Shonda Rhimes has managed to establish herself as a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood with shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away with Murder. And whether fans are talking about Rhimes’ past shows or rumored upcoming projects, there’s never any doubt that they will feature an incredible group of memorable female characters.
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Of course, just because they are memorable, that doesn’t make them likable. One of the hallmarks of Shondaland shows is brilliantly written, complex women who fans are expected to dislike. Whether they are literal murderers or just lacking in empathy, there are as many leading ladies in these worlds that fans love to hate as there are main characters they straight-up love.
Updated on February 27th, 2022 by Amanda Bruce: As Shonda Rhimes continues to expand her television empire with streaming deals on Netflix, the number of layered and realistic characters her production company brings to audiences continues to grow. The producer and creator has so many more shows under her belt than just Grey’s Anatomy now, though the leading ladies of Grey’s will probably be some of her best-known characters for years to come.
16 Maya Deluca-Bishop
Like a lot of Shondaland’s leading ladies, Maya (Danielle Savre) is a complicated woman. She was used to thinking of herself, not the well-being of others when she first joined Station-19, putting her at odds with her fellow firefighters. Likewise, her ambition meant that her teammates didn’t always see her the way she wanted them to – and neither did the audience. Over time, the audience has been able to get to know her better and has grown to like her more, but she still doesn’t hold a candle to fan favorites like Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo).
15 Daphne Bridgerton
Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) is far from the least likable of Shondaland characters. The fact that she’s incredibly naive and forced into a situation that makes her an example for her sisters – and a provider for her family – does a lot to make Daphne a sympathetic character. It’s hard to love her when she’s also forcing her new husband into situations he’s uncomfortable with though. As Bridgerton continues to explore relationships and family dynamics in new seasons on Netflix, however, it’s entirely possible that fans will grow to love Daphne the same way they did so many of the characters in Grey’s Anatomy.
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14 Michaela Pratt
In How to Get Away with Murder, Michaela (Aja Naomi King) was introduced as a student of Annalise Keating (Viola Davis), later becoming one of the Keating 5. Initially, Michaela was competitive with everyone, determined to pull ahead and be the best. As the season progressed, however, Michaela starts to warm up to her fellow students and fans of the show found her more and more likable due to her fierce loyalty to the group. However, because of all the shady things she has done, and her decisions to continually put herself first, Shondaland fans don’t necessarily like her as much as they do other leading ladies.
13 Violet Turner
On Private Practice, Violet (Amy Brenneman) was a psychiatrist at Oceanside Wellness Group. She has always been one of the friendliest and most understanding doctors on the team, which is why many think she could have moved to Grey’s Anatomy On Private Practice, fans admired her quick thinking when she helped verbally guide a patient through an emergency, amateur C-section so her baby would survive. Eventually, mother and son were reunited although Violet gave him up while seeking professional help. And while that is understandable and encouraged, fans were left scratching their heads when Violet left the country, leaving Pete (Tim Daly) to take care of their baby.
12 Anna Delvey
One of the newest additions to Shondaland’s leading ladies, Anna Delvey (Julia Garner) of Inventing Anna might be one of the smartest characters to be a part of Shonda Rhimes’ vast television universe. She reinvents herself repeatedly, becoming a respected member of New York society, all while conning those around her to invest in a company she never gets to build. Anna craves success, and she does work hard for it, just not in the traditional way. The audience might not love her, but they definitely respect her and her desire to see her dreams realized.
11 Quinn Perkins
When Quinn (Katie Lowes) first joins Olivia Pope’s “gladiators” in Scandal, she seemed like a lost puppy, unsure about her place in the firm and whether she had what it takes to get the job done.
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However, slowly but surely, Quinn was able to adjust to her new job. At the same time, she also forges close ties with everyone else at the agency, most especially Olivia’s most trusted team member, Huck (Guillermo Díaz). Fans also grew to admire Quinn for her skill and ability to hold her own. In addition, they also appreciated that Quinn was never a one-sided character, choosing to pursue a romantic relationship and have a family. Later on, Olivia chooses Quinn to run her agency, which fans approve. That said, she still lacks the warmth of other Shondaland characters.
10 Laurel Castillo
When How To Get Away With Murder begins, Laurel (Karla Souza) is an idealist. She wants to do the right thing after repeatedly witnessing all of the criminal acts the rest of her family is involved in. Unfortunately, she ends up in the middle of several criminal actions herself along with the rest of the Keating 5. Not initially as ambitious as some of her classmates, and wanting to help them all, Laurel has a turn when she becomes a mother. She solely looks out for her son, and that’s something the audience can understand as her new baby hasn’t been a part of all of the bad things the rest of them have done.
