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7 things we hope to learn from Shonda Rhimes master class

If you’ve ever dreamed of one day writing for TV and creating all the life and death twists that make you a TV super fan, Shonda Rhimes wants to help you out.

For $90, you can watch a a five-hour masterclass with Rhimes, where she’ll teach you how to write a TV script, pitch it, and run your own show. Much like Aaron Sorkin’s master class, she’ll use the basis of her own shows — “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal,” and “How to Get Away with Murder” — to give lectures on how to make a great TV show.

While we’re endlessly excited to see what a Class from the Master of ABC looks like — we’re also holding out hope that we learn some behind the scenes secrets about the #TGIT lineup.

RELATED: ‘How to Get Away With Murder’ reveals who’s under the sheet — but who killed him?

Major character death

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We all know why Shonda Rhimes decided to kill off Derek (Patrick Dempsey) on “Grey’s Anatomy,” but we’re curious about how that decision was made a reality. Killing off a main character seems to be the thing to do on TV these days, but how does that discussion go in a writers room? And how do you break it to your cast that one of their lifelong friends is leaving?


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Any TV critic will tell you that honoring TV fans and fanservice is a thin line to walk. You want to run with what works and drop what doesn’t, while also telling an organic story that meets your creative vision. We’d love to hear how Rhimes deals with the rabid fanbases surrounding her shows and how (if at all) their wishes are worked into the writing process.

Writing without a net

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Peter Nowalk, the showrunner of “How to Get Away with Murder” is very open about the fact that he usually creates the show’s mysteries not knowing how they’ll work out by the end of the year. That may seem daunting, kind of like driving without a seatbelt, but it does leave you a lot more options as far as who murdered whom and why. Still, we’d like to hear Rhimes explain how they keep all the various timelines and suspects straight when they’re writing without a net.

Medical jargon

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Chances are, if you’re a professional showrunner, you don’t have time to also go to medical school, meaning that you’ve got to bring in experts to help you get the lingo right. Hopefully Rhimes will tell us how that process works on “Grey’s Anatomy” when you’ve got to combine scientific knowledge with fast-paced plot lines and crucial character beats.


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Human error is inevitable in any job, and plans don’t always work out how you intend them to. Sometimes an actress gets pregnant (Ellen Pompeo) or an actor goes to jail (Columbus Short), meaning you have to think on your feet and work with what you’ve got. We’d pay good money ($90 worth, to be exact!) to hear what went on in her writers rooms during last minute scrambles like that.

Equal opportunity casting

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Shonda Rhimes is well known for casting her shows with actors of various ethnicities and orientations, but there’s another side of the process we’re more interested in. Rhimes first creates rich characters — whether they’re gay/straight, black/white etc. — and then casts them accordingly. How much research does she do into other cultures, generations and ethnicities to create these diverse characters before casting even begins?


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“Grey’s Anatomy” and “Private Practice” crossed over practically every year, which was made possible by both shows large ensemble casts. Crossovers seem like a logistical nightmare, especially when you consider you’ve got to pull a character out of their own story and pop them into another for only a short amount of time. How to do two writers’ rooms work together to borrow characters and then return them — and how does a showrunner mediate that process?

We’re big Shondaland fans here at Screener — if you haven’t noticed — but even more, we’re huge fans of TV. The best way to engage with television is to think like a creator. How better than to get it straight from the mouths of the creators themselves?

Category: TelevisionTV Shows: Grey’s Anatomy How to Get Away With Murder ScandalCelebrities: Columbus Short Ellen Pompeo Kerry Washington Shonda Rhimes Viola DavisTV Network: ABC

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