For nearly a decade, Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers have created a smallscreen landscape that deftly reflects the vast and varied socio-economic and multicultural vibrancy of the world in which we live, a world in which doctors are black, white and Asian, Jewish and Christian, male and female (“Grey’s Anatomy”). In “Private Practice,” a single, high-powered woman runs her own ob-gyn practice and “Scandal” comes in the form of a sexy, smart, self-assured African-American woman (with Kerry Washington in the starring role) in the nation’s capital.
So it’s a befitting and well-deserved coup that Rhimes and Beers, creators and exec producers of said ABC juggernauts and partners in Shondaland, are being feted by the Directors Guild of America with its 2014 Diversity Award, which celebrates their commitment to diversity hiring, their track record of providing jobs and opportunities to women and minorities in DGA-covered categories, and for the example they set for the rest of the industry.
The duo will receive the award at the 66th annual DGA Awards on Jan. 25 at the Century Plaza in Los Angeles.
“When (DGA prexy) Paris Barclay called to tell me the news it was just really lovely and really moving,” says Rhimes, who’s nabbed several industry kudos over the course of her career, including the 2007 Producers Guild of America Award for producer of the year and the 2013 NAACP Image Award for drama series (“Scandal”). In 2013, Rhimes was also appointed by President Obama to serve as trustee for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
“We believe a soundstage should look like the world outside,” Rhimes declares. “It’s very shortsighted to believe that people in front of or behind the camera are only one race or one gender, and I’m especially proud of the fact that people feel like our shows represent more of society than is normally represented on TV.”
“We’re incredibly honored,” adds Beers, who makes clear that when casting for their shows she and Rhimes don’t make any pointed “effort” to look for diversity, but simply aim for the best and brightest in the biz; the diversity reveals itself on its own.
“It’s the way we have always operated,” she explains of their process. “It’s the way we see the world. It’s instinctive and it’s natural. The world isn’t made up of just one sexual orientation or one ethnicity — we see what we do as an opportunity to accurately reflect the world in which we live.”
This year marks only the fifth time that the Diversity Award has been given. Prior recipients were Bruce Paltrow, John Wells and Christopher Chulack (1997); Steven Bochco (1999); HBO (2000); and Stephen McPherson (2005).
“The award is only given when people really make a difference,” Barclay says.
And just maybe, hopes Rhimes, the award will encourage others.