EXCLUSIVE: Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers’ Shondaland has set up its fourth project this development season. ABC has put in development drama How To Get Away With Murder, from Shondaland and ABC Studios, where the company is based. Written by Grey’s Anatomy supervising producer Peter Nowalk, How To Get Away With Murder is described as a sexy, suspense-driven legal thriller about a group of ambitious law students and their brilliant, mysterious criminal defense professor who become entangled in a murder plot that will rock their entire university and change the course of their lives. Nowalk, Rhimes and Beers executive produce. This is the consecutive second year that Shondaland is developing with Nowalk, who has been on Rhimes’ Grey’s Anatomy since 2008. Last fall, the company sold an FBI drama penned by Nowalk to NBC. How To Get Away With Murder joins three other projects Shondaland has sold to ABC so far this summer, dramas from Mistresses developer/executive producer KJ Steinberg and Made In Jersey creator Dana Calvo, and a comedy from Cougar Town co-executive producers Christine Pietrosh and Jessica Goldstein. Rhimes is with ICM Partners; Nowalk and Beers are with UTA.
Bad news for ABC — better news maybe for Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey: Sandra Oh has announced she’s leaving Grey’s Anatomy at the end of the ABC drama’s upcoming 10th season. “It’s been a great privilege to play the character of Cristina Yang on GA and I am both sad and excited to see where this, her final season will take her,” Oh said in this afternoon’s statement, calling it an emotional and “deeply creative decision” to leave.
Pompeo and Dempsey’s contracts also are up at the end of the coming season, and ABC presumably won’t want any more of the series majors to exit. That’s always a good bargaining position. Dempsey made news the recent Summer TCA Press Tour, when he told a ballroom full of press — while promoting a car-racing show for Velocity network called Patrick Dempsey: Racing Le Mans – that his passion in life is car racing, and acting is what he does to support that habit. Some mention may have been made of the redundancy of Grey’s storylines. Eyebrows around the room shot up. And a few days later, at the Press Tour, the reporters asked ABC programming chief Paul Lee if Dempsey was leaving and/or Grey’s was toast after this season. Lee responded, emphatically — as did ABC today in the wake of Oh’s announcement — that ABC intended to have the steamy doc drama on the primetime lineup “for many years.” At that time, Lee said he would not discuss possible cast changes — the press assumed he was talking about Dempsey — because he didn’t want to be yelled at by show creator Shonda Rhimes.
Ray Richmond contributes to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
Patrick Dempsey admitted this morning that working as an actor in a long-running series like ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy can’t hold a candle to the excitement of being a race car driver. Dempsey was at TCA to promote the testosterone-encrusted Velocity network’s documentary miniseries Patrick Dempsey: Racing Le Mans, which depicts the actor training for and competing in the famed 24-hour race. It premieres August 28. He made it clear during the session that, as Grey‘s comes up on 10 years and 200 episodes, it gets tougher and tougher to motivate himself on the set. “Work on a TV show doesn’t change,” Dempsey said. “In a race, it changes constantly, every lap, every corner, every moment of that day. And that’s very exciting. And it keeps me alive. And then I can go back to work and enjoy it. … There’s a purity to (racing) that’s missing from the work I do as an actor,” he said.
As for Grey’s? “I’m not the creator, I’m not the writer, so it’s a trade. And that’s fine,” he said. “But when you’ve been on a show (for nearly 200 episodes), it’s about surviving. You find ways to turn yourself on with the material you’re given. … For me at this point, there’s not a lot of homework that …
Writer-producers Tony Phelan and Joan Rater have closed a two-year overall deal with CBS Television Studios, which will begin next summer. Under the agreement, the duo will supervise projects for the studio this season and will develop their own original projects once their overall deal, Phelan and Rater’s first, commences in 2014. Phelan and Rater, repped by UTA and Myman Greenspan, are currently executive producers/co-showrunnners on Shonda Rhimes’ ABC medical drama Grey’s Anatomy, having worked their way up the ranks during their eight-season tenure on the show. Additionally, Phelan has directed multiple episodes. This coming season will be the duo’s last on Grey’s before they segue to the CBS Studios deal.
EXCLUSIVE: Grey’s Anatomy is wrapping up its ninth season tonight but Camilla Luddington has a scary summer ahead of her. The actress, who plays Dr. Jo Wilson on the ABC medical drama this year, is set to star in indie horror movie The Pact II. Luddington will take on the lead role of June Abbott in the film. The character is plagued by nightmares of serial killer Judas, who she discovers she has a far closer relationship with than previously imagined. Patrick Fischler and Scott Michael Foster have also been cast in the sequel to the Nicholas McCarthy written and directed 2012 movie as FBI profiler Greg Ballard and June’s cop boyfriend Daniel Meyer. Directed by Dallas Hallam and Patrick Horvath, The Pact II is set to start filming in mid June. Ross Dinerstein is producing with Juliana Cardarelli co-producing. A regular on Californication this past season, Fischler is repped by Abrams Artists and Main Title. Foster, who has also been on the Showtime series as well as the now summer Saturdays bound Zero Hour, is repped by UTA and Consortium Entertainment. Luddington, who herself also was on a previous season of Californication as well as doing the voice-over and body motion captures for Lara Croft in the latest Tomb Raider video game, is repped by UTA and Main Title.
