In a world still adapting to the concept of gender pay parity, Shonda Rhimes has decided not to stay silent about the fruits of her roaring success. The Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, and How to Get Away with Murder showrunner broached the subject at Elle magazine’s 25th annual Women in Hollywood celebration on Monday night, and she did so with no trace of subtlety. “I am the highest-paid showrunner in television,” she told the audience. She didn’t name the exact figure that brought her to that level, Rhimes did say that the reported $100 million figure that pushed her to leap from ABC to Netflix wasn’t accurate.
Further, Rhimes explained why she made the public declaration at all. While referencing backlash to Grey‘s star Ellen Pompeo discussing her status as highest-paid primetime drama TV star, Rhimes pointed out that American Horror Story showrunner Ryan Murphy celebrated his disclosure of a reported $300 million (five-year) Netflix contract. Rhimes holds no beef with Murphy (though the “bless your heart” variant may lead some to think otherwise), but she explained that she has a responsibility to stand tall, rather than hide:
“Ryan Murphy, bless your amazingly talented heart. When Ryan made his amazing deal with Netflix, what did he do? He shouted his salary to the world and he did this gorgeous cover shoot and photo for The Hollywood Reporter and he deserved every minute of it. I applaud him.
“When I made a deal with Netflix, I let them interview my salary wrong in the press, and then I did as few interviews as possible and I put my head down and worked. In other words, I hid. I’m getting this award for inspiring other women; how can I inspire anyone if I’m hiding?”
Earlier this year, Pompeo told Entertainment Weekly that she did receive high-fives for her salary report but that many perceived her boosted salary as the sole reason for the twin departures of Sarah Drew and Jessica Capshaw from Grey’s at around the same time. At the time, Pompeo called it “challenging to get women to support you when you’re actually on top and doing fantastic,” and at Elle‘s event on Monday night, Pompeo introduced Rhimes with effusive praise while declaring how honored she feels to stand “beside her in a world called Shondaland.” And what a lucrative world that’s turning out to be.