9 Ryan Clark
Off The Map might have only lasted one season, but the series essentially took the idea of Grey’s Anatomy and transplanted it into the middle of a jungle with no resources. All of the doctors had their own reasons for running from well-staffed and well-funded hospitals, but Ryan Clark (Rachelle Lefevre) is less about hiding dark secrets and more about living her life. Living with a terminal illness, Ryan wants to experience as much as she can of life before her illness takes her from it, and she wants to help as many people as possible along the way. It’s hard not to like her – except for the fact that she doesn’t tell her friends or the guy she’s dating about the illness until she collapses in front of them.
8 Lexie Grey
Sure, she may have rubbed people the wrong way when she was introduced on Grey’s Anatomy. After all, she did flirt with Derek (Patrick Dempsey). Eventually, however, Lexie (Chyler Leigh) manages to win over the doctors at Seattle Grace. Eventually, fans even started to think that Lexie may be the better Grey sister. This is probably because she had relatively less drama in life, overall. Not to mention, she seemed easier to get to know, which is something that fans welcomed, considering other characters are too broody, too mysterious, or both. Still, she is far from the most likable of the characters in Shondaland series.
7 Rosaline Capulet
Still Star-Crossed sought to continue the story of the Montague and Capulet families after the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. Rosaline (Lashana Lynch) finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy to keep the Capulets and Montagues fighting, allying with Benvolio (Wade Briggs), a cousin of Romeo’s to try to stop the animosity. Though the two really can’t stand one another, they opt to fake a relationship to try to figure out what’s going on, and real feelings develop.
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Rosaline is a fierce and independent woman, despite her being relegated to household staff in the house home of her own cousin. She is a quick study and has a quick temper, but she’s also incredibly loyal and ready to put aside any differences she has with someone for the greater good, making her a very likable member of the Shondaland universe.
6 Cristina Yang
In the beginning, it didn’t seem that Cristina (Sandra Oh) was the kind of person anyone would get along with. She was always highly competitive. Not to mention, she can be blunt about her opinions, even remarking that a fellow intern being a model would not “help with the respect thing.” As the show progressed, though, Cristina won fans over. She is a good friend to Meredith and her other fellow doctors. In fact, Cristina even helped Alex (Justin Chambers) out by giving him her shares and spot on the hospital board. Eventually, fans realized that Cristina evolved into a highly capable doctor who also shows compassion and empathy.
5 Marina Thompson
Marina (Ruby Barker) is one of the most captivating characters in Shondaland’s new show, Bridgerton. Sure, the attention had mostly been on Daphne initially, but Marina caught people’s attention the moment she was named the true “incomparable” in Lady Whistledown’s report. Marina may come from nobility but she is no snob. In fact, when Lady Featherington (Polly Walker) took her around the slums to persuade her to settle down quickly due to her pregnancy, Marina maintained that there was nothing wrong with the people they had seen. Instead, she preferred to refer to them as hardworking folk, a move that made her more endearing to fans – even if her intentions to marry a man knowing she was pregnant did not.
4 Meredith Grey
Meredith is Grey’s Anatomy’s titular character and she immediately tugs at fans’ heartstrings because she initially presents herself as an intern trying to do well at a new job while trying her best to care for a mother who is suffering from Alzheimer’s.
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At the same time, fans also come to appreciate Meredith’s friendship with fellow intern Cristina Yang as the series progressed. In fact, Cristina had even referred to Meredith as her “person.” Aside from this, fans have also come to admire how deeply Meredith cares for everyone around her as she juggles work with motherhood.
3 Miranda Bailey
There is a reason why some fans think that Miranda (Chandra Wilson) is the real central character in Grey’s Anatomy. In the beginning, she may have appeared cold and intimidating. Over the course of 17 seasons, however, Miranda’s overall disposition changed. Sure, she’s still stern and she takes her job seriously. But at the same time, everyone can see how much she cares about her fellow doctors, especially those who have been under her supervision at one point. At the same time, fans have also seen how devoted she is to her patients. In a way, she is the glue that holds everyone together and fans appreciate her for it.
2 Annalise Keating
Annalise is the main character in How to Get Away with Murder, who cares deeply about the people around her. In fact, during the time that the Keating 4 was in serious trouble following the death of Emily Sinclair (Sarah Burns), Annalise herself was willing to get to make it look like Catherine (Amy Okuda) had murdered Emily and shot her. Annalise may look tough and stern, but she has a big heart. That’s why have fans passionately rooted for her despite her shortcomings. She may look tough but there is still a vulnerability to her.
1 Olivia Pope
Scandal’s Olivia (Kerry Washington) has always been powerful and passionate about her career. She also happens to be very protective of all her gladiators in OPA. In some cases, she’s saved their lives even before they became a gladiator. In fact, She was the one who told Huck to rescue Quinn and provide her with a new identity. Meanwhile, Olivia may have done some shady things but fans have come to understand that she only does this to save those she cares about. And so, despite some questionable things that she has done in the series, fans rallied around her the whole time.
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