Shonda Rhimes is responsible for producing Hillary Clinton’s biographical film “Hillary” that was shown Thursday at the Democratic National Convention. Rhimes tells PEOPLE with her producing partner, Betsy Beers.
I wanted everyone who sees it to feel like they were sitting with a friend, drinking coffee, so that had to be authentic. Hillary drank tea, actually. You can’t drink coffee for five hours and expect her not to bounce off the walls.
Rhimes, who is responsible for hit shows including Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy and How To Get Away With Murder, has worked on ads for Clinton’s presidential campaign before. She says,
It was invigorating. The geeky student in me who loves doing homework and research, I got to immerse myself in photos and articles. I’ve spent more time on Hillary Clinton’s Flickr page than any other human being on the planet.
They agree that their toughest challenge was getting viewers to get an intimate feel for a public figure they’ve seen in the headlines since at least 1992. They interviewed former President Bill Clinton for three hours, President Obama for 40 minutes (“the man is running the country,” says Rhimes, calling his interview, “the best 30 to 40 minutes of my life“) and also sat down with Clinton’s best friend since age 11, Betsy Ebeling, along with a 9/11 survivor and first responder who recalled then-Senator Clinton’s response to the 2001 terror attacks.
“There were so many stories that one of the massive challenges for us initially was, honestly, sifting,” says Beers. “It was a mini-series when we first started. It could have been three hours,” says Rhimes.
The women put together a 30-minute film, but the campaign told them it had to be 12 minutes. Rhimes says,
As a writer who builds characters for a living, it was exciting to take an actual human being and pieces of who she is and see how it builds a person and her character, why she is who she is. Given the Trumpiness of the world today, we felt like we were doing the work of angels.
See the film below.