Grey's Anatomy All Started From A Shonda Rhimes Obsession

"Grey's Anatomy," the brainchild of writer and producer Shonda Rhimes, has been going strong for 20 seasons and more than 400 episodes, chronicling the work of the staff at Seattle's Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. In her youth, the Chicago native volunteered as a candy striper – an experience that provided her with many of the background details which eventually found their way into the scripts of the show.

In a 2006 interview with Oprah Winfrey for O Magazine, Rhimes discussed a pilot she had written for ABC about journalists covering a war. That series had been scrapped when the U.S. began a real war in Iraq. She then explained how another small seed in her head blossomed into "Grey's Anatomy." "I was obsessed with the surgery channels," Rhimes said. "My sisters and I would call each other up and talk about operations we'd seen on the Discovery Channel. There's something fascinating about the medical world — you see things you'd never imagine, like the fact that doctors talk about their boyfriends or their day while they're cutting somebody open. So when ABC asked me to write another pilot, the OR seemed like the natural setting." 

Out of that obsession, "Grey's Anatomy" was born, and the rest is television history. 

Rhimes was fascinated by the personal side of medical work

In the same interview, Oprah asked Rhimes how she managed to separate "Grey's Anatomy from "ER," another popular medical drama. "'ER' is high-speed medicine," Rhimes said. "The camera flies around, adrenaline is rushing. My show is more personal." 

Rhimes explained that the series took root in her head when a doctor told her how difficult it was to shave her legs in the shower at her hospital. "At first that seemed like a silly detail," Rhimes told Winfrey. "But then I thought about the fact that it was the only time and place this woman might have to shave her legs. That's how hard the work is." 

She further explained that another goal in writing "Grey's Anatomy" was to give a more honest representation of women as complete human beings, instead of "ideas of what women are." She expressed a particular fondness for the character of Dr. Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh), saying, "She's the kind of woman I know really well, and I like her. There's something interesting about a person who is that driven."