It shouldn't come as a surprise that on a show as long running and successful as Grey's Anatomy, there are more than a few skeletons in the closet.
One of the most successful medical shows around, Grey's Anatomy is set in the fictional Grey-Sloane Memorial Hospital, located in Seattle, and initially followed a bunch of fresh-faced interns who were taking their first steps of their careers as well as a host of more experienced medical pros. The show made its debut way back in 2005 and, at the time of writing, is still going strong today. In fact, it even features some of the original cast including, of course, Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey.
So what is it that made the show such a hit for ABC?
With great characters, strong writing and a force majeure of a show-runner, there are a lot of positives to be had. However, did you know there are a whole host of crazy secrets as well? We've got actors being lined up for different roles, a plethora of controversial decisions, some pretty nasty alleged political incorrectness, a smattering of Emmy drama, and a secret Scot hidden in the ranks.
So if you want to know all the secrets behind this wildly successful show, you are in the right place. Here are 20 Crazy Secrets About The Cast Of Grey's Anatomy.
20 Sandra Oh originally auditioned for the part of Bailey
Sandra Oh has become synonymous with her role as Cristina Yang in Grey's Anatomy, but things could have turned very differently. Oh originally auditioned for the role of Bailey, but it turned out, that wasn't quite what she had in mind.
Yang explained her go-getting approach to landing the role in the Beyond the Screen video series: "When I first auditioned, I actually auditioned for the part of Bailey. And I played Bailey nothing like how Bailey was supposed to really be, which is Chandra Wilson. And they said, 'You know what, we're gonna test a bunch of people. Why don't you come in? We'd love for you to test for Bailey.' And I said, 'No, I don't want to test for Bailey. There's another part you haven't cast yet, and that's the part of Cristina."
So, just as we are used to seeing Oh's ambitious drive and in the show, it seems like the actor playing her might have something in common as well.
By the time Cristina Yang bowed out of life in Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital after the tenth season, Oh had been awarded a Golden Globe for Best Supporting actress in a Series, and a Screen Actor's Guild award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series. She has also been nominated for a whole host of Emmys.
19 Ellen Pompeo wanted a part in a different ABC pilot
It is very hard to imagine life without the ever-present Meredith Grey on screens across the globe, but Ellen Pompeo very nearly wasn't the star of Grey's Anatomy.
Pompeo was originally going for a role in another ABC pilot, named Secret Service, but the show wasn't chosen to continue. Show runners, impressed with her natural talent, asked her to audition for the role of Meredith instead. And thank goodness they did.
Long forgotten in the face of the incredible success of Grey's Anatomy, Pompeo actually had a moderately successful, and growing, film career before her most famous role. When she landed the part, she was actually worried that she had ruined her career as a film actress.
Pompeo is up front and honest about her status as one of the highest paid woman in television, and about her role as producer and director of the show that made her a household name. In an interview she has stated: "I've finally gotten to a place where I'm okay asking for what I deserve, which is something that comes only with age [...] I know that's the industry perception because I've been this character for fourteen years. But the truth is, anybody can be good on a show season one and two. Can you be good 14 years later?"
18 Isaiah Washington auditioned for the role of Dr. Derek Shepherd
In a parallel universe somewhere, there are hosts of shows with different actors in different roles. One such universe may see Isaiah Washington in the role of Dr. Derek Shepherd. Yes, really.
Washington's audition for the role was unsuccessful when one Patrick Dempsey and his 'dreamy' eyes came along.
However, when the actor initially cast as Dr. Preston Burke dropped out, Washington was called up. He has said of the process: "I knew I could never be wrong in my heart about something so good and genuine."
Preston Xavier Burke M.D. really went through it during his time as a cardiothoracic surgeon at Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital. In season 1, he was passed over for the role of Chief of Surgery by former mentor Dr. Richard Webber, in favor of luring Dr. Derek Shepherd to the hospital. He and partner, Cristina Yang then went through the trauma of miscarriage. In the second season he was shot and lost control of his right hand - not great when you're a brain surgeon. And in his final season, the character jilted the long-suffering Yang at the alter. Quite the list of traumatic events.
The character of Dr. Preston Burke was on screen in Grey's Anatomy between 2005, and 2007. More on which, later...
17 Kate Walsh was a temporary hire
Kate Walsh, in the role of Dr. Addison Montgomery, was originally only added to the cast of Grey's Anatomy as a temporary hire. Thanks to her sparkling personality and relationship with the rest of the cast, Walsh was made a permanent fixture and even went on to land her own spin-off from the show, in Private Practice.
