Shonda Rhimes Called This ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Character the ‘Walking Validation of My Dreams’

Producer Shonda Rhimes is hitting it big once again, this time on Netflix. With her eight-episode series Bridgerton trending at the top of the streaming service, Rhimes continues to strike gold when it comes to making top shows.

The Grey’s Anatomy creator catapulted to stardom after launching the medical drama on ABC in 2005. Bringing a memorable ensemble cast to the forefront, one character in particular was especially close to Rhimes’ heart.

Shonda Rhimes
Shonda Rhimes | Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Shonda Rhimes said this ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ character was ‘a piece of my soul’

In her 2016 book, Year of Yes, Rhimes described the creative process in bringing a character to life.

“For me, characters may begin with the words I put on paper, but they are flat,” Rhimes explained. “Like empty balloons you pour out of a bag. The actor breathes the air into the words and suddenly what was flat is now fully three-dimensional and alive.”

When Rhimes created one particular stand-out surgeon on Grey’s Anatomy, she put pieces of herself into the character’s makeup.

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“I wrote and Sandra Oh breathed and what floated up was Cristina,” Rhimes said of Oh’s role as Dr. Cristina Yang. “OUR Cristina. The one Sandra and I made together. That is who Cristina was. A piece of my soul and a piece of Sandra’s soul wound around each other and placed on television.”

Cristina Yang reflected Shonda Rhimes

The Bridgerton creator revealed that she was able to see her own goals achieved through Cristina, creating a character that was fueled by ambition.

“It’s no wonder I leaned into Cristina, wrote her more eloquently, colored her more brightly, drew outside her lines,” Rhimes explained. “Let her do and think and live in ways that voiced my dreams. She did not want to get married. She had a genius that she chased – she loved her work.”

While Rhimes is the mom of three daughters and Cristina was firm about not wanting kids, the Grey’s Anatomy producer wanted to explore a woman’s journey on a different path.

“I gave her a strident desire to not have children because while I adore children, I wanted to watch her fight that feminist battle and win,” Rhimes revealed. “I wanted us to watch and admire a woman who did not want the things we have all been told we are supposed to want – I wanted us to befriend a woman who was busy throwing out the fairy tale and writing her own story.”

‘Writing Cristina Yang fortified me’

Over the course of ten seasons, Cristina was seen in a plethora of life-changing situations. By creating the character’s resilient spirit, Rhimes was strengthened in her own life.

“Cristina survived things in ways most characters wouldn’t,” Rhimes wrote. “She performed surgery with a gun pressed to her head. And she healed by catching a giant fish and holding it in her arms. During my darkest hours, my quietest saddest moments, my loneliest times, writing Cristina Yang fortified me.”

Rhimes shared that she intentionally wrote such affecting storylines for Cristina as a way to empower herself and others.

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“Those stories were proof that I could survive anything,” Rhimes remarked. “Sandra’s playing those moments out, breathing life into those words, into Cristina . . . Sandra’s acting those words made my survival and resilience feel possible. Cristina Yang was the walking validation of my dreams.”

Rhimes added, “As a nerdy introverted writer with an eye twitch who could barely speak up for herself? Let me tell you, dear friends, that was magic. And that kind of magic is crazy special.”