Shonda Rhimes, the prolific TV showrunner whose hit series “Grey’s Anatomy” became the longest-running primetime medical drama in U.S. television history last year, recently opened up about her decision to leave ABC ― and how a Disneyland ticket helped drive her out the door.
Rhimes told The Hollywood Reporter, in a cover story published Wednesday, that she had battled with the Disney-owned network for some time over issues related to creative content, budget and a new multiyear deal.
“I felt like I was dying,” she said, referring to her creative process and the constraints surrounding network TV. “Like I’d been pushing the same ball up the same hill in the exact same way for a really long time.”
But her breaking point came when she said she was given a hard time about requesting an extra all-inclusive pass to Disneyland.
Rhimes explained that she had been given a pass for her own use as part of her work for the company ― work that has reportedly generated more than $2 billion in revenue over the years for Disney. She noted that her pass was non-transferable and that she had previously negotiated another one for her nanny. Then one day she sought to obtain a pass for her sister, who planned to accompany one of Rhimes’ daughters to the park. She said she was met with pushback before being given the additional pass.
But when her family arrived at the park, they found that only one of their passes worked. Rhimes said she then got in touch with a high-ranking executive to address the matter, who asked her, “Don’t you have enough?”
"Why wouldn't I own my shit? Like, why do I feel like it's wrong to do somehow?"
Going to start owning it. Starting with this @hollywoodreporter cover. 📸 @kwakualston
Hair by @verylynhairdesigns
Styling by @theclothingtherapist
Dress by … https://t.co/lfqKt2QDox pic.twitter.com/t114uDP25h
— shonda rhimes (@shondarhimes) October 21, 2020
That was it.
She brought her production company, Shondaland, to the streaming service and inked an exclusive multiyear deal. She noted in 2018 that she hadn’t corrected rumors about her salary figure at the time, but then declared, “I am the highest-paid showrunner in television.”
Rhimes’ Disneyland ticket story struck a nerve with people on Twitter, who were appalled that the Hollywood powerhouse would receive any flak over such a small request of the company she made so much money for.
It's not about the ticket, it's about the principle.
It demonstrates a lack of appreciation for the amount of money she has made for the network.
Shonda Rhimes MADE Thursday nights, the least she deserves is a damn Disneyland ticket. https://t.co/eUmWKL4TRf
— Michelle Elman (@ScarredNtScared) October 21, 2020
Furthermore, Twitter users pointed out that the all-inclusive pass debacle represents the larger problem of companies undervaluing Black talent ― a dynamic that Black women are all too familiar with.
we are constantly being given signals about how much we are valued by those around us.
that a high ranking network exec pushed back on a $154 pass signaled that the exec did not value @shondarhimes nearly enough.
she was absolutely right to take that as her cue to go. https://t.co/Uhwwz3K5rV
— EricaJoy (@EricaJoy) October 21, 2020
That woman built their entire Thursday night multimillion dollar enterprise for close to TWO DECADES. Never would they have done that to a white man.
— Karla Monterroso (@karlitaliliana) October 21, 2020
You know why Shonda Rhimes had to bounce? B/c the energy that made that person suggest she already had enough Disney tickets is the same energy that would also suggest that she was already making enough money or getting enough [fill in the blank] whenever she asked for more.
— Eunique’s Playing #CultureTags (@eunique) October 22, 2020
Shonda Rhimes’ shows generated $2 BILLION in revenue for Disney and they told her she couldn’t have an extra pass to Disneyland.
That’s being a Black woman at work. https://t.co/7FwAn9yMWY
— Empress Boyega (@Tia_Oso) October 22, 2020
Rhimes is often celebrated for her contribution to Black women’s visibility on TV. Speaking to Business Insider in 2017, she said, “I don’t think I ever sought out the idea, ‘We’re going to show a diverse group of people!’ I wanted to see people on television who look like me, and I wanted to see people on television who look like my friends.”
Read Rhimes’ entire Hollywood Reporter profile here.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.