Walsh has had a sterling career and has had roles in shows such as Homicide:Life on the Street, Law and Order, The Drew Carey Show and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. She joined Grey's in 2005 as the estranged wife of McDreamy himself, Dr. Derek Shepherd.
In 2007, Walsh was named as one of a number of characters to go on to star in Private Practice, where she remained for six seasons. Since her Grey's glory days, Walsh has had roles in the notable success stories of the television series of Fargo and 13 Reasons Why. She has also had a significant role as a mother in the hit film, The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
Walsh made her directorial debut on Private Practice's twentieth episode and said of the experience: "It's terrifying. I'm telling you in case I chicken out. It makes me accountable."
16 Katherine Heigl removed herself from Emmy consideration
In one of the more bizarre and unexpected events linked to Hollywood, Katherine Heigl removed herself from Emmy consideration in 2008. Yes, you heard it right, removed herself... In an attempt to apparently 'preserve the integrity' of the academy organization, Heigl claimed she was not given enough of a role to warrant her inclusion in the prestigious awards ceremony. She said after her disappearance from the nominations list was discovered: "I did not feel that I was given the material this season to warrant an Emmy nomination and in an effort to maintain the integrity of the academy organization, I withdrew my name from contention."
Of course, this odd move probably didn't have anything to do with a gruelling schedule in a hit TV show interfering in a blossoming movie career. Probably. Heigl has a reputation for being outspoken having criticised her role in Knocked Up and described her character's storyline in Grey's Anatomy as being a "ratings ploy".
Sure enough, Heigl ended her time as Dr. Izzie Stevens in the sixth season of Grey's after surviving Stage 4 metastatic melanoma and a broken marriage. Still that Golden Raspberry Award nomination for Worst Actress will have helped her Emmy standing, right?
15 Jessica Capshaw auditioned for three roles before she was successful
Jessica Capshaw, otherwise known as Dr. Arizona Robbins, chief of pediatric surgery at Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital, shows that persistence really does pay off eventually. Capshaw auditioned for three roles in Grey's Anatomy before she landed her role as Arizona Robbins. She first went up for the role of McDreamy's love interest, Nurse Rose, then followed up with an audition for Sadie, wild friend of Meredith Grey and then finally landed the gig that has seen her gainfully employed right up tot he present day.
The part of Nurse Rose eventually went to actress, Lauren Stamile, but was never to be seen again after two short seasons.
It's clear that Capshaw is really into her onscreen persona, she has described her relationship with the role by saying: "I am quite in awe of this character's resilience and her ability to weather storms and get through them and move on. I love it so much when they write it for her and I get to play it so much. But just the humor, and the redundant questions and the hilarity that you find in the middle of things that sometimes feel like despair."
Remember, if at first you don't succeed, it's sometimes the case that patience and persistence, is a virtue.
14 Pompeo was pregnant in season 6
You may be forgiven for not knowing, but Ellen Pompeo, also known as Dr Meredith Grey, was pregnant during season 6 of Grey's Anatomy. To get around this very obvious ands growing 'problem', the show employed the usual television tactics of shooting Pompeo from specific angles and positions. Virtually every shot of her in the season 6 run was a mid shot or close-up in order to hide a growing baby bump. Eventually, Meredith Grey had to donate part of her liver so that her alter ego could take a little time out for maternity leave, which seems an extreme way to catch a little down time.
Pompeo has done her best to keep her children out of the limelight, which is no easy feat. She has described the process in an interview with Today's Parent: "It's a challenging. it's still a luxury challenge. So it's just a balancing act. Every family, every new mother, every new dad, everyone has to balance certain things. I just have a slightly different set of circumstances to balance. And, at the end of the day, it's still – it's a luxury problem to have."
Pompeo is married to Chris Ivery and together they now have three children, Stella, Sienna, and Eli.
13 Jesse Williams used to be a teacher
Otherwise known as Dr. Jackson Avery, Jesse Williams started his career as a high school teacher. after graduating from Temple University with a degree in African-American Studies and Film and Media Arts, he taught in the Philadelphia public school system for a respectable six years. After spending his down time writing a screenplay, Williams submitted it to Sundance where it became a finalist in the prestigious Screenwriter's Lab. His success convinced him to follow his creative dreams and after a chance meeting with a blast from his past, and a brief stint as a model, he landed roles in theatre productions that eventually led to his breakout role in Grey's Anatomy.
