Shonda Rhimes on Casting Childhood Idol Diahann Carroll in 'Grey's Anatomy'

  |   Hollywood / Hollywoodlive

I first saw her in movies, because I watched a lot of old movies growing up. But she was the first African American woman with a show on network television, and she did it in a beautiful, dignified, elegant way. She didn't play anybody's maid. I remember she had this quote - I liked it so much, I wrote it down - "If you're not invited to the party, throw your own" - and that's what she did. She threw her own party.

I remember at one point in Grey's Anatomy, I had to figure out who to cast as Preston's mother and I thought, well, "Let's ask Diahann Carroll, but it will never happen in a million years." And when she said yes, I freaked out. How do you cope with the concept of Diahann Carroll actually coming to the set, saying lines that you've written? It was a really big deal for me. And when we first met, the first thing she said to me was, "Do you want me to be me or do you want me to be Diahann Carroll?" I'm not even sure what she meant by that - maybe that she could play a little old grandmother or her usual fabulous self - and I said, "Well, I want Diahann Carroll." And she said, "Fine, that's good."

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