Shonda Rhimes Reveals She Left ABC for Netflix After Being Refused a Free Disneyland Pass

Shonda Rhimes' final straw in her years at ABC was a fuss over a Disneyland pass, she told The Hollywood Reporter in a new profile. The network's most valuable creator was making more than $2 billion for Disney but was constantly doing battle with ABC over budget and content when, in 2017, her reps were trying to negotiate a new multiyear deal with the company, which kept trying to drive her asking price down. Meanwhile, the Grey's Anatomy and How to Get Away With Murder creator was tiring of the pace and constraints of network TV.

"I felt like I was dying," Rhimes told THR. "Like I'd been pushing the same ball up the same hill in the exact same way for a really long time." As part of her deal with ABC, Rhimes had been given an all-inclusive pass to Disneyland for herself and another for her nanny, as she doesn't have a partner. One day, she needed one for her sister, as she would be accompanying her older daughter to the park, but got a level of pushback she never expected. When her company eventually agreed, when her daughters got to Disney, only one pass worked. When Rhimes made a call to an executive at the company to try and sort out their deal, he allegedly replied, "Don't you have enough?"

Rhimes said she was shocked, thanking the exec before hanging up and calling her lawyer, instructing them to get her a deal with Netflix. In August of that year, it was officially announced that Rhimes would be leaving her TV home of 15 years for a nine-figure deal with the streaming service. More than three years later, Rhimes is preparing to release her first two projects for the streamer — a documentary about director, choreographer and philanthropist Debbie Allen dropping Nov. 27 and the period drama Bridgerton being released on Dec. 25.

"I spend a lot of time going, like, 'We should have made 50 shows by now'" she told THR. "And not for the audience so much as, like, 'What do the bosses think?' And I know they don't think I should have made 50 shows by now, but it's very hard for me to not be the perfect storytelling machine."

When Rhimes first agreed to meet with Netflix's co-CEO Ted Sarandos in 2016, she made it clear she wouldn't be willing to recreate the earlier days of her career for the company. "The first thing I said was, 'You're not going to get another Grey's Anatomy — not Grey's Anatomy in a cornfield, Grey's Anatomy on a baseball field or Grey's Anatomy at an airport, that's just not happening,' and he said, 'I'd never expect it to,'" Rhimes recalled. "And then I said, 'I just want to be in a place where I can make stuff and no one's going to bother me or make me feel like I'm beholden,' and he was like, 'That sounds great to me.'"