Q&A Interview with Grey’s Anatomy star Chandra Wilson (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)
September 13, 2011 by Dennis Amith
With the upcoming DVD release of “Grey’s Anatomy – The Complete Seventh Season”, we had the opportunity to watch Chandra Wilson’s strong-willed character, Dr. Miranda Bailey, having to face a side of herself after the tragic events which took place in the season finale of season six.
Having directed several episodes for “Grey’s Anatomy”, the actress has also appeared on shows such as “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”, “The Sopranos” and the film “Philadelphia”.
But her accomplishments also include a Screen Actors Guild Award for “Best Actress in a Drama”, a “People’s Choice Award” plus three NAACP Image Awards and is also a five-time Emmy nominee.
With the eighth season of “Grey’s Anatomy” to air on ABC on Sept. 22nd, “Grey’s Anatomy – The Complete Seventh Season”DVD box set is planned for release on Sept. 13th.
The following is a media Q&A featuring Chandra Wilson reflecting on season seven of “Grey’s Anatomy”.
Did you have any idea how successful Grey’s Anatomy would become when you first signed up for the role of Dr. Miranda Bailey?
CHANDRA: I had no idea how popular Grey’s Anatomy would become, but I’m extremely pleased with its success. I didn’t have a lot of television experience when I got this job, so I found it very difficult to visualize the show from the pilot’s script. However, I’ve enjoyed every aspect of my work here. It’s been fun to act in and direct such a successful show.
How many years did you think the show would run when you first signed up?
CHANDRA: I had no idea the show would run for as long as it has, but we’ve been blessed. When I joined the cast of Grey’s Anatomy, I signed a contract for something like six years, but that’s just a formality with television shows. Normally, you do the pilot and that’s probably it; not everything gets green lit. Not everything goes past a pilot. Even when we were building momentum and doing well in the early days, we could only dream of getting as far as seven seasons – but to know we’re going forward into Season Eight is the icing on the cake. It’s amazing.
Do you think Season Eight would be a natural time to wrap the show?
CHANDRA: No way. I think something like Season Sixteen would be much better. The characters are still growing on Grey’s Anatomy and there are a lot more stories to tell. We’re still kicking along and I think there’s a lot more life in the show yet.
How do you keep the audience interested in the show?
CHANDRA: I think the fans stick with us because they really enjoy the characters. They are heavily invested in these people and they want to see where they’re going. Of course, they love the Meredith/Derek relationship – but they also really care about everybody else in the show too. It’s like a soap opera in the way that fans tune into see these characters every week, so we just try to keep doing the same thing we’ve always done, especially as actors. We try to give people classic Grey’s Anatomy every week, and that’s why everyone has stayed with us.
Do you see yourself on the show until the very end?
CHANDRA: Sure. Why not? Even though we’ve done seven seasons, time flies when you’re working on a show like this, so why not ride the ride? It’s a great gig and I have never got to the point where I feel like I have done everything possible with my character. I’m not at that place by a long shot, which is one of the reasons why I’m still having such fun on Grey’s Anatomy.
How has Grey’s Anatomy changed since Season One?
CHANDRA: We run things smoother around here now and the show is a little slicker than it was in the beginning because we were finding our feet back them. We all looked much dirtier on the show in the first season. We barely wore any makeup and everybody was running around the place, so there was a lot of sweat going on. Slowly, over the seasons, they’ve prettied us up.
What surprised you the most when you saw the very first episode of the show?
CHANDRA: I was really excited the first time I saw the pilot episode. I thought the acting was superb and the drama was fantastic, but I was surprised to discover the huge part that music had on the show. The music drives the story and it helps to keep the show current. It still does that today.
How is Season Seven different to the previous seasons of the show?
CHANDRA: Each season, the visual concept is a little different. Our visual concept in Season Seven is a little bit darker, so the lighting is darker and that helps you zero in on the characters. The background is a bit more muted too. The audience might not pick up on subtle things like that, but it makes Season Seven look very different in my eyes.
Will Bailey find true love on Grey’s Anatomy in Season Seven?
CHANDRA: I’m sure Bailey will open up to exploring romance again soon, but she has to regroup at the start of Season Seven. She’s been through a traumatic experience with the shootings at the end of Season Six, so she has to stop everything and collect her thoughts, which is why she just wants to be a doctor for a while. That’s her coping mechanism.
You have directed a number of episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. Does it get easier to direct over time?
CHANDRA: Each time I direct, I get more and more anxious. I don’t think I sat down once the last time I directed! I kept thinking, ‘If I’m on my feet then things will go like I want them to go.’ It takes an incredible amount of planning to direct an episode and you feel like you’re steering the ship, but it’s an amazing opportunity to be given and I’m extremely appreciative of that. I’ve had a blast directing. And being both an actor and director means that I have an appreciation for time, too. If I can get a wrap in 12 hours instead of 14 so that people can go home and have dinner with their families, I will.
Which is easier: directing or acting?
CHANDRA: It is always a relief to get back to acting after directing an episode. I always think to myself, ‘Great… All I have to do today is be Bailey and yell at somebody.’ However, I love the challenge of directing and I can definitely appreciate how much responsibility directing carries. It’s not something you do lightly. You feel the weight of responsibility. You don’t have a choice but to succeed.
Do you find it easy to unwind after working such long hours on set?
CHANDRA: To be honest, we are pretty good at leaving the show behind us when we go home. We are out of here when they say, ‘That’s a wrap.’ The only time I still feel anxiety is when I’m directing – but I still get home at the end of the day.
Do you see doctors in a different light after working on a medical drama for all these years?
CHANDRA: Definitely. I think doctors have such a tough job. As a patient, you walk in with your symptoms and you think that your doctor will immediately know what’s wrong with you. You also think that they will immediately know what they can do to make you better. However, that’s not the case. They have to run these symptoms through a catalog of information to figure out everything. They don’t always know everything off the top of their head. Of course, doctors can make assumptions – but patients expect them to know right off the bat. I now understand that, more than anything, a doctor’s job is a work in progress. They are human beings and they have to go back and research absolutely everything. It’s a fascinating occupation, but I’m glad I only have to play it. I’m not sure a doctor’s life is for me.
Grey’s Anatomy the Complete Seventh Season is available on DVD on Sept. 13th.
Photo credit: ABC/BOB D’AMICO
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