UPDATE: ABC Renews ‘The Neighbors’, ‘The Middle’, ‘Last Man Standing’, Modern Family’, ‘Once Upon A Time’, ‘Revenge’, ‘Suburgatory’, ‘Scandal’ ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, Castle’, ‘Nashville’
UPDATE SATURDAY 7:40 PM: It’s official, the deal has closed and The Neighbors has been renewed for next season.
PREVIOUS FRIDAY PM: Two members of ABC‘s freshman class, drama Nashville and comedy The Neighbors, will make it to a second season. The deal is not quite done for the Dan Fogelman comedy The Neighbors but is expected to close. Sophomores fared better, with four, red-hot Scandal, Open Upon A Time, Revenge and Last Man Standing all getting third season renewals. They’re joined by veterans Modern Family, The Middle, Grey’s Anatomy and Castle. ABC is expected to renew unscripted staples Shark Tank, Dancing With The Stars and The Bachelor on Monday.
Departing Grey’s Anatomy co-star Eric Dane has boarded his next series project… literally. Dane has been tapped as the lead in TNT‘s action drama pilot The Last Ship, executive produced by Michael Bay. Jonathan Mostow is set to direct the pilot written by Without A Trace creator Hank Steinberg and Steven Kane.
Eric Dane, who has played Mark Sloan aka McSteamy on Grey’s Anatomy since the end of Season 2, will leave the ABC medical drama sometime next season, after wrapping his storyline. “After much consideration and conversations, he and I have decided that this is the right time for his storyline to end”, creator Shonda Rhimes told TVLine, which broke the story. The recent eighth season finale saw Sloan seriously injured after a plane crash that claimed the life of Lexie (Chyler Leigh). Dane joins fellow regulars Leigh and Kim Raver who also are leaving Grey’s.
Viewers of Grey’s Anatomy know that some of the actors on the show didn’t make it out of last season’s plane crash finale. Now Camilla Luddington has booked a recurring role as a young doctor on the ABC show, and the role comes with a series option to become a regular next season. Luddington is coming off a six-episode arc on HBO’s True Blood and a nine-episode arc on Showtime’s Californication. In addition, she’s playing Lara Croft in the next edition of the Tomb Raider game that comes out in March 2013. She also played Kate Middleton in Lifetime’s William & Kate. Luddington is repped by Progressive Artists and Main Title Entertainment.
IATSE Local 80 has filed grievances against ABC Studios for the recent firing of several crew members on Grey’s Anatomy. The Local’s business manager Tom Davis filed the papers for the union. (UPDATE: Because of the nature of the complaints, Grey’s creator and executive producer Shonda Rhimes and her Shondaland production company were not filed against.) The long-term crew members were allegedly fired after speaking with Disney Human Resources about the “hostile work environment” they felt was created last season by director of photography Herbert Davis. A source tells Deadline that the grip crew, gaffer and both the A-camera and B-camera assistant cameramen were replaced. The parties are expected to meet on the matter sometime in the near future as a first step in the process. Charges of wrongful dismissal and firing in retaliation for a protected activity are being filed with both California and Federal labor departments against ABC Studios.
‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Stars Patrick Dempsey, Ellen Pompeo, Sandra Oh And Justin Chambers Close Deals To Return
EXCLUSIVE UPDATED: Big news for Grey’s Anatomy fans. I’ve learned that all original cast members whose future on the ABC medical drama had been up in the air amid contract negotiations, have re-upped for two more seasons. That includes Ellen Pompeo, Patrick Dempsey, Sandra Oh, Justin Chambers as well as James Pickens, Jr. and Chandra Wilson.
With the uncertainty surrounding the core quartet, Grey’s Anatomy creator-showrunner Shonda Rhimes had written the upcoming eighth season finale in a way that would leave the door open for them potentially departing Seattle Grace. The new contracts with Pompeo, Dempsey, Oh, Chambers, Pickens Jr. and Wilson pave the way for Grey’s to be renewed for a ninth season, something that already was all but guaranteed.
Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
The ABC hit hospital soap Grey’s Anatomy could presumably go for another decade despite being in the middle of its eighth season right now, says the show’s creator and executive producer Shonda Rhimes. Speaking to reporters following a panel session promoting her new ABC midseason drama Scandal that premieres this spring, Rhimes noted that when it comes to Grey’s, ABC has a plan. “I don’t know that it matters what I want to do, (since) it’s ABC’s show, not mine,” she said. “I think (ABC programming chief) Paul Lee has publicly said he wants the show to go for like 10 more years. We’ll see what happens.” Indeed, Lee earlier today praised the veteran medical drama for “coming back roaring back this season.” Would Rhimes herself like to see the show go for 10 more years? She admitted, “I don’t know how I feel about that concept. I also am not going to say ‘no’ to my employers at this time. … I think they should do the show only as long as the show is interesting to do.” At the same time, Rhimes added that when she’s done having “interesting” ideas to do with Grey’s, she’ll be done with the show. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean the show would be done (at that point). For me, it’s about do I have a way to reinvent it, do I have a way …