Shonda Rhimes is one of the most renowned showrunners in television history — and for good reason. Bringing a whole slew of incredibly compelling television shows to the small screen, such as Grey’s Anatomy and How To Get Away With Murder, she’s cemented herself a legacy in TV like none other.
Recently announcing a $100 million deal with Netflix, it looks like her career will simply be going from strength-to-strength in the coming years, as the now-dubbed “Shondaland” takes over the television landscape.
With all of the fantastic shows comes a whole slew of brilliant performances from some incredibly talented actors and actresses. There is of course also the duds amongst the diamonds, but on the whole, there’s a lot more greatness that sticks in the mind.
Rhimes has a brilliant knack of bringing in the perfect people for each of her roles, and she’s got a brilliant track record when it comes to launching relatively unknown talents into the spotlight.
However, some performances left a dark mark on their respective actor’s series, making it hard to forget about them.
With that in mind, we’ve decided to take a look at the 5 Shondaland Performances That Are Terrible (And 10 That Are Amazing).
15. Amazing: Chandra Wilson As Miranda Bailey (Grey’s Anatomy)
When Grey’s Anatomy first debuted, it didn’t take long for viewers to fall in love with the incredibly harsh but fair Miranda Bailey. Chandra Wilson was the woman to step into the shoes of the surgical resident, and would immediately bring a stern air of proceedings to the overly excited cast of interns.
Some of the show’s best dialogue and monologues have come from Bailey, and whilst the writers are partly responsible for that, it’s Wilson’s performance that has allowed them to be delivered so expertly.
Her presence is something that’s been celebrated ever since she started in the series, and to this day she entertains the masses.
With recent rumors that she could be exiting the show due to her character’s big health scare, we’re hoping Bailey can overcome her biggest challenge to-date and continue to entertain. The show wouldn’t be the same without her.
14. Amazing: Aja Naomi King As Michaela Pratt (How To Get Away With Murder)
When How To Get Away With Murder first premiered, the incredible roster of talents meant that audiences never really knew who to root for.
They were all relatable and people we wanted to succeed, but with the overarching narrative that saw the group responsible for a slew of murders, it left a lot of people at home feeling very odd about getting behind the team.
One person who we could never let leave our heart was Michaela Pratt, played by Aja Naomi King.
We’ve seen many different personalities come across from Michaela, and King has proven she’s able to play each of them impeccably well. If she wants to be trashy, she can be, but if she wants to serve rich girl allure, she can do that too.
13. Terrible: Jeff Perry As Cyrus Beene (Scandal)
Jeff Perry is without a doubt a talented actor, but in the role of Cyrus Beene in the soon-to-be-over-forever Scandal, he consistently falls flat on his face.
A lot of the time, the problem is to do with his inability to deliver lines coherently. Repeating lines for relevance is a time filler and nothing more, and those who watch television religiously will immediately pick up on it. It’s distracting and truly takes away from the majority of the good he does on screen.
What this suggests is that Perry is incapable of delivering a line with as much emotional impact as is necessary the first time he comes out with it. Otherwise, writers would surely allow him to say the line once and be done with it.
12. Amazing: Guillermo Díaz As Huck (Scandal)
Guillermo Díaz has been a loyal “Gladiator” to Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) ever since Scandal started, and he’s somebody who’s been allowed to deliver some exhilarating, infectious performances from the moment he made that debut.
He’s had some incredibly touching moments, and also some moments that have been hugely violent. Within each, Díaz has managed to impress and bring new layers to a character that could have been incredibly dull.
While we root for him to succeed from home, he’s not exactly someone we’d want to have in our real lives. He can at times be a dangerous liability, and if you get on the wrong side of him, you’re not long for the world. When an actor can portray somebody like this and actually have viewers be scared of them, you know they’ve done a brilliant job.
