word for that kind of sexy gorgeousness. McDreamy.
Q: Are we going to be able to read/see Ellis' diary?
A: I don't know. I've been considering it. But I wouldn't want anyone else to write it and I don't have a lot of time - I have to focus on the show itself, first and foremost.
A: Probably about seven years.
Q: At the end of Season 1, how did Addison already know about Meredith sleeping with Derek?
A: Richard called her up and told her. That's why she came out. Richard brought her out to Seattle because he didn't like the goings-on between Derek and Meredith. And not because it was an attending and an intern. He didn't like it because he likes Addison and he feels a responsibility to look after Meredith.
Q: Why did Bailey seem so angry when Meredith and Derek slept together, but no one seemed to care that much with Cristina and Burke? Or George and Callie?
A: Because Meredith and Derek were the first. They broke the taboo. And because they kept it a secret. In addition, Burke and Cristina were honest and went to the Chief - Bailey doesn't like it but she can't do anything about it. Also, there is an issue with interns dating attendings. But Callie's not an attending - she's a resident. That's not a big deal.
Q: Did you write Chandra Wilson's pregnancy into the show, or was that an original storyline? If not, what was the original storyline?
A: Chandra called me and told me she was pregnant. I was thrilled for her. But I knew that hiding a pregnancy on a show almost never works. So I took it as a gift and added it to her character arc. I love the idea of watching a surgeon struggle with how motherhood affects her career. And I love the idea of watching Bailey struggle with managing her tough resident side with her maternal side.
Q: Why was Derek more concerned with operating on Burke than the Chief?
A: Because the Chief's surgery was a relatively simple, straight-forward surgery that Derek knew he could perform. The outcome of Burke's surgery was a lot more difficult to predict.
Q: Is there really no chance of Denny in Season 3?
A: Denny, like Dylan, is dead. He's really dead. He's so very, very dead. And it breaks my heart. But he is dead.
Q: Where are the panties?!
A: Good question. Stick around and find out.
Q: How did you select "Chasing Cars" for the finale?
A: We had a lot of songs to choose from -- A LOT OF SONGS. So many that it made me a little bit panicked at the thought of choosing. Ed Ornelas, the editor for the second hour of the finale, placed the song "Chasing Cars" by Snow Patrol as a temp song when he was putting together the episode. And it felt so brilliant, so perfect that I left it in. Thank you, Ed!