Williams really wanted to be a lawyer or football star and never intentionally aimed for life on screen.
But Williams hasn't left his social conscience behind. He is the founder of farWord Inc, a production company that works with socially minded independent productions,and he also sits on the board of The Advancement Project, a civil rights advocacy organization.
He has said of his time as a teacher: "I knew then I needed to follow my creative desires, I didn't want to look back and say 'What if?'" Wise words indeed.
12 Isaiah Washington got himself in big trouble
And so back to the complex life of Preston Burke and his alter ego Isaiah Washington. Isaiah Washington was written out of the show following great controversy. He is alleged to have used foul and homophobic language in a row with Patrick Dempsey that led to him outing a fellow Grey's cast mate, T.R. Knight. According to Shonda Rhimes, his departure form the show was a long time coming. Washington is alleged to have used a homophobic slur to describe T.R. Knight both on set, and at a later date during an interview at the Golden Globes event.
Surely due in part to her status as a legend, Shonda Rhimes has found it in her heart to forgive Washington for his actions. She even went so far as to allow him to reprise his role in a guest star spot in season 10. She said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly that: "I feel very strongly and fully believe in people's ability to grown and change and learn from their mistakes and when they know better, to do better."
Washington made an emotional return to the show to offer his former partner, Cristina Yang, the opportunity to run a hospital in Zurich.
11 T.R. Knight was forced to come out
T.R. Knight played Dr. George O'Malley in Grey's Anatomy. In 2007, the show was in its heyday and George O'Malley one of the most popular characters thanks to his lovable charm.
What is alleged to have happened is that during the course of a bitter off-screen dispute between Isaiah Washington and Patrick Demspey, Washington apparently used an outdated and politically incorrect homophobic slur to describe Dempsey's friendship with T.R. Knight. While Washington was publicly called-out for his behaviour, the incident forced Knight's hand and he had to reveal his sexual orientation as a gay man.
T.R. Knight said of the experience of being publicly outed: "I guess there have been a few questions about my sexuality, and I'd like to keep quiet any unnecessary rumours about sexuality. While I prefer to keep my personal life private, I hope that fact that I'm gay isn't the most interesting part of me."
Once wasn't enough so it seems. Isaiah Washington repeated the slur in the public arena of the press room at the Golden Globes. This was the straw that broke the camel's back and led to Knight making the fifth season of Grey's Anatomy his last. You might want to check out the next item before you decide for certain though...
10 T.R. Knight left on bad terms
After being publicly outed by Isaiah Washington, not once, but twice, T.R. Knight left Grey's Anatomy at the end of season 5. Pointing toward the Washington incident and a lack of screen time for his decision to leave, Knight seems like the innocent one in the whole thing. Rhimes, on the other hand, had a slightly different version of events at the time blaming a good old 'breakdown in communication'.
Whatever happened, and we may never know for sure, time has moved on and Knight's time on Grey's Anatomy is firmly in his past.
Since leaving the show he has had amazing opportunities including taking a lead role alongside none other than Sir Patrick Stewart in a David Mamet play, A Life in the Theatre.
Knight also met his now-husband shortly after leaving the show that made him famous. It seems the past really is in the past especially when we consider that T.R. Knight went on to star in Shonda Rhimes latest show. While Knight admits to some understandable nerves about being back in 'Shondaland' he stated in one interview that: " Shonda and I have had a meal together, so it's been fantastic. It leaves me with a very grateful and thankful heart to be invited back." Life is on the up for T.R. Knight.
9 Brooke Smith was written out
One of the more controversial and surprising decisions amongst Grey's fans was the choice to write out Brooke Smith's very popular character, Dr. Erica Hahn. Suspicion has long-been held that the decision had something to do with the fact that Hahn was involved in a same sex relationship with fellow medic, Calliope Torres.
While Shonda Rhimes issued the following statement blaming restricted character development, things seemed a little different from Smith's perspective. Rhimes said in a statement: "Clearly it's not an issue as we have a lesbian character on the show – Calliope Torres. Sara Ramirez is an incredible comedic and dramatic actress and we wanted to be able to play up her magic. Unfortunately we did not find that magic and chemistry with Brooke's character would sustain in the long run."
