‘Room full of old men’ said ‘Grey’s’ would fail over sex

Nineteen seasons in, “Grey’s Anatomy” is still one of the top medical dramas on TV.

But creator Shonda Rhimes faced a few hurdles back in the early 2000s when she was trying to get the ABC series made.

Rhimes, 52, and her producing partner Betsy Beers appeared on the “9 to 5ish with theSkimm” podcast with the CEOs of theSkimm, Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg, this week.

The Shondaland head reflected on a conversation she had with “old men” TV execs when she was pitching the series.

Rhimes explained the men were hesitant to have a show on the air where a woman so blatantly shows off her sexuality.

Ellen Pompeo — who still stars as Dr. Meredith Grey on the show — was seen in the 2005 pilot having a one-night stand with future husband Derek Shepherd (played by Patrick Dempsey).

Moments later, Meredith stumbles into the hospital for her shift and bumps into none other than Dr. Shepherd.

Ellen Pomepo has starred as the titular character in “Grey’s Anatomy” since 2005.
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“I remember getting called into a room full of old men, and they brought us in to tell me that the show was a problem because nobody was gonna watch a show about a woman who would sleep with a man the night before her first day of work,” Rhimes said on the podcast. “And they were dead serious.”

She said she understood why the men would feel this way.

She noted: “These guys don’t know anything about what’s happening in the world right now, but they’re the people making the decisions.” 

UNITED STATES - APRIL 27:  GREY'S ANATOMY - "Grey's Anatomy" concludes the season with a shocking two-hour telecast, THURSDAY, MAY 14 (9:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on the Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images Television Network. In the second part, "Now or Never" (10:00-11:00 p.m.), George delivers stunning news to Bailey, sending shockwaves throughout the hospital, and Izzie's friends anxiously await her recovery from surgery. Meanwhile Bailey is surprisingly displeased after being accepted into the pediatric fellowship program, and the victim of a near-fatal traffic accident brings the talents of Seattle Grace's doctors together.  (Photo by Scott Garfield/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)
Patrick Dempsey and Ellen Pompeo in an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.” Dempsey left the series after 10 years in 2015.
Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

“There had never been a show in which there was a lead character who owned her sexuality” on network television, she said.

The “Bridgerton” producer continued: “There had not been shows in which you saw three or four people of color in a room talking unless it was on a sitcom.”

While Rhimes doesn’t believe that female TV characters feeling sexually free was “revolutionary” at the time, she stated that she was just trying to make a series that was of interest to her and people like her.

Rhimes then explained how Beers rescued her during the tense meeting. The male execs had wondered what type of audience would watch a show featuring a lead female protagonist getting drunk and having flirtatious hookups.

UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 19:  GREY'S ANATOMY - "Staring at the Sun" - The O'Malley Family visits George at the hospital, Meredith is determined to have a more positive outlook on life, Derek and Addison strive for a civil relationship, and Richard endeavors to reunite with his wife, Adele, on "Grey's Anatomy," THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 16 (9:00-10:01 p.m., ET) on the Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images Television Network.  (Photo by Karen Neal/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)
Since its inception, the ABC medical drama has aired over 400 episodes across 19 seasons.
Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

Beers had boldly entered the room full of men and exclaimed: “That’s me, I did that!”

“They could not get out of that room fast enough,” Rhimes reflected. “And they couldn’t call me a slut to my face,” Beers joked.

The “Grey’s Anatomy” pilot was watched by more than 16 million, and 17 years later, the show still has millions of followers.

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