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Betsy Beers Remembers Suzanne Patmore Gibbs: ‘We All Owe Her a Lot’

It’s 2002. I am sitting in my office and the phone rings. It’s Suzanne. After working together with Mark Gordon, she is now an executive at Touchstone Television. We happily now have our own new deal there.

“I have an idea — someone I think you should meet,” she says. She tells me about this writer who, thanks to Suzanne, has just signed a development deal at the studio. She’s a successful screenwriter, she is looking for a producer.

Some background about Suzanne Patmore Gibbs, if you never met her (which in itself, would be hard to believe, given the number of people who know Suzanne): She is smart, articulate, extremely kind, fights passionately for that which she loves, has a wry, delightful sense of humor — and, incidentally, she throws a great party.

Also, Suzanne is definitely one of the most talented executives working. Why? She is a kind of, well, a story matchmaker — she is a genius at finding talent, and once found, she can always figure out the best project or partner or voice with which (or whom) to pair them. Separately, both things are good. But together, once touched by Suzanne’s instinct for these matches, they are magic.

So, when Suzanne calls and says “I have an idea,” if you have a brain in your noggin’, you listen.

She tells me, in a slightly conspiratorial way, that while the writer is meeting with a number of producers, she thinks I will love her writing and that the two of us will hit it off.

I did. We did. And that is how I met Shonda Rhimes.

Thank you, Suzanne.

Around two years later, the three of us are hard at work on Shonda’s new medical pilot. This was the first TV show that Shonda and I had made, and at every single stage, Suzanne was there, guiding the way. She was the person who suggested we look at Ellen Pompeo for Meredith. She was the person who, when the network was leery of giving a pilot order, encouraged us to go in and pitch our vision for the show directly to network head Susan Lyne. She was the person who fought, passionately, for a series pickup, despite the fact that a large number of executives (primarily male) found the show puzzling. They picked up the show that became “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Thank you, Suzanne.

So many of us would not be where we are without her. The writers she nurtured, her colleagues who relied on her strategizing and good judgment, the viewers who benefited from the great shows she fought to get on the air. And maybe most of all, the women in the entertainment industry who Suzanne fought to make central to the story — both onscreen and off. I was one of those women.

I am having a hard time using the past tense when I speak of Suzanne, because it is absolutely unthinkable that she isn’t with us. As legions of people come out to express their love and appreciation — the myriad of talented humans who without her would never have been able to thrive and succeed, one thing is clear. We all owe her a lot. I only hope that she had some small sense of how grateful we are for what she contributed to our world.

And clearly? It is less of a world without her in it.

Thank you, Suzanne.

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