11. Amazing: Sandra Oh As Cristina Yang (Grey’s Anatomy)
When Sandra Oh left the cast of Grey’s Anatomy in the role of Cristina Yang, fans were incredibly upset to see her go. She’s someone who has led the group of surgeons through some truly touching times.
One of the biggest that stands out is when Derek’s (Patrick Dempsey) life was put in danger because of a shooter running riot throughout the hospital.
Cristina had to perform surgery on Derek, with a gun at her head, putting the life of her patient in front of her own.
It was one of the biggest moments that Oh had to shine, and there were plenty of other opportunities for her to deliver throughout her time on the series.
10. Terrible: Billy Brown As Nate Lahey (How To Get Away With Murder)
Billy Brown has pretty much always failed to connect with the audience during his time in How To Get Away With Murder, in the role of Nate Lahey.
He’s been given ample opportunity to claim the spotlight and really demand attention as Nate; a character who has actually been fantastically written.
When it comes time to delivering, however, Brown consistently falls short.
Viola Davis, who plays Annalise Keating on the show, is constantly sizzling in her chemistry with her co-stars, but when she’s trying to work with Brown there’s a noticeable lack of excitement.
It would seem that Brown’s looks and incredible physique may be more of the reason he was hired to work on the show, rather than his acting ability. We have to admit though, he’s been getting better as of late. Let’s hope that continues.
9. Amazing: Liza Weil As Bonnie Winterbottom (How To Get Away With Murder)
Liza Weil is someone who’s been a loyal cast member in Shondaland for some time, and finally got her big break within a Rhimes show when How To Get Away With Murder made its way to the small screen.
Bonnie Winterbottom is the perfect character for Weil to wrap her acting chops around, and she’s shown she’s more than capable of delivering stellar performances time after time.
Bonnie’s most defining moments came in the show’s second season, when she disposed of someone who would bring the entire team down. From there, she came into her own.
While she’s often a lost puppy at Annalise’s side, begging for her approval, she’s more able than ever before to really dig in her heels and stand up for what she believes in. Plus, her relationship with Asher (Matt McGorry) is one of the most believable in the show, mainly thanks to her performance.
8. Amazing: Sara Ramirez As Callie Torres (Grey’s Anatomy)
Callie Torres wasn’t always the most likeable character in the Grey’s Anatomy universe. When Sara Ramirez first made her debut, a romance with George (T. R. Knight) quickly followed, and while he was the one who never really invested in the relationship, Callie often came off as a nasty and bitter person.
Following their break-up, however, and in Callie being allowed to explore her bisexuality, she became one of the most important people in mainstream television.
Bi-erasure is something that often happens in the entertainment business. Rhimes and Torres however have done their all to ensure that there’s always been a spotlight shined on the orientation within Grey’s.
They’ve also ensured that Callie’s bisexuality isn’t her sole defining personality trait. Torres does a brilliant job of balancing a number of complex layers and has worked her way into the hearts of viewers throughout the years.
7. Terrible: Brooke Smith As Erica Hahn (Grey’s Anatomy)
With 14 seasons to-date and a whole host of different actors and actresses coming through the doors of Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital, there were always going to be a few duds.
When Brooke Smith came into the show as Erica Hahn, she had the perfect opportunity to turn the character into a mainstay and one of the primary reasons people tune in.
Unfortunately, things seemed to go the opposite way, and audiences never really got behind the cardiothoracic surgeon.
It’s hard to even remember a big storyline that Erica was a part of, other than allowing Callie Torres to explore her orientation.
Rhimes even released a statement following Erica’s departure, saying that those working on Grey’s “did not find that the magic and chemistry with Brooke’s character would sustain in the long run.” Awkward.
6. Amazing: Jack Falahee As Connor Walsh (How To Get Away With Murder)
Back to How To Get Away With Murder, and we have to delve into the brilliant performance that Jack Falahee has brought to the show in the role of Connor Walsh. LGBTQ characters are always important to get right so that they can represent the real life community in the best way, and thankfully Falahee does a perfect job.
