"When you really think about it, Bob is kind of like the ultimate Disney princess," said Washington, who introduced Iger at the Television Academy's 25th Hall of Fame ceremony at the Saban Media Center in North Hollywood Tuesday.
Iger was joined by four other inductees – legendary actress Cicely Tyson; "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane; Nickelodeon creator and Oxygen Media co-founder Geraldine Laybourne; and acclaimed director Jay Sandrich ("The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "Soap," "The Cosby Show") – who were lauded by luminaries including Shonda Rhimes and sitcom director James Burrows.
Washington, who enjoyed a seven-season run headlining "Scandal" on Disney-owned ABC, explained her Princess/Iger comparison to an amused (and slightly confused) audience of TV industry professionals.
"He began his career sweeping ashes out of the ovens at Pizza Hut. If that is not a modern-day Cinderella, I don't know what is," she said. "Then, just like Cinderella, things changed when he befriended a mouse. Like Merida, he set out to change his fate. Like Moana, he went beyond the reef. Like Tiana, he kissed a few frogs, professionally speaking. Not every new TV show is going to be 'Grey's Anatomy,' but that's the cost of being bold, and it was worth it."
Iger took risks that became ratings hits and cultural touchstones, including "Twin Peaks," "NYPD Blue" and "Scandal," which put a black woman in the lead role of a network drama for the first time in nearly 40 years, Washington said.
"Without Bob, 'Scandal' would not exist. Though the year was 2012, it was still seen as risky to have a black woman lead a network drama. None of the other networks were doing it … but Bob and the team of leadership that he had empowered, many of them women and women of color, never wavered."
Rhimes, who created "Scandal" and "Grey's," picked up the theme of expanded opportunity in her introduction of the trailblazing Tyson, an honorary Oscar recipient and three-time Emmy winner who plays the mother of Viola Davis' character in Rhimes' "How to Get Away with Murder."
"Cicely is not only famous for the roles she inhabits, but also for the roles that she's turned down. She refuses to lend her talent to any character that would degrade not only herself as an actress, but … that would degrade women of color in general because that could reverberate into future generations," Rhimes said.
That meant Tyson turned down many roles she saw as stereotypes despite the comparative rarity of acting opportunities for black actresses, Rhimes said. "In doing so, Cicely paved a black road through a thick, unyielding white male forest with nothing on her side but courage and integrity. And now, an army of actresses of color can stroll that road today. Trailblazer."
The 95-year-old Tyson, who joked that she's been "getting a lot of awards lately," expressed gratitude for the Television Academy honor and an "incredible" career that allowed her to make a statement, especially when confronted with prejudice.
"There were some issues I wanted to address. I used my career as my platform. That it would bring me to a moment like this is nothing that I ever fathomed. I just was doing what I felt was important," she said.
MacFarlane expressed gratitude, too, but in the irreverent way you'd expect from the writer (and animator, producer, actor and singer) who created "Family Guy" and "Ted."
"This is easily the second-best thing that has happened to me this month," he said.
He was just getting started. "It is truly an honor to be recognized by the Television Hall of Fame alongside so many TV legends – and Les Moonves," the disgraced CBS CEO who was inducted in 2013. As audience members laughed nervously, MacFarlane scolded: "Don't look at me, man! You put him in here."
MacFarlane noted the coincidental timing of his hall induction after a watershed moment for "Family Guy," now produced by Disney after its acquisition of various Fox properties.
"I am receiving this at a time when I've passed another career milestone. Walt Disney's 'Family Guy' – Bob, I’m toeing the (expletive) company line – has been on television for two decades … which is not bad for a show that's been canceled three times. When 'Family Guy' was canceled, I created 'American Dad. Then 'Family Guy' was brought back and I suddenly realized I had done the same show twice and it was too late to do anything about it," he said, before honoring the medium in his own unique way. "Here we are, over 600 episodes later, and still, no one seems to care. That’s the power of television."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Disney's Bob Iger is 'ultimate Disney princess': Kerry Washington