At the Television Critics Association’s annual press tour last week, AfterEllen.com managing editor Malinda Lo and contributing writer Dara Nai chatted briefly with actor Brooke Smith about her character on the hit ABC drama Grey’s Anatomy, Dr. Erica Hahn, and the recent romantic turn in her relationship with Dr. Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez).
Malinda Lo: What did you feel when you first found out [about the romantic story line]?
Brooke Smith: I was psyched. I thought it was a great idea.
ML: Did you think that your character was kind of secretly gay before?
Dara Nai: Did they give you any backstory into what Erica’s history is? Is this something she’s just discovering about herself? Or, in your mind, was she already gay and she just hadn’t found the right person?
BS: Well, a lot of it is still vague. I mean, there’s what the writers think and what I’ve sort of thought, and in my mind. Maybe I had a crush in high school or in college or something — there was something, but I don’t think it’s ever — I think it might be her first time.
DN: It’s new to both of them.
BS: I think so. And that’s what the women we met with GLAAD were talking about, their experience.
ML: So how did their input help you with developing your character in this area?
BS: It was just nice to get reassurance that — look, if we’re all alive, and we’re all open, and life has changed, then anything could happen, you know what I mean? … If you really truthfully are gonna be alive, you know, then anything can happen. So it was kind of cool to hear their stories.
DN: Are you looking forward to where their story lines are going to take them? Because obviously you’re not doing it for gratuitous reasons or for sweeps or anything along those lines.
BS: Yeah, I got really mad when I heard that people thought that. Like it was some kind of stunt or something.
DN: Well, it’s been done before, so people are a little cynical about that, when they introduce the lesbian story line or lesbian kissing or anything like that.
ML: Like when you and Sara were kissing in the elevator and there was the guy watching —
BS: Yeah, and people say that "it’s for the guy."
BS: But, frankly, when I played that scene, I played it as, "You think that if you walked in the room and we were together, we would just be on you, but we wouldn’t." So that’s why I kissed her. In that moment, I swear to God, when I was playing it, that’s what I was thinking. You know there’s a bit of a competition between all the guys in the boys club and my character anyway, so when that happened it was sort of like, "Oh yeah, you wouldn’t be intimidated, uh huh. OK, well, check this out."
ML: So does your story line continue for most of the episodes that you’ve shot so far?
BS: We’re only shooting the first one now, and I can say that there’s a little bit of continuing gay panic, you know, because we kissed! And we’re freaked out and we’re at work … but I think something‘s coming.
DN: Is Sara a good kisser?
BS: Very good.
Read more of our Grey’s Anatomy coverage here.