'Grey's Anatomy' showrunner Krista Vernoff and writer Elisabeth Finch

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Grey's Anatomy writer Elisabeth Finch and showrunner Krista Vernoff, on the set of 'Silent All These Years.' Credit: ABC

‘Grey’s Anatomy’ recently wrapped it’s 15th--yes, 15th!--season on ABC. The medical drama, created by Shonda Rhimes in 2005, is still the number one drama on the network. And no surprise, it’s just been renewed for two more seasons.

Even after more than 300 episodes, some hours of ‘Grey’s’ still have a way of breaking through--which was what happened earlier this year with an episode called ‘Silent All These Years.’ It featured an unflinching portrayal of a patient undergoing a rape kit examination.

Later, as that same patient is transferred to surgery, Dr. Jo Karev, played by Camilla Luddington, asks a favor of the women of Grey Sloan Memorial--can they come and stand in the hallway?

The idea of women lining a hallway in support of a rape survivor is one that came to ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ writer Elisabeth Finch several years ago, after she’d been on a Writers Guild-sponsored trip to the UCLA Rape Treatment Center.

She’d been trying, with no avail, to work that idea into an episode for years, but it wasn’t until this season that showrunner Krista Vernoff saw an opportunity. Vernoff had been watching Christine Blasey Ford’s powerful testimony and discussing it with other women on the show. Collectively, they felt like they needed to say something about sexual consent.

“It’s the only time that I can think of, that I’ve been involved at ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ where an episode was born from an issue that was presently pressing,” Vernoff told Lesley Goldberg. “I know historically we start with character conversations and sometimes issues come into the show from those conversations. But this time it started with a desire to say something.”

That drive, plus Finch’s script, turned into ‘Silent All These Years.’ In addition to the hallway scene, there was the rape kit exam. Initially ABC Broadcast Standards and Practices wanted the scene toned down--no sexual fluids visible on swabs or under a blacklight, for example. Vernoff and Finch felt strongly about keeping the scene as they had written it, and Shonda Rhimes wrote a polite, but firm, letter to the network.

Vernoff described it: “Shonda wrote a really persuasive note to ABC saying, listen, you air actual rape. You air the actual violence. This is the medicine. And we need to be able to show it in full, so respectfully, we decline this note.”

Incredibly, the network agreed, which almost never happens in these kinds of negotiations.

Vernoff and Finch recently sat down with The Hollywood Reporter’s Lesley Goldberg to talk about ‘Silent All These Years,’ and reflect on their time with ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ which recently overtook ‘ER’ as the longest running medical drama in prime time.


Clip from Grey's Anatomy episode 'Silent All These Years'
Credits

Guests:
Lesley Goldberg - Hollywood Reporter - @Snoodit, Krista Vernoff - Emmy-nominated TV writer and showrunner - @KristaVernoff, Elisabeth Finch - TV writer-producer - @erfinchie

Host:
Matt Holzman

Producer:
Kaitlin Parker