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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Shonda Rhimes' reason for leaving ABC for Netflix was just the right amount of petty

Shonda Rhimes
Shonda Rhimes
Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images for ELLE Magazine

Don’t get between Shonda Rhimes and her Disneyland passes.

The Grey’s Anatomy creator spent well over a decade at ABC delivering multiple hits for the Alphabet Network, keeping up a pace that was maybe only rivaled by Aaron Sorkin in the previous decade (and we assume she did that without the substances Sorkin has admitted helped him keep productivity high). “I felt like I was dying,” Rhimes tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Like I’d been pushing the same ball up the same hill in the exact same way for a really long time.” But it wasn’t the workload that motivated Rhimes to head to Netflix.


Aside from the nine-figure check the streaming service dangled in front of her, Rhimes says it came down to an issue with getting her sister a pass to Disneyland. THR reports that Rhimes had been given an all-inclusive pass to the theme park, and—in lieu of a partner—she’d been granted a second for her nanny. But in 2017, Rhimes wanted to send her sister to Disneyland to accompany Rhimes’ teenage daughter while the nanny watched the Shondaland leader’s two younger children. Rhimes says she would have been willing to sign over her pass to her sister permanently, but was told that wasn’t an option. Here’s how it played out, according to THR.

After some unwanted back-and-forth—“We never do this,” she was told more than once—Rhimes was issued an additional pass. But when her daughters arrived in Anaheim, only one of the passes worked. Rhimes lobbed a call to a high-ranking executive at the company. Surely, he would get this sorted.

Instead, the exec allegedly replied, “Don’t you have enough?”

A ticket for Disneyland isn’t cheap (a park-hopper ticket to Disneyland and California adventure currently runs up to $209), but it’s not like Rhimes couldn’t afford it. Looking at it from the other direction, it’s kind of a big middle finger to deny something so relatively cheap to someone who has generated so much money for the company.

Rhimes apparently saw things through the latter lens, with THR reporting that the creator “was beside herself. She thanked him for his time, then hung up and called her lawyer: Figure out a way to get her over to Netflix, or she’d find new representatives.”

Putting ABC behind her, Rhimes says she told Netflix’s co-CEO Ted Sarandos that “‘You’re not going to get another Grey’s Anatomy—not Grey’s Anatomy in a cornfield, Grey’s Anatomy on a baseball field or Grey’s Anatomy at an airport, that’s just not happening,’ and he said, ‘I’d never expect it to.’ And then I said, ‘I just want to be in a place where I can make stuff and no one’s going to bother me or make me feel like I’m beholden,’ and he was like, ‘That sounds great to me.’”

Sounds like Rhimes found a happier place on Earth.

A.V. Club Editor in Chief...but really just a She-Ra, Schitt’s Creek, Grey’s Anatomy, Survivor, Big Brother, Top Chef, The Good Place superfan.