Smith, on the other hand, had this to say: "I was surprised and disappointed when they just suddenly told me that they couldn't write for my character anymore. I was really shocked, it was the last thing I expected." Because the Callica pairing was so popular, this has led many fans to conclude that this was a dubious top-down decision made so as not to feature gay women on the show.
8 Kevin McKidd is Scottish
Kevin McKidd, who plays Dr. Owen Hunt, as his name and hair colour suggests, is actually Scottish. McKidd was born in Elgin in Scotland and played the heart-breakingly sad role of Tommy in Trainspotting – just try this film out for size if you want to hear a real Scottish accent.
McKidd's knockout role in the brilliant HBO series Rome led to him being cast on Grey's Anatomy as Owen Hunt. His time on the show allowed him to pursue his dream of directing and he made his directorial debut in the show's seventh season by directing the episode titled, 'Don't Deceive Me (Please Don't Go)'. His time on the show also resulted in a Prism Award for Best Performance in a Drama Series Multi-Episode Storyline – and ultimately, American citizenship for himself and his young family.
Kidd joins a whole host of British actors secretly taking American roles without being spotted. Hugh Laurie on House and Andrew Lincoln in The Walking Dead might just be the best examples. And McKidd cannot be contained by simple Earthly roles. You might also recognize McKidd as Poseidon, God of the Sea in the Percy Jackson films.
7 McDreamy nickname was inspired by Dempsey's natural charm
Shonda Rhimes revealed the origins of the McDreamy nickname in an interview with the one and only Oprah Winfrey. When asked how the descriptive moniker came about, Rhimes explains: "When we were shooting the pilot, Patrick was seriously the most adorable man we'd ever seen on camera. We'd watch the monitor and think, 'Look at his dreamy eyes!' So we started calling him Patrick McDreamy, and it stuck."
Rhimes also explained how McDreamy appeared to be the perfect man for the first eight episodes, but then was revealed to have a HUGE flaw: a wife. Still, that flaw hasn't done anything to put off or dissuade the character's legions of fans... Interestingly, Patrick Dempsey very nearly wasn't Dr. Derek Shepherd.
Before he took on the role, he auditioned for the role of Dr. Robert Chase in fellow medical drama, House.
Once ranked by Buddy TV at number one in a list of TV's best looking men, Patrick Dempsey will forever be associated with the role that made him famous – and those dreamy eyes, of course. This might have helped him achieve his dream of pursuing a career outside of the gruelling TV drama schedule. Dempsey has been the face of both L'Oreal and Versace.
6 Alex Karev was added after the pilot
It might supprise you to learn that it was only after the Grey's Anatomy pilot that the character of Dr. Alex Karev was added to the show. Ably played by Justin Chambers, the actor admitted in a Paley Convention in 2008 that: "The character wasn't even created yet [...] They sent the pilot to New York, where I live, and I saw it and I loved it and I went out to LA to try to win the part and auditioned and got the role, so that's how Alex came about."
Karev began life as a surgical intern on the show and later climbed the ranks to become a pediatric surgical fellow. The character also featured in the Grey's spin-off, Private Practice, during the Grey's/Private Practice cross-over event.
Chambers, on the other hand, started his career in front of the camera as a fashion model after being approached by a scout in Paris, France. He went on to land roles in Another World amongst other shows and films before he became one of the most popular Grey's Anatomy characters. Chambers has picked up a fair few accolades including a Screen Actor's Guild Award and numerous nominations for the People's Choice Awards.
5 Pompeo turned from star to director
Ellen Pompeo is one of the most recognisable female stars in America and has starred in more than 300 episodes of Grey's Anatomy since the very first episode. She credited tequila (jokingly!) and the ability of actors to make people feel something for the show's longevity in a recent interview with Seth Meyers on his show, Late Night with Seth Meyers. But in season 13, Pompeo turned her talented hand to directing and took a turn behind the camera for two episodes titled, 'Be Still My Soul', and 'Old Scars, Future Hearts'.
Pompeo says of her experience as a show runner: "I think every actor should direct because it is a different viewpoint [...] But again, I'm super blessed because Shonda Rhimes has allowed me to evolve with the show and direct and produce the show. So now I have much more ownership and much more say."
The Grey's stalwart is now one of the world's most highly paid actresses, raking in a cool $20 million dollar annual contract with ABC for her multi-part role in Grey's Anatomy. However, she has hinted at life behind the camera when the show eventually ends. Pompeo is currently developing some new shows with ABC Studios and she has started her own production company, Calamity Jane.
