When “Grey’s Anatomy” creator Shonda Rhimes and her casting team were looking for an actress to play Dr. Miranda Bailey, Rhimes had imagined her as a short, blond, white female.
Didn’t quite turn out that way.
Chandra Wilson may be considered short and she’s definitely female, but the other preconceptions of the character went out the window after she auditioned and, ultimately, got the role that has helped propel her career in ways she couldn’t have even imagined a couple of years back.
“It’s not until we get outside (the set) that we’re even aware,” Wilson says of being recognized without her medical scrubs and how much the series has hit the cultural zeitgeist. “Only when I’m in Target and people come up to me do I have a real idea of the popularity of the show.”
Wilson interpreted the character, playfully nicknamed “the Nazi” for her tough-as-nails demeanor with her eager interns, without anyone’s input by reading the script.
“I never had any conversations with Shonda,” Wilson says. “I took what was there on the page and tried to breathe as much life into it as I could. I never sat down with anyone to discuss it.”
With the show going gangbusters on ABC — and the network moving it to a fall Thursday 9 p.m. timeslot — Wilson, like the rest of the “Grey’s” cast, can rest comfortably that, as long as their characters aren’t killed off, they’ve got a regular job for a while.
And that might be the best news indeed for the Houston native, who’s had a steady career in TV ranging from roles in “Law & Order” to “Sex and the City” and “The Sopranos.” But being Dr. Bailey means no more casting calls or waiting by the phone for jobs.
“Not auditioning anymore will be nice,” admits Wilson, the mother of a newborn (yes, her pregnancy on the show was legit). “It still turns my stomach.”
But for all the success and financial rewards that “Grey’s” will bring, Wilson doesn’t see it as the culmination or highlight of her acting career. It just means more people will see her now than when she was performing in small venues onstage in Gotham.
“The only difference in my career now is the visibility I have,” Wilson reflects. “People say I made it now, but I feel like I made it doing summer stock.”
Favorite scene of last season?
“Going into contractions. I had to put all my vanity aside for the season as I grew in front of everybody. What I look back at this season was my changing body.”
“Soap operas. I watch everything on ABC and ‘The Young and the Restless.’ When I get home I spend four hours everyday watching. I’ve been doing it for 15 years.”
“Phylicia Rashad. She’d been around for a while before ‘Cosby’ afforded her to do what she wanted to do, including win Tonys. I respect the kind of actress and artist that she is.”