Emmy-nominated Tony Phelan Takes Listeners Behind the Scenes of “Grey’s Anatomy” on This Week’s Hollywood at Home Podcast
Los Angeles, CA (October 26, 2023): Emmy-nominated television screenwriter, producer, and director Tony Phelan is this week’s featured guest on Hollywood at Home with The Creative Coalition. In this episode, Phelan talks about the impact and legacy of “Grey’s Anatomy,” (and his big fight with Shonda Rhimes), the timeliness and importance of his new miniseries “A Small Light,” and getting back to the writers’ room on new hit show “Fire Country.”
Hollywood at Home is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, and more.
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Highlights from Hollywood at Home featuring Tony Phelan:
On the freedom to take risks on “Grey’s Anatomy”: “I remember [Shonda Rhimes and I] had a huge argument – the two of us – in the [writers’] room, about Meredith sleeping with George. And I was like, ‘If she sleeps with George, we just hate her.’ And Shonda said, ‘No, I can imagine myself at that age doing that.’ And then you get to deal with, have they ruined their relationship? We have to do it. Having that kind of freedom and courage to make those choices, that’s what people will relate it to. That’s why they wanted to watch it, because no character was safe. Especially once we started killing people.”
On the famous musical episode in season 7 of “Grey’s Anatomy”: “[Shonda Rhimes and I] had always talked about the possibility of doing a musical episode. But it was a question of, ‘Can we bend the show without breaking it? And how do we come up with a concept that’s not going to feel like a betrayal, but that is also going to take advantage of all these amazing performers that we have?’ many of whom were on Broadway as singers. And so we took a long time to finally come up with the idea, but doing something like that was great because, essentially, you’re doing a 43-minute long music video. And all of that entailed: ‘How do you put something like that together? And how do you make it feel ‘Grey’s Anatomy?’”
On “Grey’s Anatomy’s” ability to introduce new ideas to viewers: “I’m very proud of that show’s depiction of LGBTQ characters, and you’re in people’s living rooms. You can introduce the audience to characters that they might not know in their real life, and increase the level of comfort with those people.”
On medical consultants ensuring “Grey’s Anatomy’s” accuracy: “When you write something like ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ you’ll get into a scene that takes place in the OR, and what’s on the page is ‘medical.’ “Oh my god, her ‘medical’ is ‘medicaling.’ We have to “medical”. Hand me the “medical!” And then we have a whole staff of medical consultants who fill that in, as well as Linda Klein, who’s an amazing consultant who is on set for every episode. [And she] shows the actors what they’re actually doing.”
On why Ellen Pompeo was perfect to lead the show: “Ellen gave the audience – both with her voiceover, which kind of sets the plate of each episode, and then ties it up at the end. But also Ellen as a performer is so open, that she serves as this great avatar for the audience, who is this person who walks into these situations and as she struggles with all of this backstory that she has. Is she going to fulfill the destiny that her mother has placed on her, or is she going to strike out on her own? I think that’s a story that a lot of people can relate to. And so I think her relatability and her ability to get into these horrible, morally ambiguous situations and find her way through them is what kind of drew the audience to her?”
On “Council of Dads” making important history: “We had a very diverse cast. I think we were the first network show that had two African American men in a same-sex marriage with kids. That kind of representation is always very important to us. Plus, on the show, they have a trans kid who is eight-years-old, and they’re going through all of those challenges. And so that kind of representation was important to us as well.”
On getting back into the writers’ room on season 2 of “Fire Country”: “Yeah, we’re waiting for the actors and we’re all still marching in the hope that they get the deal that they deserve. But it’s nice after a five-month strike to be back in the writers’ room and to be back with exciting creative people and to be telling more of the stories. We ended season one on a cliffhanger that Bodie, our hero, is denied parole and actually put back into the prison system. So we have to get ourselves out of that. But season two is going to be very exciting”
On the timeliness and importance of “A Small Light”: “We have an obligation I grew up with, surrounded by a lot of survivors, they were just a part of my life. Hearing those stories was a part of my growing up. And we’re losing that generation. And so how do we keep that tradition and that important story alive for the next generation? Well, we need to find new ways of reaching them. And we need to find new storytelling techniques that make the story something they can relate to, that does not feel old or covered in cobwebs or stiff or form.”
More about Hollywood at Home:
Hosted by The Creative Coalition CEO Robin Bronk, “Hollywood at Home” brings listeners intimate portraits, key moments of discovery, and “art and soul” conversations with iconic entertainment industry personalities from the big screen to the boardroom, from L.A. to D.C. Listen now at http://thecreativecoalition.org/podcast.
Previous guests include Sheryl Lee Ralph (“Abbott Elementary”), Marlee Matlin (“CODA”), Jason Alexander (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”), Alan Cumming (“Schmigadoon!, “The Good Wife”), Patricia Heaton (“Everybody Loves Raymond,” “The Middle”), Eric McCormack (“Will and Grace”), Willie Garson (“And Just Like That…”), Colman Domingo (“Euphoria”), Kerry Ehrin (“The Morning Show”), Wendi McLendon-Covey (“The Goldbergs”), Ken Olin (“This is Us,” “Thirtysomething”), Anthony Rapp (“Star Trek: Discovery”), Grace Caroline Currey (Shazam!), and Alfre Woodard (Clemency, “Luke Cage”), among others.
More about The Creative Coalition:
Founded in 1989 by prominent members of the creative community, The Creative Coalition is the premier nonprofit, nonpartisan 501(c)(3) social and public advocacy organization of the arts and entertainment community. The Creative Coalition is dedicated to educating its members on issues of public importance. The Creative Coalition also creates award-winning public service campaigns, including #RightToBearArts, to promote the efficacy of the arts. Actor Tim Daly serves as the organization’s President. For more information, visit https://thecreativecoalition.org.