Grey’s Anatomy ’s Meg Marinis Joined the Show Right Out of College in 2006. Now She’s Showrunner

Jeanne Tyson

Veteran Grey's Anatomy writer—and new showrunner—Meg Marinis is sitting in her office at Prospect Studios in Los Angeles during a brief break from shooting the seventh episode of season 20, which returns to ABC on Thursday, March 14. As the new head boss for the longest-running medical prime-time drama, Marinis doesn't have much free time these days, thanks to the nonstop deadlines, as well as business and creative decisions that constantly need her input. But when she takes a rare moment to reflect on the position she finds herself in—one that started 18 years ago as a college grad on the same studio lot for the same show—she points to her 12-year-old nephew to help illustrate the magnitude of her new job.

“He sends me these screen grabs from his text messages with his 12-year-old girl friends, just freaking out about the show and freaking out that his aunt does this for a living,” Marinis says. “And I realized, I don’t take it in enough…because I'm so in the day-to-day grind of like, ‘Okay, we’ve got to hit this deadline or that deadline. We have to make sure I answer this question so people aren't at work until 10 p.m.’”

Marinis says that moment, as well as when she saw five of the original Grey's cast members on the stage at this January's Emmys, was when it finally hit her. “I was like, ‘Oh wow, this thing is still so big.’ And then you get nervous, like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m in charge of it.’ But you're grateful. You're so grateful.”

Chandra Wilson, Justin Chambers, Ellen Pompeo, Katherine Heigl, and James Pickens during the 75th Primetime Emmy Awards. Says new showrunner and veteran writer Meg Marinis: “I just felt gratitude seeing those five actors…[who] helped build the beginning foundations of the show, and that people were still so excited to see them. They're so iconic.”

Grateful is an understatement, especially given ABC's announcement that Marinis would be taking over from Krista Vernoff as showrunner starting with season 20 was made all the way back in March 2023. But due to the writers’ strike and then the actors’ strike, Marinis’s first episode as showrunner was delayed.

“That time was such high anxiety,” Marinis tells Glamour. “I don't like that feeling of not knowing what to expect and not knowing when things are going to be over. It was stress and dread sitting on top of my shoulders, so I went into the season with five months of worrying about how the crew is doing, and can everyone make their rent or pay their mortgages? It almost felt like I'd done 10 episodes before [we even started].”

But now, a year later, she's finally getting to share the fruits of her labor with the audience. “It was a high high to a low low. But it's okay even though I was really sad that we didn't get to start right away,” she says.

If anything, though, Marinis was the perfect person to guide the show through one of the biggest work stoppages in the history of the entertainment industry. She began her career at Grey's as a writer’s production assistant heading into the third season, and worked her way up, with stints as a writer’s assistant and medical researcher before being promoted to staff writer. Now, with 30 Grey's writing credits to her name, including the upcoming premiere, Marinis is ready to show audiences what she's made of in the lead role.

“You're not going to find a bigger fan of the show than me,” she says. “I've been here since end of season two, beginning of season three. I like to think that I know the show the back of my hand. I know what we've done. I know what we haven't done. I put in a lot of Easter eggs into things that sometimes even the cast and crew don't recognize. But I'm constantly honoring the history of the show.”

So, for Glamour's latest installment of Doing the Work, the Houston native and University of Texas at Austin grad opens up about that first interview with Shonda Rhimes, what she's learned about working on the same show for nearly 20 years, and why she cried in front of Friends cocreator Marta Kauffman.

Marinis, far right, during Ellen Pompeo's directorial debut in season 13, titled “Be Still, My Soul.” (Also pictured: James Pickens Jr.)


Marinis, far right, during Ellen Pompeo's directorial debut in season 13, titled “Be Still, My Soul.” (Also pictured: James Pickens Jr.)
ABC/Richard Cartwright

Glamour: What was your dream career growing up?

Meg Marinis: I wanted to be a TV writer. I didn't know if I would, because that's a lofty dream goal. But I was writing ER scripts when I was 11. I had medical cases in them. I would just watch a lot of ER episodes and I would write down all the terms like “stat” and “CBC” [complete blood count]. It was a lot of dialogue with medical jargon that probably made no sense. And I would write flashbacks between characters that had left the show that I really loved. I loved Doug and Carol. I also loved Mark Greene and Susan Lewis. I loved Dr. Benton. I loved them all. I couldn't find a couple on ER that I didn't love, but I really also liked medicine.

In fact, on the picket line this summer, I met the researcher for ER and I fangirled to her. I think she was looking at me like I was crazy. But I thought ER was it. I was like, “It was one of my favorite shows!” And I think she was like, “Okay.” [Laughs.]

How did you get your job on Grey’s Anatomy at the end of season two?

