For years, Sara Ramirez was the actress whom knowledgeable Broadway insiders consistently pegged for breakout success. Then she found that success, winning a Tony for her role as the Lady in the Lake in Spamalot. Then she found it again, joining the cast of Grey’s Anatomy as orthopedic surgeon Dr. Callie Torres, girlfriend of the hapless intern George. Ramirez spoke to Jada Yuan about finally living large on TV.
They’ve signed you up for the full year, so clearly things are going to work out with George.
I wouldn’t be so sure. I know they’re keeping me around, but I don’t know if it’s for George.
Were you a fan of the show before you signed on?
Oh, yes! As a Latin person, I was really proud to see the ethnic people on the show. I thought, Wow, there are no color limits. Nobody’s making comments about how there are African-Americans on the show and an Asian on the show. However, I did think, Where’s the Latin person?
A lot of fans hated your character because they wanted George to wind up with Meredith Grey, the show’s lead.
You do run across a lot of people who are extremely invested in that story line. Obviously, I’ve heard some negative stuff.
You joined the show in the middle of the second season. Did you feel like an outsider?
The weird thing about working in television is that you only see the people that you’re in scenes with. It’s not like you’re all running around the set together. So if you’re going to hang out together, you kind of have to make an effort. And I think people have families, people have lives.
Were you beginning to think you’d be doing theater forever?
I’d been in New York for about twelve years, working my butt off. I just went where the work was, and because of my voice, that was Broadway. But I’d grown disillusioned with the theater scene. I’m five nine, and people didn’t know where to put me, a tall Latin woman. They were like, “Well, you can sing really good and you can act okay, but you’re not black and you’re not white. We just don’t know who to cast you as.”
Was there pressure in going from stage to TV to change your appearance?
Not at all. I actually gained a lot of weight when I started to do Grey’s Anatomy. Doing eight theater shows a week, girl, is such a workout. But with TV, you’re, like, sitting in your trailer waiting to go to the set. And there’s catering and craft service every place you look.
Between you and America Ferrera on Ugly Betty, there’s a mini-boom for curvier, “real” Latin women.
Absolutely. I’ve spoken to America several times at events about how funny it is that we’re on TV, and how cool it is to represent a group of women who aren’t stick-thin. I know my boyfriend loves to have something to hold onto. There’s a lot of men out there who do.
Now that you’ve dealt with both, which fans are more rabid, Monty Python fans or Grey’s Anatomy fans?
Monty Python. They show up in costume.
ABC. Premieres september 21, 9 p.m.