Kerry Washington Opens Up On How Shonda Rhimes Views Diversity And It's Shocking

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Kerry Washington shares how Shonda Rhimes feels about calling her shows "diverse"!

Shonda Rhimes' TGIT lineup, featuring Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder, has been praised for its diversity, but you won't want to get caught calling them that. According to Kerry Washington, who plays the brilliant Olivia Pope on Scandal, Rhimes doesn't like calling her shows "diverse". While this might shock you, considering Rhimes' varying characters on every single one of her shows, the word she prefers to use is a million times better. In fact, we're thinking of using it our everyday vocabulary. It's that good.

"Shonda really does not love the word 'diversity,'” Washington revealed at the Venture Festival LA. "“She talks about abandoning the word 'diversity' and replacing it with 'normalizing.'”

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Wondering why Rhimes chooses to use "normalizing" in place of "diversity"? Well, according to Washington, Rhimes views "normalizing" as a way to tell a character's story without tokenizing them, thus giving characters from all different backgrounds to tell their story without making it the story. Here's how Washington views it:

"When you’re the only woman in the room, or the only person over 40, or the only LGBTQ person, you don’t get to enter into conversations about what that looks like. But when we 'normalize' that combination, then we get to explore what difference means and how it feels and how it lives in the world," Washington said. "You look up at this stage, and what [the *Scandal] cast is made up of is a ton of people who society would say belong to minority or disenfranchised group, whether it’s because of their age, or sexual orientation, or race, or gender, or all of the above. There’s two straight white guys on this stage — and that community feels disenfranchised right now."

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So, basically, Rhimes and Washington are trying to explain that their cast is not "diverse", but rather "normal" because they are portraying normal people. Although what makes a person different is special, such as their race, gender, sexual orientation, or age, it's not the only thing about them that matters, especially when it comes to a character's storyline. There are so many more layers to explore.

"When you have a lot of people who identify as ‘other’ put together in situations, you’re avoiding the idea of being ‘the only one in the room,;" Washington explains. "When you’re the only ‘other’ in the room — you don’t get to enter conversations on how that looks like because your job as the only ‘other’ in the room is to conform. But when you normalize the population you get to explore what difference means and how it feels in the world because ‘other’ becomes normal.”

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Rhimes has also spoken out on the importance of representation of minority characters on television.

"We all exist in the world," Rhimes said at the Los Angeles LGBT Center 48th Gala Vanguard Awards. "Everyone has the right the see themselves on the screen, and I think it's really dangerous when that doesn't happen. There is a tendency to marginalize or stereotype when these types of characters aren't seen. People deserve realistic portrayals."

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Grey's Anatomy Season 14 returns to ABC every Thursday at 8|7c!


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