Kelly McCreary on playing a closet case on “Emily Owens, M.D.”

When we last checked in with Kelly McCreary about her Emily Owens, MD character, Tyra, it was early in the shooting of the new CW series so the actress was still figuring things out with her character as new scripts were coming in.

The series starring Mamie Gummer as the titular med student has aired several episodes now and while the bulk of Tyra-based stories have yet to venture far into her dating life primarily due to one major family issue that is brewing. “The focus on Tyra,” McCreary told us, “is mostly about her dad and discovering how to come out and deal with that part of her being a lesbian.”

Recently, we rang up the actress, who took a break from shooting in Vancouver, to see what she could fill us in on what’s happening with Tyra and whether her love life is going to get some attention soon.

AfterEllen.com: What’s surprised you about Tyra at this point, just in playing her?

Kelly McCreary: I think the biggest thing is that she’s more of a slacker than I thought. All residency programs are very competitive and I sort of assumed that she managed to get herself into the program that her father runs. Either there was some nepotism involved there or she’s like super bright. But it turns out she is a little bit lazy. And it kind of unfolds that she’s not really that committed to the work. That’s one of the issues that is going to come up for her which is kind of fun to play. It’s going to be a surprise.

AE: Outside of the lesbian issue keeping them at a distance, are she and her father actually close?

KM: There hasn’t been that many instances to indicate their closeness but what Harry [Lennix], who plays her father, Chief Dupre] and I together have discovered…we think that we’re close. Plus we do find out later on that Tyra actually still lives at home. So there’s a certain kind of intimacy associated with adult children living with their parents. There’s probably a lot of closeness and there’s probably a lot of tension there too.

AE: Tyra also talked recently about how she didn’t have an aha moment where it was like, “Oh my God! I’m gay!” which I thought was so spot on. What did you think about when you read that dialogue?

KM: I think it was really insightful writing. I never asked that question of a gay friend. I never actually assumed that there was a moment where I thought “Oh my God, I’m gay.” But to have it articulated in that scene about the evolution of feelings or the evolution of realization that they’re gay and having it happen more gradual than in one singular moment. I just thought it was a really great piece of writing.

AE: Can you talk a little bit about what’s coming in the episodes? I know there’s an episode coming up where Tyra has a beard. How does that come about?

KM: Tyra’s still hiding her sexuality from her father and risks being exposed when the guy that she has told her father is her boyfriend shows up at the hospital. And, of course, he doesn’t know that she’s told her father that he’s her boyfriend. So it’s this kind of farce of keeping them out of the same room together and getting Emily involved in distracting the guy and distracting her father and then ultimately they all sort of run into each other, and there’s a really funny little scene that happens between the three of them. Ultimately it still doesn’t expose her secret, so she ends the episode kind of where she started with maybe having put a little bit more thought into coming out to her father at the end, because of having to keep the secret.

AE: So one of the Tweets I got when I asked for questions was when are we going to see Tyra make out with someone? Will that happen anytime soon?

KM: [laughs] Not yet according to the scripts that I’ve read so far. But if you’ve noticed there’s not too much making out going on among any of the relationships that are developing yet, and Tyra at this point is still in the closet and quite single. So I don’t know. I think the first thing to do is sort of resolve the situation with her dad and then we’re going to be getting more into Tyra exploring relationships now that she can release that burden and can shift her focus.

AE: Since Tyra’s father is this big doctor in the hospital, can we assume that Tyra grew up in an affluent household?

KM: I think that’s fair to say. Most doctors may not come from an affluent background. I think it takes a while to sort of build up your practice, and there may have been some lean years in the beginning, but her dad is well-established at this point so yeah we can assume that.

AE: I was looking at your Twitter profile and it says you love cheese. Can you name a favorite and is there any that you just can’t handle cheese wise?

KM: The truth is I’m not like a connoisseur. I will eat any cheese. I can’t distinguish flavors or whatever. I will just pretty much eat anything that is creamy and comes in a cheesy form. I like really baby stuff like Swiss. I like many varieties. Bleu cheese, gruyere and all that good stuff. The fancier cheeses, I couldn’t name them, but I love those too.

Emily Owens MD airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on the CW. Follow Kelly on Twitter @KMcCrearyNYC.

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