4 Chyler Leigh and her brother
Chyler Leigh proved she would do whatever it takes to make it as an actress when she landed her first pro role. While we're not in the business of making any judgements, you might well have a lot of thoughts right about now. Leigh had a big role in 1997 family flick, Kickboxing Academy, directed by Richard Gabai, playing the character of Cindy. Unfortunately for her, her real life brother, Christopher Khayman Leigh was cast as her love interest, Danny and her had to kiss not just once, but twice in the film. The unfortunate incident was first unearthed by fan bloggers, Praise Anatomy.
Fortunately, the gross incident appears to have been worth it as Leigh went on to land roles in Not another Teen Movie and, of course, Grey's Anatomy. Naturally, you will have your own opinion about this issue, but it definitely wasn't done in a creepy way on screen.
Leigh's character, Lexi Grey, first appeared in ABC's hit medical drama at the end of season 3. She was then revealed to be the half-sister of Meredith Grey. Leigh left the show at the end of season 8 to spend more time with her family.
3 Camilla Luddington missed her audition
Camilla Luddington initially missed an audition for her role in Grey's Anatomy thanks to a hectic schedule promoting the Tomb Raider video game. Thankfully, the show's producers weren't able to cast the role in the initial audition round and as Luddington was already known to Shonda Rimes, she was given the opportunity to action for the part. Within one week, Luddington landed her breakout role as Jo Wilson.
Luddington had roles in True Blood, and Californication before taking on Grey's Anatomy back in 2012. Dr. Jo Wilson was initially supposed to be a temporary character in a recurring role before it was announced she would become a series regular from season 10. Jo first appeared as an intern under Meredith Grey who used her as an example of failure. As of season 14, the character of Jo Wilson becomes Chief Resident despite her abusive husband she is running from. Season 13 saw the character's lightest onscreen presence due to Camilla Luddington's real-life pregnancy. Luddington, with a little assistance from her husband Matthew Alan, gave birth to a baby girl Hayden Alan in April 2017.
So, from almost-failed-intern to Chief Resident, Jo Wilson has proven to be one tough cookie of a character with serious sticking power.
2 Sara Ramirez can really sing
Sara Ramirez is an award-winning actress with a Tony Award under her belt as well as a Screen actors Guild Award, and a Satellite Award. Ramirez won the Tony for her part as 'The Lady of the Lake' in Spamalot. After picking up her gong for Best Featured Actress in a Musical in 2005, Ramirez was offered a part in Grey's Anatomy as Dr. Calliope 'Callie' Thomas in season 2.
In her younger years, Ramirez graduated from the prestigious Julliard School, but not before landing her first broadway role in Paul Simon's 1998 musical, The Capeman.
Ramirez isn't restricted to television and the stage though, she has also taken roles in You've Got Mail, the 1998 Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan rom-com, Spider-Man, and Chicago. More recently, Ramirez has continued her stellar career with parts in Madam Secretary, and Sofia the First.
Fans of the show will know that there is an audio companion to the famous musical episode titled: Grey's Anatomy: The Music Event. 'Song Beneath The Song' is the title of Season 7, episode 18 which features Ramirez's character, Callie, being resuscitated after being in a motor vehicle collision. As the guys of Grey-Sloane Memorial Hospital try to save the life of their friend, they sing musical hits from the show's past.
1 Chandra Wilson is a Broadway star
Season 3 of Grey's Anatomy may have surprised many viewers when Chandra Wilson's character, Dr. Miranda Bailey, sang a sweet lullaby to her on-screen son. While viewers were surprised by Wilson's vocal skills, fans of Broadway might have known she had already starred in musical hits like Caroline or Change, On the Town Revival, and Avenue Q.
Wilson credits her mother's desire to keep her daughter out of trouble for triggering her love of the stage. She would attend training classes three times a week in Houston theatre group, Theatre Under the Stars. During her time in the junior section she learned singing and dancing. She then attend the High School For The Performing and Visual Arts in Houston, and the rest, is history.
Wilson landed a major role in Chicago as 'Mama' Morton after wrapping Grey's Anatomy. On her first night, she was granted a friendly audience thanks to the presence of cast pals, T.R Knight, James Pickens, and Sara Ramirez. Wilson said of her first night experience: " I had a lot of friends out in the audience. There was a lot of nervous energy in the room and that, I think, helped everyone, including the rest of the cast, have fun."
Which of these surprised you most? Let us know in the comments!