The fictitious Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital in Grey’s Anatomy has not only given gifted ‘doctors’ but also helped many actors recognise their directorial dreams, says actor Chandra Wilson.
The actor, who has been a part of the longest-running scripted primetime show since its inception in 2005, ventured into direction on the Shonda Rhimes-created series because she understood the importance of working behind the camera as a woman of colour.
“I’m always an actor first, but I was flattered and welcomed the opportunity to direct on the show, because I understood that it is going to mean a lot to other directors, other women of colour, that were watching that journey and wanted the opportunity to direct as well,” Wilson, 50, told PTI in a telephonic interview from the US.
She has directed several episodes since season six of Grey’s Anatomy. This opened the door to her directing on Rhimes’ Scandal and three episodes of Freeform’s The Fosters.
Besides Wilson, fellow Grey’s Anatomy actors, including the main lead Ellen Pompeo, Kevin McKidd, Debbie Allen, Jesse Williams and Sarah Drew have tried their hand at direction on the show.
“I’ve been able to have other directors come in and watch as a college shadowing year as I direct, go on and start their own journey. So it’s like we portray a teaching hospital on TV and we’ve also been able to be a teaching environment in real-world and grow directors right out of our show.”
The actor, who plays the no-nonsense Dr Miranda Bailey on the ABC show, said the character is important for her as even after over 15 years she continues to be an inspiration.
“They’ve been able to watch her journey from a resident to now Chief of Surgery, knowing that that was a goal she had for herself in the beginning. They’ve had the chance to see her obtain a goal. They told me over and over again and that’s been inspiring, and it has started many women on their medical school journey,” she said of her breakthrough role.
Rhimes initially envisioned Dr Bailey as a blonde, white woman but when the actor auditioned for the part, the creator knew Wilson was the perfect fit and the rest, as they say, is history.
Wilson, who reprised her role on show’s spin-offs — Private Practice and Station 19– said it was important for her that Rhimes agreed with the vision she had for the part.
“I always want to honour that. I am an actor that looks at the written word, the scripts that I receive and try to bring that to life as opposed to worrying about how I see the character.
“I’ve always known that Bailey did not come from me, she came from Shonda. It’s really important for me to honour that relationship as my boss, as the writer, as the creator of the show, and to always make sure that I’m bringing that vision forward.”
Many medical dramas have come and gone, some are still trying to make their presence felt, but the adulation and attention Grey’s Anatomy continues to receive is unparalleled.
Wilson, though unable to pinpoint the reason, credited the show’s “comforting” quality for its popularity.
“Our fan base is very invested in the characters, their lives and their journey. They really care about these individuals. But I think it’s just like a soap opera where you can come back years later and still get reinvested in the show. People appreciate the fact that original series regulars are still on the show,” she said.
Apart from Wilson and Pompeo, Justin Chambers and James Pickens Jr are the two other original series regulars who are still a part of the show.
The actor, who has won a Screen Actors Guild Award for her performance on the show, emphasised that “there is room” for other hospital dramas.
“I watched the other medical shows that are out there today. They can view things differently, shoot it differently to focus on different aspects of the hospital. So, now we don’t have the monopoly on it,” she quipped.
Watch Grey’s Anatomy Season 16 ‘Along With The US’ weekends at 10pm on Zee Cafe.
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