FEATURE: Debbie Allen Discusses Directing TV & Her Many Roles in “Grey’s Anatomy” Season 12

Director/Producer/Actor Debbie Allen (TERENCE PATRICK FOR VARIETY)

Debbie Allen rose to fame with “Fame,” serving as a director, producer and choreographer. She was also the first black woman to be Emmy-nominated in the dramatic lead actress category. More than three decades later, she has a recurring role on “Grey’s Anatomy,” and is a frequent director — and now executive producer of the show. “It’s a little crazy, but what a great life,” Allen tells Variety. “I’m like a cat on a hot tin roof that somehow landed on all fours.”

What are your new responsibilities on “Grey’s Anatomy” Season 12, being a director, actor and executive producer?

I’m very involved in every episode, in terms of production design. I’m selecting the directors this season, looking over everything from makeup and hair to the actors’ concerns. I spend a lot of time with the writers, which I love.

How do you balance acting in an episode that you’re also directing and producing?

It’s actually how I started on “Fame.” I trained in acting, literature and theater, so talking to actors is something I’m really used to doing. That gives me a little bit of an edge sometimes. I know how to speak the actor’s language. On “Fame,” I started as Ms. Lydia Grant and I was the choreographer, but I soon became their favorite director because I knew how to shoot the dance and then I understood the acting. Doing it all at the same time is how I came into it.

Have you noticed a big change in your role on “Grey’s,” now that you’re an executive producer?

Very dramatic change. I’ve always been there as a director and somewhat of a den mom — it’s interesting; so many of them grew up on “Fame,” and I’ll never forget the first time I directed, Patrick Dempsey started singing “Fame” and doing jetes, and I’m like, “Stop it already. Stop it!” — so now, there are things that are my responsibility or things that I keep my eye on or things that I can mitigate. I’m responsible for a lot of things, which is a wonderful position to have. I’ve done this once before on “A Different World.” I was the executive producer and director on that show for five years. But this is different. It’s an hour, it’s in its twelfth season, but it feels like it’s brand new.

Speaking of Patrick Dempsey, how is the set different without him?

We had a great relationship. My nickname for him was “Dash” — Dash was the kid in “The Incredibles” that was running fast. He would come through the set like that. He was on the move. Racing cars defines him for real. Patrick is not there so it changes the dynamic of the story for Meredith.

How much will you be featured in this season?

Catherine Avery is still a guest star. She’s not a series regular, but I’m there so when they need me now — last year, they had to go and try to find me — they can take advantage of me, and it’s okay! I’m not mad about it.

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Viola Davis Drama “How to Get Away With Murder” Debuts Strongly for ABC

How to Get Away with Murder

Thursday was a very big night for Shonda Rhimes and ABC, with the latest show executive produced by the “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” creator — “How to Get Away With Murder” — opening with the largest young-adult audience for any new series this fall.

ABC was strong on two-thirds of Thursday a year ago, but the addition of “Murder” helped cap a lineup — branded by the network as “TGIT” (Thank God It’s Thursday) — that dominated last night among women and will place a strong second overall to CBS/NFL Network’s “Thursday Night Football” in 18-49, 25-54 and total viewers. The Alphabet dramas were the night’s top three entertainment series in the key 18-49 and 25-54 demos as well as total viewers and the net had its best Thursday to open a season in five years.

According to preliminary national estimates from Nielsen, “How to Get Away With Murder” averaged a big 3.8 rating/11 share in adults 18-49 and 14 million viewers overall in the 10 o’clock hour, matching in 18-49 its strong lead-in from “Scandal” (3.8/11 in 18-49, 11.9 million viewers overall), which opened with a series high. Skewing a little older than “Scandal,” “How to Get Away With Murder” built slightly on its lead-in in 25-54 (4.4 vs. 4.3) while adding about 2 million total viewers.

The Viola Davis-fronted “Murder” performed nearly 10% better in 18-49 than last year’s second hour of the “Grey’s Anatomy” season opener, which aired on the Thursday of premiere week, and it also exceeded the “Scandal” season premiere in Week 2 of last season (3.6).

Among all series premieres this fall, “How to Get Away With Murder” ranks best in adults 18-49 — besting the 3.3 for ABC’s “Blackish” on Wednesday and Monday’s dramas premieres of “Scorpion” on CBS and “Gotham” on Fox (both 3.2).  In adults 25-54, “Murder” is neck and neck with “Scorpion” and “Blackish” as fall’s best debut.

“Grey’s Anatomy” opened the night for ABC (3.0/10 in 18-49, 9.8 million viewers overall), shifting to the 8 o’clock hour and placing second to football. Though down in 18-49 as expected from its two-hour, 9-11 p.m. debut of last year (3.4), it outperformed its final 11 episodes from last season while also delivering the show’s largest overall audience in nearly two years (since October 2012).

article by Rick Kissell via variety.com