Chandra Wilson: When You're Good to Chandra

Grey's Anatomy scene-stealer Chandra Wilson brings her "va-jay-jay" back to Broadway as Chicago's Mama Morton — and dishes about those rumored Grey's departures too.




On Grey's Anatomy, Dr. Bailey has difficulty balancing family with her career. How does your family feel about you using your hiatus to come to New York and perform eight shows a week?
Every hiatus that's something I have to search my gut and my finances for to figure out the right thing to do. Initially, I didn't like doing any work over my hiatus because that gave me time to make sure I was at the school events with my girls, get them through their standardized testing, and maybe have a minute to take a vacation. But last year's hiatus came after the writers' strike and a lot of months of not working, so it seemed like it was OK to go and do the Hallmark film Accidental Friendship, which only took about four weeks. This year I took off the whole month of May, and there are some things we as a family need to do in New York during June anyway. But it's a weighted decision that's never entered into lightly, and I'm never sitting back going, "Ooh, what can I get involved in during my hiatus?" I would be perfectly fine to just sit down and be with my family.

You rarely get to wear anything but scrubs on Grey's, so it must be exciting to jazz up your wardrobe a bit as Mama.
But the similarity is that here I am again with one costume. I'm a one-uniform kind of person; I like to establish the look of a character and just stick with that — like a cartoon.

A lot of people might not know that you were an accomplished stage actor in New York before Grey's. What's your most memorable theatrical experience?
Probably my first. I did The Good Times Are Killing Me back in 1991 at the Second Stage Theatre, and then we moved it down to the Minetta Lane. That was my big introduction to New York theater, and that year I won a Theater World Award [given for debut performances] — and I didn't even know what a Theater World Award was. All of a sudden, there was [award cofounder] John Willis, who became a permanent part of my life and sends me a birthday card every year. I got to know what that little club is about and how you really only have one opportunity to get in, so that's the one that always sticks with me.

You also appeared on Broadway in the critically acclaimed musical Caroline, or Change.
That was an amazing experience. I got a chance to do two of the workshops before we opened at the Public Theater, and then we moved it on up to the Eugene O'Neill on Broadway. All along the way I kept saying, "Sooner of later they're going to figure out that I'm not right for this role" or "that I can't sing" or "that I shouldn't be on the cast album" — all those insecure mind tricks you play. Each time I passed over one of those hurdles, it took away all of the excuses that I had for not being successful. So after that, I'm not afraid of anything anymore.

Tags: Theater