Steamy Oval office hookups. B613 back room deals. Papa Pope assassination attempts. The Fitz-Oliva-Jake love triangle. Each of these Scandal-defining moments began simply as “What if we did this?” In other words, they were once just ideas, enthusiastically pitched in Shonda Rhimes’ writers’ room. In that room sits Raamla Mohamed, who started as a production assistant on Grey’s Anatomy back in 2009, raised her hand for, well, everything and now, at 34, is a top writer on Rhimes’ award-winning political drama.
Sure, we’re jealous that she gets to spend her days with Kerry Washington and Scott Foley, but that perk came only after a lot of hard work. Here, Mohamed details five keys to getting your foot in the door wherever you want to work — whether that’s Olivia Pope & Associates or elsewhere:
1. Pay attention to the job that makes you want to take notes. “It wasn’t until working on Grey’s [Anatomy] that I had an ‘aha’ moment. We had writers’ table reads and the assistants got to sit in and hear the script being read out loud, and then Shonda would give notes. Something just clicked for me. I was like, these are people’s jobs?! I had a lot of jobs where I would come home not really caring very much about what I was doing, but working in TV, I started wanting to learn. I would read the different script drafts and see the edits and try to understand why certain changes were made.”
2. Check your ego at the door. “[As a writer on Scandal,] I had to separate who I was as a person and as a writer from my ideas, which makes you a better writer. I think that’s because, one, you don’t think your words are so precious, and two, it allows you to be confident that just because an idea doesn’t sync with what the show-runner wants or what the other writers want, it doesn’t mean that you’re a terrible person or you’re stupid. It’s all subjective.”
3. A little fear is a good thing. “I have to make sure I say this right because she said it in a great way and I’m going to mess it up, I know it. She [Shonda] said, ‘If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.’ I’ve always remembered that.”
4. Work on your craft outside of work. “I still try to write for myself and make sure I know what my voice is outside of the show. At the end of the day, anything can happen. [This] job is dependent on other people, studios, and networks, so I don’t believe in getting too comfortable.”
5. Learn to pick your battles. “Sometimes I have people ask, ‘Why did this happen?’ Some of it is a creative decision — and some of it is because an actor wasn’t available, or because the show has to be exactly 44 minutes. [Scandal] is a multi-million dollar production, so there are sacrifices that have to be made; it’s not personal. If you’re losing sight, understand that you’re not necessarily going to get everything you wanted. However, you learn what’s important, and what to fight for.”
This post was originally published on Levo League by Amy Elisa Jackson.
(Photo via ABC)