Betsy Beers on Shondaland’s Jam-Packed Slate, Future and Hopes to Push Into Comedy

Elizabeth Wagmeister

TGIT isn’t officially in full force until midseason when “Scandal” returns to ABC’s Thursday night slate, bringing back the three-hour back-to-back programming block that is dominated by Shondaland.

But Thursday night, two of the company’s biggest hits do return: “Grey’s Anatomy” with its impressive 13th season and “How to Get Away With Murder” with its third.

This TV season, Shonda Rhimes’ Shondaland is also introducing a new series with the Romeo and Juliet-inspired period drama, formerly known as “Still Star-Crossed” (the title of the series is changing), plus the banner’s newest addition “The Catch” will be back with its sophomore season.

Even with five series on the slate, Shondaland’s Betsy Beers says the company isn’t slowing down.

“Both Shonda [Rhimes] and I, we like to keep busy and clearly that is happening,” Beers tells Variety. “We’re very grateful to ABC for continuing to put our shows on the air and for wanting to help us make our shows.”

Beers says she isn’t overwhelmed juggling all of Shondaland’s projects. “For me, what works out really well is I tend to be needed in different ways on these shows at different times so it actually doesn’t feel like too much work. For the most part, the youngest shows always need from me the most care and feeding,” she explains, mentioning “Still Star-Crossed,” which bows midseason. “People ask, ‘How do you do it?’ And I say, ‘I don’t, but I’ll introduce you to the hundreds of people who do on a regular basis,'” Beers raves. “There are so many incredible, great people and we have an incredible group on Shondaland and on the shows.”

As for “Still Star-Crossed,” Beers says even though it seems like a departure for Shondaland, the Shakespeare-esque series fits right into the brand.

“It’s different, but it isn’t,” she says. “It is different in that it’s a period piece set in 16th century Verona, but at the core of it, it’s a very emotional, twisty-turny show about romance and relationships and family conflict and battles over territory and you won’t necessarily expect to see what happens…. So in those ways, I think it lines up perfectly with the other Shondaland shows. We just have them wear different costumes and shoot in one of the most beautiful areas of Spain I’ve ever been in my life.”

Speaking of departures, last development season, Shondaland sold two projects to ABC that were much different from their current slate of dramas — an hour-long nanny-theme dramedy, produced by “Scandal” stars Kerry Washington and Katie Lowes; and a half-hour comedy “Toast,” written by “Scandal’s” Scott Foley and starring “Grey’s Anatomy’s” Jerrika Hinton.

Neither went to series (“‘Toast’ is toast!” Beers jokes), but Shondaland is still very hot on getting a comedy on the air. In fact, just this week, Shondaland sold a 30-minute comedy to ABC, hailing from “Sex and the City” alum Liz Tuccillo, exec produced by Rhimes and Beers.

“‘Toast,’ we’re really proud of it. I think it came out incredibly well. The bottom line is that we got a taste of it and since we got a taste of it, we really, really want a comedy on the air,” Beers admits. “We had such a good time doing that show. For us, actually getting to work in front of a live audience was an unbelievable thrill. We are absolutely fully committed to getting a good comedy on the air.”

Shondaland is back Thursday night with the Season 13 premiere of “Grey’s Anatomy” at 8 p.m., and the Season 3 premiere of “How to Get Away With Murder” at 10 p.m.

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