Sara Ramirez is perhaps best known for her role as Dr. Callie Torres on "Grey's Anatomy," but playing a small-screen doctor isn't where she got her start.
The actress, who trained at Juilliard, won a 2005 Tony Award for her role in "Monty Python's Spamalot" and ABC executives were so enchanted that they offered her a part on the ABC show of her choice. She wisely signed on with the popular medical drama during its second season.
The 36-year-old actress spoke with The Huffington Post about memorizing medical jargon, the state of reality TV and what it's like to be labeled a Latina actress in Hollywood today.
You've been on "Grey's Anatomy" for quite some time. Do you think you could help out in a hospital if they were short staffed?
(Laughs) No! I could maybe pretend, if I could remember some of the terminology and spew some fancy, long medical jargon. I was literally sitting here trying to remember what I said at work today. I like to Google the stuff I’m talking about so I sort of have a sense of what I’m talking about, and I remember it for the scene and then something happens where your brain puts it in the trash.
It must be great to have job security.
It is. It’s steady. It’s a job, certainly from month to month, that you can count on. I definitely feel a sense of stability and I feel really lucky because it’s rare that a show sticks around for so long.
What’s your guilty pleasure show?
I used to watch "The Bachelor" but it’s lost my interest now. The reality shows are getting worse and worse. They’re out of control and have been for some time.
Don’t you love how every couple of years there’s an article on Latina actresses on the rise? What is your take on that?
Yeah, it’s like they keep lifting the same rock. Look, I want to word this carefully because I don’t want to upset people, because cultural identity is such a sensitive subject in this country. But I’m an American citizen, and yes, I’m Mexican and Irish-American. Does that mean every time they’re going to talk about Irish actresses they’re going to bring my name up? No. But when they talk about Latina actresses, you bet I’m going to be on there.
I’m proud of my heritage -- don’t get me wrong -- but at a certain point it does get a little disappointing … I think we get into patterns of just celebrating people over and over again. I am completely grateful and pleased for the attention and the recognition I’ve received for playing the roles that I’ve played. I’m very proud of my heritage. [But] I feel like we’re losing sight of what should truly be celebrated, that we have such great opportunity in this country and there are so many more people we’re not seeing.
There are plenty of Latina actresses that no one’s ever heard of … Some are really brown, some are light skinned and some look like they’re Caucasian, but it’s like we only want to identify with a certain kind of look and celebrate that under the guise that this is a "Latina actress."
And there's the stereotype surrounding "curvy" Latina actresses.
I think we get a little caught up in these stereotypes. I myself have been part of that. I’ve been a part in celebrating curves. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with celebrating curves. I think the issue is around pigeonholing people to represent only one thing, and once you’re identified with that one thing, you are that one thing forever.
When I’ve lost weight, some fans get very upset because they want me to stay curvy. But my own self worth and wellness regime has to do with my well being and longevity, so if I make the choice to take care of myself and the outcome is losing weight, it’s disappointing that there might be some backlash. It’s like, "Wow, really?"
… But I do understand how there is a teenager somewhere in America who is feeling bad about herself because she has curves. Then she sees a woman who has curves playing a doctor -- an intelligent doctor on TV who is flawed and lovable and going through her life just like everybody else -- and she identifies with her and feels better about herself. There is the positive side to it too.
Fans in L.A. can catch Ramirez, along with other "Grey's Anatomy" cast members at Royce Hall at UCLA March 18 for "Grey's Anatomy: The Songs Beneath the Show."