While some would say the writing around Connor was at first lazy, seeing him use his orientation to get his way and further his career, the character has evolved throughout the series and become a whole lot more three-dimensional.
Important storylines, such as helping his on/off partner deal with his HIV diagnosis, have seen Falahee really show off his acting chops.
5. Amazing: Kerry Washington As Olivia Pope (Scandal)
When it comes to the leading ladies of Shondaland, there’s never a performance that’s less than amazing. Kerry Washington has proven that with her portrayal of Olivia Pope throughout Scandal, and while the show will be coming to an end for good with its current season, we’ll never forget the brilliance brought to the small screen by Washington.
At times when Scandal seems ridiculous, Washington does the brilliant job of making anything seem believable. She turns Pope into a character that we can always get behind and root for, no matter how bad things get.
In a time when television is so bogged down by a multitude of different dramas and shows, it’s hard to ensure audiences will remember you for all the right reasons. Fortunately for Washington, she’s done that 10 times over.
4. Terrible: Elizabeth Reaser As Rebecca Pope (Grey’s Anatomy)
Another trip to Grey’s Anatomy here, as we look at one of Alex Karev’s (Justin Chambers) lost loves. When Elizabeth Reaser first came into the series as Rebecca Pope, she was a patient of Karev’s following a huge ferry accident.
With no memory of who she was before the accident, and huge damage to her face, working out exactly who Rebecca was turned out to be harder than doctors thought.
Going through complete facial reconstruction, there was plenty of material and a brilliant storyline for Reaser to plug away at. The character ended up being built instead through the performances of other actors whose characters were connected to Rebecca, however, rather than off the back of Reaser’s own portrayal.
3. Amazing: Ellen Pompeo As Meredith Grey (Grey’s Anatomy)
Not just awesome in real life, Ellen Pompeo has helped build up the world of Grey’s Anatomy through 14 seasons to-date. Rhimes has even promised that the medical drama will continue for as long as Pompeo wants to stick around. She’s the glue holding everything together, both in her role as Meredith Grey, and in real life.
Meredith is somebody who has been through a heck of a lot.
She miscarried during a mass shooting in the hospital, her soulmate was hit by a car and died, and her friends have come and gone, whether that be because they’ve moved out of town, or they’ve passed away.
Through it all, we’ve been on a true emotional rollercoaster, and that’s down to Pompeo being brilliant in her ability to involve the viewer in her struggles. If it weren’t for her, Grey’s wouldn’t still be on air today.
2. Amazing: Viola Davis As Annalise Keating (How To Get Away With Murder)
Viola Davis is one of the most talented actresses of the modern age, period. Seeing her in the role of Annalise Keating in How To Get Away With Murder is for viewers one of the most exciting performances on television.
There’s one specific scene in the show’s very first season that sticks in the mind of many, when Annalise is scrubbing her makeup from her face and removing her wig. It’s the first real time we see Annalise vulnerable, and Davis is a master of getting that across.
Throughout the episodes of HTGAWM to-date, Annalise has continuously evolved and developed as a character.
1. Terrible: Alfred Enoch As Wes Gibbons (How To Get Away With Murder)
Ah, Wes Gibbons– the character was somebody who was supposed to lead How To Get Away With Murder, despite the series being very much an ensemble show. When it came to delivering, however, actor Alfred Enoch just wasn’t a powerful enough actor to ever really make Wes somebody you wanted to root for.
When writers wanted him to appeal and become relatable, he instead gave off needy and whiny vibes. Even when we found out about his troubled past, the storyline was carried on the back of other characters. Wes was never somebody we would root for.
When the decision was made to (spoiler alert) get rid of Wes in the show’s third season, we can’t say we were surprised to see him go. Now, the actors that built up the foundations around him really get their chance to shine.
Can you think of any other awful or amazing Shondaland performances? Sound off in the comments!
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