As “Grey’s Anatomy” continues its renaissance seventh season, Seattle Grace will be visited next week by yet another familiar former ABC face. Wilson Cruz, of “My So-Called Life” fame, will be showing up in a particularly poignant episode, acting alongside Sara Ramirez’s Dr. Callie Torres.
In the episode, titled, “Start Me Up,” Wilson plays a gay man whose domestic partner is hurt in a tragic accident on the day of their commitment ceremony.
So, how did Wilson’s collaboration with his friends Sara and Shonda Rhimes (“Grey’s” showrunner) come about?
Access Hollywood caught up with the recently relocated-to-NYC thespian, to find out!
Access: So, tell us about your upcoming “Grey’s” episode and it how it came to be?
Wilson Cruz: I have met Shonda Rhimes on a personal level several times. We both work closely with GLSEN (The Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network) — I think she’s on the board there — and I have worked with them both in LA and NYC.
I’m also really good — old — friends with Sara Ramirez. We were together on Broadway at the same time – she was in “Capeman” and I was in “Rent” – so I went to Sara’s birthday and Shonda and I were talking there and we’ve always gotten along, and she was a big fan of “My So-Called Life,” and she said to me, “We’re going to work together one day.” And you hear that a lot in Los Angeles, but not very often do people mean it.
So, about three weeks after I moved to New York, I got a phone call from my manager on a Friday, and he said, “You’ve got to be here on Tuesday.” So, sight unseen, I didn’t even know what the part was, I was heading out.
I was very excited to see that Shonda had written an amazing story line in this episode, in which I play a man who is the partner of a man who is injured in a tragic accident right after our domestic partnership ceremony, and who’s rushed to Seattle Grace hospital.
And in the process, she wrote this amazing monologue about the differences between domestic partnership and marriage. And it’s timely politically and I’m really glad that I got to tackle it. As somebody who works as an activist as well, it was really important to me to tackle it in a way that wasn’t someone who was feeling sorry for himself, but more as somebody who was frustrated and really fed up that we, as gay and lesbian people, have to convince people that our relationships aren’t anything less than what a heterosexual relationship is.
Access: So, what journey does your character set out on?
Wilson Cruz: So, (my character) is someone who is determined to reach a time in our history when everybody understands that love is love and the love that’s shared between these two characters is real.
We just want the opportunity to make it special and make it a binding relationship. So it was very exciting to me.
Access: How many days did you spend shooting?
Wilson Cruz: We shot it over Thanksgiving, so it wasn’t particularly crazy. So, out of the 11 days of this episode, I shot for three of them – three very long days. All of my scenes are with Sara… my good friend. So, it was not only amazing to be a part of a show of which I’ve watched every episode since the pilot, but also to be working with someone that I hold in such high esteem and who has been a friend for many years.
Access: Having watched the show and being a fan, was it weird being inside the belly of the Seattle Grace set?
Wilson Cruz: Yes, I am an actor, but first and foremost, I am a fan! So, I was acting like a fan. It was like when I visited the set of “The West Wing,” and I was like, ‘Oh my god, I’m at The White House!’… this time it was, ‘I’m at Seattle Grace!’
I got to meet a lot of people that I wasn’t in scenes with. And I had to remind myself not to call everyone “Meredith” and “McDreamy.” I have to say that being on that set was really amazing in that that crew and cast are really tight. As an actor, when you come on as a guest star on a lot of these shows, you have to really hold on because it can run right over you because they have their own pace and you have to catch onto that pace.
But this episode was very much about the acting and the scene and getting it right – I actually felt that I was able to follow my instincts and voice some of my ideas and they were receptive to that and took some of my advice on how to do the scene.
It was such a great crew to work with and I felt very, very safe there. I really could not say more about the experience… it was pretty great.
Access: What else is going on with you career-wise right now? I know you just moved from LA to NYC to pursue more stage work. What’s it been like moving back to The Big Apple?
Wilson Cruz: Well, I moved back because I’m originally from here, and my background is in the theater, and in order to get work in theater, you have to be in the room … it’s not the sort of thing you can put yourself on tape for and hope for the best. I’ve been longing to come back to New York and do more stage work. So, in August I decided to pack up and I came here in October. So, now I’m just looking for the right material and the right vehicle to pursue that.
Of course, the minute I got here — I was here three weeks — I got the call about “Grey’s,” and it coincided with an independent film that I’ve wanted to do for a longtime… and the funding finally came through – it’s a film called, “Meth Head,” in which I play Lukas Haas’ partner and Lukas plays a man whose life is destroyed by his addiction to crystal meth. And the movie’s all about our relationship.
I worked with Lukas 14 years ago on “Johns,” and it was amazing to be back with him as an older … shall we say, “more seasoned”… actor with him.
And I was really happy to see that he is still the amazing actor that he’s always been. I really think that it’s going to end up being a powerful film and it might be some of the best work that I’ve ever done, and maybe some of the best work that Lukas has ever done. I’m excited to see the finished product of that.
So, that’s about it right now. There’s other stuff that I can’t talk about right now, but I’m very excited about! So, as soon as I know, I’ll let you know!