During my senior year at the University of Texas at Austin, I spent the last semester in Los Angeles interning while finishing school. I knew I really wanted to stay in LA and I really wanted to be a TV writer. I sent my résumé everywhere, but it wasn't until someone that I had gone to high school with who was older than me called me and said, “I'm leaving my job and my boss wants my replacement to be exactly like me.” And I was like, “I can be exactly like you.”

And that job interview was with Shonda Rhimes. It just happened that it was this new show [which was Grey's]. I didn't get that particular job as Shonda's assistant, but they were starting a writer's [production assistant] position at the time, so they said, “Do you want to interview for this?” I said, “Sure. I just need a job. I need to get into the industry.” And so I got the writer's PA job. So I flew home, graduated from college, then came back to LA and started two days later. I haven't left the building since 2006.

Did you watch Grey’s when it first premiered?

Yes. And I loved it. It was becoming this hit phenomenon, but I'd never thought it would last this long. I thought I would be an assistant on this show and then network [for other jobs], and the show would [eventually] end. I'd go somewhere else. But no, I just stayed.

Let’s go back to that first interview with Shonda Rhimes. How nervous were you?

I was terrified. I hadn't had a lot of job interviews that weren't like internships or food service jobs or nanny jobs. I'd been a PA for productions in college, but it was the biggest interview in my life. The person who set the interview up for me was like, “Just talk about why you love TV.” So I talked about American Idol, I talked about The West Wing, I talked about The OC, I talked about Grey's Anatomy, I talked about ER, I talked about every single show that I could think of. And she didn't even ask me that many questions. I just talked a lot about why I love television. But I did not get her assistant job. Somebody else did. But I guess she liked me enough to send me to the writers.

The 2006 entry pass that started it all


The 2006 entry pass that started it all
Meg Marinis

What do you attribute your longevity to? Because it’s almost unheard-of to be with a show for this long, nor one company.

If you're not excited and engaged with the stories that you're telling, you're not going to come up with more pitches or new ideas. I get a thrill of doing this job every day. The writers room is my happy place. At 22, I would walk into that writers room to deliver coffee, but I would have the biggest smile on my face because I thought, This is the coolest thing I've ever seen.

And it's still that way for me, even though I've been here for almost 20 years. I love the characters that Shonda built. I never got bored with the show. I never got bored with this job. And I also wanted to be better. I wanted to improve. I learned medicine. I asked questions. I went to set at night. And I think when someone is that engaged and that willing to learn, you keep getting better. So it's the love and the excitement and the engagement, plus the willingness to [put in the] hard work.

Let’s talk about your promotions along the way. Do you have to ask for them, or did they come about naturally?

A little bit of both. As I was going up the ranks of the support staff positions, those came from [my bosses]. But it took me a minute to get staffed on the show as a staff writer and I think it's because they had given me a freelance [position in] season six as a researcher. I'll be honest in that I did not hit it out of the park. And it's because I just don't think I had completely mastered everything. I was still learning.

So, as other people got freelance [opportunities], they were getting promoted, but I wasn't. So I needed to go back and I asked for another shot. And then when I had that next shot, I was determined to hit it out of the park. I knew what I did wrong before. I knew what I needed to work on. And I did. I said, “For me to keep growing as a writer, I either need to go to that next level and be staffed, or I need to leave and see if I can [get on a] staff somewhere else.”

Good for you for being aware of the situation and what you needed, and then actually vocalizing it.

I did have to advocate for myself to get that first staff job. I don't think it was out of the question for them, but I'd also become fairly valuable as the director of medical research. And that's a very hard position to fill. I think like anybody, when you've got someone great in a job, even though you should be training for people to move up, it's hard when you're comfortable with someone somewhere.

For those not in the industry, what does freelance mean versus being staffed on a show?

[Early on] I freelanced for Grey's. I wasn't an official staff writer. When we have longer seasons, we will freelance one of our support staff positions. For instance, we'll give an episode to the writer's assistant, the researcher, somebody on the support staff level, and we'll hire them to write an episode. It's kind of like their shot to see if they're ready to either move on to a staff-level position at our show or somewhere else.

And now that you’re in the top position, what is the best quality in a boss?

Patience, respect, and engagement. Everything trickles down from the top, so if the boss isn't respectful and kind and treats others the way they should be treated, then that's going to be looked at as the example. When you're impatient or your mood gets poor, then you're not fun to work for. And I think especially when you're working in a place where there's deadlines that are hard and fast, not everybody works at the same speed and you just have to be patient. You have to know that it's better for people to do good work rather than fast work. And if the boss isn't excited to be there, then no one's going to be excited to be there. I try to make things fun.

What is the most misunderstood thing about what you do?

