Special to AMFM Magazine by Michele Williams
Michele Williams conducted this interview at the ATX Television Festival after the iconic “Silent All These Years” episode of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, directed by Debbie Allen, screened to an audience at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz in downtown Austin, Texas July 8th. The episode, which will go down as one of the most emotional moments in recent television history, moved the mostly female audience in the theater to cheer, clap and gather in groups to talk after the question and answer session. Writer Elizabeth Finch (“Finchie”) and cast members Camilla Luddington and Kim Raver discussed how they approached the episode’s tough topics. Kim Raver, who plays Anesthesiologist Theodora “Teddy” Altman on the show, was pleasantly surprised but confused to find Michele at our interview, as Michele, a long time colleague of AMFM Magazine, actually works for Shondaland as post production coordinator at Grey’s Anatomy, and is in the iconic scene where women line the hallway to support a rape survivor named Abby. The following conversation was about the different forms of consent and recent progress that women are making at the higher levels of the television industry.
— Shondaland Digital (@byshondaland) March 29, 2019
Michele Williams: We’re here with Kim Raver [Director of Lifetime’s “Tempting Fate”, Actress on “Grey’s Anatomy] at the ATX Television Festival
Kim Raver: It’s so great to be here amongst so many creative people. Austin is just such a great, literally great, great town? City? Yes. Both of them. It has the feeling of a city, but it’s warm and kind of inviting and fun like a town.
Michele: Yes, I love it here! Kim, one of the things that’s really interesting is you are a multi-panelist this year. Is there a common theme through the panels that you have been a part of?
Kim: Women, women, women, women, women, women, women, which is so exciting. And again, not to discount the men in my life or in the entertainment world. But I do feel like we are hitting a stride where, one of the most important things from the Grey’s Anatomy Episode 19 “Silent All These Years” is that “we see you, we hear you, we believe you.” And so I feel like that it’s a bigger theme outside of the entertainment world. But I think if there’s a kind of through line throughout all of the panels, is that women do have a voice and we want to hear the stories about women. We want to see the women’s perspective in writing, producing and directing.
So it’s interesting, because I feel like, “wow, we’re making so much progress as women and it’s so incredibly exciting. And then I went to the Gina Davis Institute (She’s such a smart woman) and she ends up getting data to actually show the statistics of women.
Part of me is “Yay, they were doing so well in the entertainment world.” And then I see that we’ve actually gone down in the number of female directors from last year where it was only 17% and this year it’s like 16%, whereas at Lifetime female directors are at 78%. I feel incredibly proud actually to be a part of that statistic at Lifetime, and I just hope that we’re moving in the direction where that number goes up in the overall world of entertainment.
Michele: But you also have had a lot of years of experience in that dynamic where there’s a majority of women with Shondaland. It’s interesting, I feel like there’s kind of a bubble for people that work like at Lifetime or work with Shonda [Rimes] because of the fact that there ARE so many women and it’s such a women forward business that when you get out of that, if you look around and you’re like…
Kim: …where am I?! Am I back in the 1950’s? No, I definitely feel like being in the world of Shondaland has changed has changed me. In Grey’s Anatomy from the medical world, when they’re teaching interns, they say “see one, Do one.” I’ve been using that motto for me as an actor going into directing and producing. Because I’m in Shondaland, I see so many female directors and ADs and there is inclusivity of women of color. It’s where we need to be in the world of entertainment. Because I’ve seen it, I feel like I can be it. You know what I mean?
Years ago, I had found a book and I thought,”Man, this would be a great series.” I remember I brought it to a bunch of men – and I won’t say what part of the business that they’re in. They were like, “Yeah, no, that’s not the way it works.” Well cut to a year later, that book was actually made into a series and I was so upset. I was just so angry. And I realized, you know what? The only person I can be angry with is myself. Because, and from that point on, I realized, oh no, women really can do that. You CAN do it. But it really helps when you have other women around you doing it. And again, not to discredit all of the incredible men. I co-directed with my husband on our first film Tempting Fate, and that was an incredible experience. I think men have so much to offer but it’s just been for so long about the male perspective and, and men directing. Again, I love the men in my life and I love their perspective, but I want to tell more stories and hear more stories about women.
Michele: Back to [the Grey’s Anatomy episode]”Silent All these Years,” One of the reasons why it was so groundbreaking was because of not only the amount of crew that were women, but the subject matter. It was about consent, and that isn’t talked about [in this way]normally on television. So tell us how you felt about being a part of that episode.
Kim: It’s like you say – groundbreaking. I feel like I’m a little bit part of history because you see the reaction from people and you know, even today in another interview (at the ATX Television Festival) a woman was really emotional in sharing her story with me. Getting a dialogue is really half the problem sometimes. Right? That’s so important. It’s about consent, but I also think it’s about being heard. Women so often, even in my experience, hear “You don’t have anything to say” or others are poo-pooing your story, whether it’s a really, traumatic story or, whatever your story is. That episode is also saying, “We hear you, we see you and, and we believe you.” What I love about it also is that at that, Finchie [Co-Executive Producer/Writer for Grey’s Anatomy, Elisabeth R. Finch], the writer wove in how we also need to educate our men and our boys. You know, I have two boys and it’s so important, that dialogue needs to be there so we know how to change things.
To be a part of that movement is incredible. But then also the physical experience of the day to day was just unbelievable for me To walk onto a set where I felt like it was inclusive of women of color, and women in positions that you don’t unfortunately see on other sets. You see it in Shondaland – but to have a female Director of Photography and a woman of color as First AD, it was the way it should be. I knew that I was participating in something that was unique and hopeful that that is also where we’re going. It’s interesting.
Sometimes in the political climate that we’re in, I just feel so discouraged and my hope it feels burned out. You know what I mean? As an artist, actually we do have a voice in change. From the reaction of people to that episode, that’s really moved me and changed me. Also, Finchie is such an extraordinary writer. I was like, “Oh yay! I’m in this episode, I’m so happy because the story is so important.” To be a part of that is really exciting.
Michele: Where do you see the future of your directing going?
Kim: I just want to do so much more of it. It’s interesting, after I finished directing, I was like, “Oh my God, when do I go back to the hair and makeup chair? That would be so much easier. I’m exhausted but I love it. I’m such a multitasker as it is. I mean I think most women are. You’re juggling motherhood or kids or friends and your work – and just so much of it. I love being able to take my experience as an actor and to be able to translate that in a different format. So my next thing is, I’ve raised my hand to direct at Grey’s Anatomy. It’s really funny, I was so nervous to ask. I think it’s also encouraging other people who have maybe not done something like that to raise their hand. So I hope to keep directing and hope to keep producing. But I also love my day job. It’s so great being back at Grey’s, It’s a really unique and fun family.
Christine Thompson (AMFM Magazine): I have to say that one of the reasons that I really enjoyed that episode is about consent. It’s not just the consent a woman gives to a man. It’s also the consent that was given to the woman to speak out. It’s okay to talk about it, you must talk about it, because the shame of covering something up like that that festers inside and creates PTSD. So there are many steps to consent, and Grey’s Anatomy handled it commendably. That’s why it’s so iconic.
Kim: Such a great, great point. And it’s really true. I love that Finchie wrote about Teddy. Teddy was saying it’s your choice when you want or if you don’t want to. I love that Camilla’s character was also not pushing her [Khalilah Joi’s character, “Abby”] but encouraging her to to consent each step of the way, that if she would do what she needs to do now so that if later she wants (to file charges) she could. You’re absolutely right, there’s so many different layers of consent .