“We created a brand and an audience for ABC that they did not necessarily have before, which was a certain kind of woman,” Ms. Rhimes said. “I literally remember when we started, them saying that no woman is going to watch a woman who is this ‘not nice’ and this sexually active and this competitive.
“I really hate the phrase ‘smart, strong women,’ but the ‘smart, strong women’ thing really exploded with the shows we made,” she continued. “And people followed along in a way that felt really good for network television.”
In contrast with her fellow super producer Ryan Murphy, who had talks with Amazon and Fox, his studio at the time, before he decamped to Netflix, Ms. Rhimes knew exactly where she wanted to achieve her Shondaland dream: Netflix.
Mr. Sarandos was eager to sign her not only because he was a fan of her work but because of something he noticed in Netflix’s closely guarded data. “More than half” of Netflix’s 124 million paying subscribers have sampled one of the Shondaland shows available on the streaming service, he said in an interview.
As Ms. Rhimes works to develop her lineup, her production company is on its way to a new location: Raleigh Studios, in Hollywood, about a mile from the Netflix headquarters. While checking out the property, Ms. Rhimes and a group of her Shondaland colleagues spent a while staring at a framed photograph on the wall of the United Artists founders Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D. W. Griffith. Given Ms. Rhimes’s ambitions for the company, which she sees as a 21st-century incarnation of that artist-driven studio, she considered it a good portent.
“We have this whole dream,” she said. “There’s going to be a row of offices, and we’re all going to be working on our scripts at the same time. And everyone is going to come out of their offices and scream about how bad their script is: ‘Does anyone know what I’m supposed to do for Act 5?’ And everyone is going to drink Scotch and then run back to work.”
“I don’t think that’s what’s actually going to happen,” Ms. Rhimes continued. “But it does feel really good to know that it does feel like a very United Artists, creative kind of place.”