When you hit the showrunner level, all of a sudden you're like a CEO of the show. You're looking at a budget, you're managing, you are helping people communicate with one another. It's just a whole other set of skills that you don't think about when you're 11 and want to be a TV writer. They're definitely skills that I've learned and I'm still learning, but this year I've had to learn a whole new language with the budget,

I actually took a John Wells budget seminar. [Editor's note: John Wells was an executive producer on ER]. I was like, I've learned so many things in my life. I can learn how to handle a pattern budget, but it was quite a different language for me in the beginning.

Now that I know what a huge ER fan you are, have you met John Wells?

No, but I did meet Friends cocreator Marta Kauffman on the picket line last year. She was a hero of mine. I cried to her and that was embarrassing. Got my picture taken. Yeah. It's pretty cool to meet your heroes. But no, I've not met John Wells. I would love to, though. I just hope I can form words when I meet him one day.

What is the best piece of career advice that has really stuck with you?

Ask questions, learn about what everybody does on the crew. I've also learned from Shonda that if you write a line and feel like you've heard it before, erase it. Writing is rewriting. Don't ever think something's perfect. I think you're constantly able to improve something until it airs. I think a lot of people need to let go of the ownership of [thinking what they did] was perfect, and to listen and take everybody's thoughts into consideration. We all want the same thing, which is to make the best show possible.

Tell us about a time when you felt you absolutely crushed it at work.

In my day-to-day, I feel like I'm crushing it at work when I am able to [have a hand in] every part of the show so that everybody can keep moving. I've been in every position on this show and I know what it feels like when the boss hasn't weighed in and then you're staying up until 11 o'clock at night. That way, everybody can go home to their families and not have to wait on me.

And then there are a few episodes that I'm really proud of. One was during season 13, and it was Ellen Pompeo's first episode that she ever directed. I felt like I really worked hard on the script. I really collaborated with her, and it filled me with so much joy to be able to see her take on a new role and knock it out of the park. And also, anytime you write any sort of big episode and see it come to life. I wrote the 350th episode when all the people come to stand up for Meredith and vouch for her medical license. I feel like that was an episode that honored the history of Grey's and it showed how much love I have for the show and for the character of Meredith.

How do you deal, though, with the pressure of the enormity of your job?

I just listen to everybody's notes. I find it to be a very collaborative job. There are a lot of people here who have been here for a long time, and I trust everyone that they know what they're doing and that they're good at their job. I trust my instincts. I definitely have those days where I feel like I'm just beaten to the ground with the stress. But I have a six-year-old and I'll come home and he'll say something like, “But how are animals born if they don't lay eggs?” And you just have to be reminded to be in the present. Yes, it's a lot of stress, but I'm doing the best I can. And I have a very, very helpful husband.

How do you deal with disappointment, whether it’s something involving the budget, or not getting the guest star that you wanted?

Obviously in this job you feel disappointment all the time. I just think you take a minute alone, whether it's in your office or by taking a walk around the lot. And don't let anyone else see that you are bothered or rattled, because once you're rattled, then the hundred people behind you are rattled. Take a minute to pivot. Sometimes the pivot is going to be better than the original idea. And again, when I go home and spend an hour with my son, [it helps to] put things into perspective. The next morning I wake up and it's a new day. If I live in the disappointment too long, the train will stay on the tracks.

Let’s do some rapid-fire questions. What is the best piece of money advice that you’ve ever gotten?

Spend in moderation. And on the things that I really use and love, which are jeans, sneakers, and a laptop.

Since you’re constantly on your feet, what are the most comfortable jeans and sneakers then?

On Clouds are really comfortable for me. I wore them [while on the picket line]. A lot of people in the medical field wear them too, because they're super comfortable. And then for jeans, I wear Mother. Those are my favorite because they just fit me the best.

What is your favorite snack on set?

Plain salty Lay's potato chips. I'm also a huge trail mix fan. And I drink a lot of coffee.

What is your go-to thank-you gift?

I send a lot of orchids, but also just acknowledging your appreciation verbally and saying thank you goes a long way. A lot of people don't need a gift; they just need to know that they've been seen and that their work is valued.

What is your go-to sign-off on emails?

Professionally, it's “Best, Meg.” But if it's internal, it's usually me pitching some idea and ending the email with, “Am I crazy?”

How do you sign an email to Shonda?

“Thank you” and “Best.”

And finally, fill in the blank: People would be happier at work if…?

They were nice to each other. Kindness is a huge thing for me. Be nice to each other and thank people for their work. It makes a huge difference. The kindergarten rules, right? Be kind to your neighbor and keep your hands to yourself.

Jessica Radloff is the Glamour senior West Coast editor and author of the NYT best-selling book The Big Bang Theory: The Definitive, Inside Story of the Epic Hit Series.

Originally Appeared on Glamour