Both “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” ended their seasons with huge cliffhangers. The final scene of “Grey’s Anatomy” showed Richard (James Pickens, Jr.) lying on the ground seemingly dead after being electrocuted. “Scandal” fans got a shock of their own when Olivia (Kerry Washington) called Rowan (Joe Morton) “Dad” in the final thirty seconds of the finale. Showrunner Shonda Rhimes is responsible for both jaw-dropping moments. The queen of Thursday night is notoriously anti-spoiler, but she was willing to share a few tidbits about the upcoming seasons of her two hit shows.
How quickly does “Grey’s” deal with Richard’s fate and the fallout of what happened in the season finale?
We have the two-hour season premiere and it deals with a lot of the things that we talked about [in the finale]. It’s not like we resolve everything. We really place those moments carefully so that we can pace them out for the entire season.
You have said we will see Richard again but you haven’t said whether or not he’ll be alive.
We will see him again. And I will say, again, that we will see him again.
How will parenthood be different for Meredith and Derek the second time around?
I feel like they have a newborn versus a 17 month old. As we all know, newborns don’t sleep more than two hours at a time and there’s breastfeeding involved and there’s a lot of things that are going to happen. Having one child and having two children is a very different thing, as I discovered a while ago. So I feel like for Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) especially it’s going to be the “lean in” of it all. Is she going to step back? Is her career going to go farther? That’s going to be very interesting.
“Grey’s Anatomy” is one of the few shows that features women balancing their careers and raising a family. Why do you think so few shows address this?
I think people draw from experience and I spend a lot of time trying to balance having a kid, having children and having a career. I feel like that’s a big part of my life. I feel like [TV] tends to give the big lie that it’s all very easy or that women stay home. The women stay home thing is driving me crazy because I feel like the statistics of America that most women are working these days so I wanted to really talk about what it meant to be a working woman. That felt real and relevant to me.
Will Callie and Arizona’s relationship survive now that Callie knows Arizona had an affair?
It’s a really interesting dilemma for both of those characters. Callie (Sara Ramirez) has been cheated on before, so how does she respond to being cheated on again? She’s going to be affected by that past experience and for Arizona, (Jessica Capshaw) there’s a lot of work she’s [got to do] about her disability and what that means for her, so there’s a lot going on for those characters and both Sara and Jessica are such amazing actresses and we get to write all the scenes for them.
What about Cristina and Owen? They seemed to have reached an impasse at the end of last season.
They’re going to be grappling with the end of what happened last season. Obviously they love each other. What that means for them next is going to be very interesting.
ABC President Paul Lee compared “Grey’s Anatomy” to the “ER” model, with the show running for many years and changing cast members.
I don’t know about the “ER” model. It’s a show I loved, [its executive producer] John Wells lives four doors down from me. I would love to knock on the door to ask, “What did you guys do? How did it work?” It’s an interesting idea and I really like the idea of finding new ways to tell a story and having the interns allows us to [do that]. The audience really responded to bringing on Jesse Williams and Sarah Drew. It’s about finding a way to bring on new characters to make it interesting and reinvigorate how we tell story and they do that for us.
Can you tease a little bit about Olivia’s relationship with her father on “Scandal”?
You’re going to have to watch to see what happens next. All I can say is we pick up 22 minutes after the season finale, and Joe Morton continues to be incredible.
How much will “Scandal” fans learn about Harrison in Season 3?
We have big plans for Harrison (Columbus Short) this season. We’re going to learn a little bit more about who Harrison is and where he came from.
How does Olivia and Fitz’s relationship becoming public change “Scandal”? A lot of series would have kept that secret for years.
I feel like our show does things at a faster pace than a lot of shows would. I think it’s going to have a big effect on the dynamic. I think it’s going to be very interesting to see what happens next.
What do you have to say to critics of Olivia & Fitz’s relationship?
The president is married. That’s the premise of the show. So I’m fairly certain they’re not going to watch that show. Also, Olivia’s not a perfect person. She’s not a role model and This is not a fairytale. I’m writing about three dimensional, flawed characters. The same way we are with Callie and Arizona. This is about flawed characters living their lives.
Season 10 of “Grey’s Anatomy” premieres Thursday, Sept. 26, airing from 9:00-11:00 p.m. on ABC. The third season of “Scandal” returns Thursday, Oct. 3 at 10/9c on ABC.