Krista Vernoff is getting candid about her journey to becoming the powerhouse Grey's Anatomy chief with The Hollywood Reporter. Between talking about her childhood and working up the ranks to being showrunner on the long-running hospital drama, Vernoff also chose to speak on her relationship with her former boss Shonda Rhimes, comparing their relationship to two characters on the show: Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl) and Christina Yang (Sandra Oh). "Shonda was scary, but she wasn't as scary as my mother, and I'd say that to her," Vernoff says of their initial relationship in a profile published on Thursday, April 1. "If I'd allowed myself to see and feel and know what was happening around me [growing up], I don't know that I could have survived."
"It's funny because Shonda and I had a relationship not dissimilar to Izzie and Cristina, where my feelings were always hurt by her and she was always irritated with me," she added. "But anytime anyone came at us, or when I went through my divorce or had my baby, Shonda always, always had my back." Over time though, she says she developed a need for more, and she hungered for a new experience. After seven seasons, Vernoff decided to exit the show. "There was this feeling of, 'I need my own. I need credit,'" she explained.
"I don't know Krista's frustration because I literally stepped in lightning the first pilot I wrote, so I had a hard time understanding why you'd leave — but I also understood the desire to want something that was yours," Rhimes said of Vernoff's decision. The Shondaland creator eventually brought Vernoff back to lead the series in 2014, which was before she left her ABC deal in favor of Netflix. "Grey's was a show I was personally rewriting forever — I'd sit at every table read and look at every edit, and it was killing me," Rhimes said, per THR. "And not because I didn't love the show, but because I had so much other work and I knew the only person I could hand it over to and trust to write it was Krista. So every year I'd check in with her, like, 'Is your deal up?' And finally, one year it was."
Before she could take the leap and join the show again, Vernoff claims she had a few needs of autonomy that needed to be met first. Once those were established, Rhimes left her in charge to bring the happiness back to the show whose story had become intermingled with major character deaths. The showrunner once spoke about her choice to take death off of the writer's table with Us Weekly. "There had been so many tragic deaths for so many years on Grey's Anatomy that I felt like the most surprising thing I could do, repeatedly, was to not kill someone," she said at the time. "On [Grey's Anatomy] everyone was so used to the shock death that they were always looking for shock death! So I felt like the more surprising thing was to bring the joy and turn up the humor and the playfulness that had, a little bit, fallen out of the show in the wake of Derek's death. That is how I feel like Grey's has changed a little since I came back — a lot of characters who might have been dead by now are still alive!" Fans can catch up on the latest season of Grey's Anatomy with a Hulu subscription.