Shonda Rhimes’ Unforgettable Black Characters: A Journey Through Her Shows

Shonda Rhimes characters

Who doesn’t love a classic Shonda Rhimes show? From “Grey’s Anatomy” to “Scandal” and “How to Get Away With Murder,” there’s no shortage of Shonda Rhimes content for us to consume and adore – and one of our favorite things about her body of work is the light she shines on powerful Black characters.

Shonda Rhimes has shined a light on several Black characters whom many of us know and love, with unique depth, impact, and significance across the board. But with the numerous characters involved in any Shonda Rhimes project, you might wonder: what are her most iconic Black characters to date?

If you’re in the mood to appreciate some iconic Shonda Rhimes’ characters, you’re in luck. This piece will cover some of our favorite unforgettable Black characters across Shonda Rhimes’ shows so you can indulge as you please. Let’s dive in!

1. Olivia Pope: “Scandal” (2012-2018)

We have to start our list of Shonda Rhimes’s unforgettable Black characters with perhaps her most iconic character to date: Olivia Pope in “Scandal.” A former White House communications director, Pope begins the series by leaving her position to start a crisis management firm (a role which later came in handy in season four of another Rhimes series, “How to Get Away With Murder.”)

Played by powerhouse Kerry Washington, Olivia Pope is an iconic figure in pop culture for several reasons. Every week, fans tuned in to see what scandalous secrets Pope was handling next. Our favorite D.C.-based crisis manager was always up to something, and “Scandal” wouldn’t have been the same without her. There’s a reason why so many people know Olivia Pope’s name without having ever seen “Scandal” – Washington’s performance was truly so iconic that she became a common name in pop culture during the show’s airing.

When you sit down to watch “Scandal,” which you need to if you haven’t already, you’ll see what we mean. Washington commands every scene, and as Pope falls into more and more troubling situations, you’ll be on the edge of your seat waiting to see what solution she comes up with next.

2. Annalise Keating: “How to Get Away With Murder” (2014-2020)

While Shonda Rhimes took the part of an executive producer on “How to Get Away With Murder” rather than the role of creator, her impact on this series is incredibly notable, especially in the show’s portrayal of powerful Black characters. Perhaps the most iconic of this cast is Annalise Keating, portrayed by the always-mesmerizing Viola Davis in one of her most memorable roles to date.

Annalise Keating is a commanding lawyer and criminal law professor whose students can’t decide whether to praise her or fear her – and as audience members, we often feel the same way. As powerful as she can be, Keating is also plagued by hurt and trauma, and when her mask slips, it’s always a sight to behold. “How to Get Away With Murder” couldn’t exist without Annalise at the forefront, as the show’s narrative begins when she chooses five students to work closely with as they all get involved in a dangerous murder case.

Despite her situation and authority, there are numerous moments in “How to Get Away With Murder” where Davis expertly shows Annalise’s softer, more vulnerable side. The character is doubly iconic for being one of the few openly bisexual Black characters on television, cementing her as a truly groundbreaking figure – and one we loved watching every single week.

3. Dr. Miranda Bailey: “Grey’s Anatomy” (2005-)

Arguably one of Shonda Rhimes’s most iconic shows to date, “Grey’s Anatomy,” wouldn’t exist without its large cast of characters. One of these characters is the memorable and lovable Dr. Miranda Bailey, who rivals the titular character Meredith Grey as the most important role the show has ever seen.

When watching “Grey’s Anatomy,” one of the first things you’ll notice is how much care goes into creating Miranda’s character. Miranda Bailey starts as a resident in general surgery in the show’s iconic Seattle Grace Hospital, and one of the most satisfying parts of “Grey’s Anatomy” is watching Bailey’s transformation from her initial role to higher positions in the hospital, carving her path from the ground up. As she eventually lands the role of Chief of Surgery, we, as audience members, couldn’t help but cheer her on.

Miranda Bailey’s transformation is easily one of our favorite storylines in “Grey’s Anatomy” and a testament to Shonda Rhimes’s commitment to making powerful and inspiring Black characters. Since Grey’s Anatomy is continuing without signs of slowing down, we’re looking forward to seeing what else Miranda will bring to the table.

4. Wes Gibbins: “How to Get Away With Murder” (2014-2020)

While Annalise Keating is the first name that comes to mind when we think of “How to Get Away With Murder,” Wes Gibbins is a close second and another testament to Rhimes’s ability to create powerful, complicated, and mesmerizing Black characters. Played expertly by Alfred Enoch, Wes Gibbins starts the series as one of Annalise Keating’s students and closest allies.

As his education at Middleton Law School continues, Wes gets more and more involved with Annalise’s dark past and many secrets and plays a central role in the show’s first murder case. We remember Wes Gibbins next for his undeniable charm, kindness, and iconic moments – and while he might not be in the show as much as some of his cast members for reasons we won’t get into yet, he’s easily one of the first names we think of when talking about “How to Get Away With Murder.” One thing is certain: Wes Gibbins undeniably left a mark on Middleton Law School and in the minds of viewers everywhere.

5. Lady Agatha Danbury: “Bridgerton” (2020-)

Like “How to Get Away With Murder,” Shonda Rhimes might not be the creator of “Bridgerton,” but she plays an undeniable role in the parts of the show’s numerous powerful Black characters. One of our favorites is Lady Agatha Danbury, a senior matron in the show and one of the most influential people in London high society.

One of our favorite parts about “Bridgerton” is that it doesn’t follow conventions that you’d expect from a period piece and isn’t afraid to give Black characters as much power as their White counterparts, despite the period. No character better represents this power than Lady Agatha Danbury, who we’re always eagerly awaiting in every single episode of “Bridgerton.”

From her powerful presence to her vulnerable side that comes out in her traumatic past, there’s no denying that Lady Agatha Danbury is one of Bridgerton’s most mesmerizing characters – and that much of her power comes from contributions made by Rhimes herself.

Find More Like This From Black Content Review

Like this list? We’ve got more where that came from. Subscribe to our Black Content Review newsletter today to get the latest news on the best Black content out there!

Leave a Reply