Shonda Rhimes made a bold announcement while accepting the Luminary Award at Elle’s Women in Hollywood event on Monday: “I am the highest-paid showrunner in television.” While Rhimes did not specify a dollar amount, she did say in her speech that her recent nine-figure deal with Netflix comes with a much higher salary than previously reported. “The other day I came to this conclusion that men brag and women hide,” she told the audience. “And on behalf of women everywhere, in the name of not leaving my sister hanging, I will brag.”
Rhimes cited Grey’s Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo, who presented her with the award, as one inspiration for making the disclosure. Earlier this year, Pompeo explained how she negotiated her own $20 million–per–year deal to become TV’s highest-paid dramatic actress. “She said she was powerful and she said she deserved it,” Rhimes said. “And there was some blowback. And there should not have been. I have seen a thousand articles like that from men, but she’s a woman and she shouldn’t say things like that. She should hide.”
One of the “articles like that” was a Hollywood Reporter cover story about Ryan Murphy’s $300 million deal at Netflix. “He deserved every minute of it, and I applauded him,” said Rhimes, but she also noted that she had a different reaction to her own Netflix deal. “I let them report my salary wrong in the press and I did as few interviews as possible. Then I put my head down and worked. In other words, I hid.” Other high-profile producers have also closed nine-figure deals recently: Greg Berlanti nabbed a $400 million contract extension to stay on at Warner Bros. TV for another four years, while others told the Hollywood Reporter that Two and a Half Men and Big Bang Theory creator Chuck Lorre has an even more lucrative contract.
The New York Times reported in July that Rhimes’ deal at Netflix includes “a base salary of around $150 million, with incentives that could kick the producer’s earnings much higher.” It’s unclear if Rhimes was challenging that report or others. But Netflix clearly wanted to woo Rhimes away from ABC, where she built a TV empire that has delivered hits like Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder. Rhimes currently has eight shows in the works for Netflix, including adaptations of Ellen Pao’s Reset, Julia Quinn’s Bridgertons romance series, and the blockbuster New York magazine article about grifter Anna Delvey.