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Shonda Rhimes Explains How a Disneyland Pass Caused Her to Leave ABC for Netflix

Shonda Rhimes relationship with ABC brought viewers popular shows like “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal,” “How to Get Away with Murder,” and several others. The award-winning producer was doing a successful job at raking in millions for herself and her television network. 

Yet, there was still tension between both parties. There were always disagreements about budget, content, and even an ad Rhimes and several other ABC stars created for then-presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. By early 2017, Rhimes and her team were back in the negotiating room with ABC. Rhimes’ representatives had already submitted their contract renewal figure, but one briefly tenured ABC executive was determined to hammer down that number despite Rhimes’ value to the company. 

Shonda Rhimes attends the 2019 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on Feb. 24, 2019, in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo: Mike Coppola/VF19/Getty Images for VF)

The producer said she felt like she “was dying” during the negotiation process. She added, “Like I’d been pushing the same ball up the same hill in the exact same way for a really long time.” Rhimes admitted that she knew her breaking point would come, and while creatively she already had one foot out the door, she never would’ve thought her decision to leave would be sparked by an amusement park pass. During a recent interview with Hollywood Reporter, the Emmy-nominated producer revealed what caused her to sever ties with her employer of 15 years. 

As part of her ABC relationship, Rhimes was given an all-inclusive pass to Disneyland —Disney is ABC’s corporate parent — and she’d negotiated a second pass for her nanny. However, on this particular day, she needed one for her sister as well. The passes were not interchangeable, so Rhimes giving up her pass was not an option.

Eventually, she got the additional pass, which valued at about $154. But when she got to the park entrance, with her children, nanny, and sister, the pass did not work. Rhimes called an unnamed high-ranking executive at the network to help solve the problem, but he wasn’t passionate about the task. Instead of getting Rhimes the extra pass, he allegedly said, “Don’t you have enough?”

After calming down, “The Catch” creator called her lawyer and told them she was going to Netflix and she would “find new representatives” if the ones she had could not make that happen.

That August, news came that the television trailblazer would be leaving ABC for a first-of-its-kind, nine-figure deal at Netflix. Her contract was worth $150 million, one of the most lucrative television streaming deals in history. Rhimes’ recent move has shot her net worth up to at least $135 million, according to several estimates.

The 50-year-old’s admission comes on the heels of many companies confronting racism and underrepresentation of non-white people in their workforces. Black workers and employees of color at companies like Nike, Condé Nast, and other companies have spoken out against the harassment and unfairness they face at work.

Rhimes made history after she became the first Black woman to showrun a primetime TV show on a broadcast network. Still, she told Hollywood Reporter that her role as a Black woman with “a giant platform” had become complicated with the recent demands for racial justice. “I keep trying to find things to do and I keep discovering that it doesn’t matter what you do,” she said. 


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