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Shonda Rhimes Says Sexual Harassment is Not ‘Tricky Territory’

Shonda Rhimes isn’t concerned about the characters on the shows under her Shondaland banner embarking on personal relationships in the workplace, despite such topics being hot-button issues in the news of late.

“I don’t find sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace to be tricky territory,” Rhimes said at ABC’s Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena, Calif. on Monday. “I think it’s very clear what’s appropriate and what’s not.”

Many of the dramas Rhimes executive producers — from “Grey’s Anatomy” to its new, still untitled spinoff, to “Scandal” which is ending this season and “For The People,” which is just about to premiere — explore stories of colleagues dating each other, sleeping with each other, and in some cases marrying each other.

Rhimes deferred to her writers and other producers on the shows to answer whether or not they felt it warranted tackling the topic of sexual harassment on-screen. She noted they deserved the credit for creating the shows, but she acknowledged that at times the shows do live in slightly heightened worlds and therefore exhibit such behavior.

“Work isn’t a place to shoot people in the face, either. Seriously. There’s a lot of stuff that goes on on these shows that’s not appropriate for the real world,” Rhimes continued.

Turning specifically to “For The People,” which launches after the “Me too” and “Time’s Up” movements, executive producer Paul William Davies said there would not be as many characters exploring workplace romances on his legal drama as some past Shondaland series, but it is not a “conscious storytelling choice” because of the real life sexual harassment and abuse stories dominating the current cultural conversation.

“This show has its own energy, and that wasn’t a priority for me in terms of setting up the show. There is certainly romance, and even sex, but it doesn’t come out of the gate in the same way. It’s a little bit of a slower burn,” Davies said.

“For The People” series star Rege-Jean Page reiterated Rhimes’ feelings, though, saying that “if there is confusion about the difference between romance and abuse, then we need to show romance more. There should be no confusion there.”

“For The People” premieres Mar. 13 at 10pm on ABC.

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