I was thrilled when AfterEllen.com asked me to interview my friend Sara Ramirez, the Tony Award-winning actress and star of Grey’s Anatomy. We met for lunch at The Abbey, a huge and mostly gay bar and restaurant in West Hollywood. Sara showed up not just on time, but early. She wore a baseball cap, sweatshirt, leggings, and no makeup. She ordered a salad and asked them to hold the olives. When it arrived covered in an abnormal amount of olives she said nothing and ate it anyway. Gotta love this girl!
We spent a few hours talking about everything from Callie’s personal proclivities to the amazing foundation that Sara just started. We discussed her rise to stardom, how she deals with Hollywood, and what animal she’d like to be. Hint: it’s not a cougar.
AfterEllen.com: So you pronounce your name Sada, correct?
Sara Ramirez: Yes, like Prada, or tostada, depending on the audience.
AE: I’m surprised we’re meeting at one of L.A.’s biggest gay bar/restaurants. Are you afraid you’ll be mobbed?
SR: I’ve been here several times. I love The Abbey! People are really respectful. I find airports are a bit more uh, complicated.
AE: Would Callie come here?
SR: Now that she’s involved with Arizona, I think they’d come here together to try to continue to explore whatever is going on with themselves and with each other. It would be great for them to go out and feel accepted and have fun.
AE: What would Callie drink?
SR: Callie would get hammered. Rum and Diet Coke, or shots. She’d be dancing. That’s one thing Callie and I have in common. We’d both wind up dancing on the tables.
AE: Who would Callie hit on?
SR: I think it’s more about the person for her. She’d connect with someone in the eyes and eventually approach them.
AE: Even after the shots?
SR: Well, those do make everyone look pretty good. Ahhh beer goggles. But truly, I think it would be all about connecting with someone. Her situation is pretty complicated at this point, having been only with men until so recently … I think she’d need someone open and confident and able to handle that. I think it can be hard on women who identify only as lesbian and wouldn’t consider ever dating a man to date someone like Callie. It can seem risky to dive into a relationship with someone who is more fluid, who could potentially go back to men again, who has a different past.
AE: I don’t know what you’re talking about. So does Callie identify herself as bisexual?
SR: I don’t think she identifies herself as anything, which for me makes her very compelling, and also somewhat controversial. The gay and lesbian community can sometimes have problems with people who don’t identify themselves as strictly gay or straight. People want to know one way or the other what they are.
I think she is someone capable of having a lesbian relationship, capable of having a straight relationship, but she is, at the end of the day, a person in the world trying to make it all work out.
AE: O Magazine, Oprah, and CNN have covered this a great deal lately, the idea of female fluidity.
SR: I love that that’s being brought to the forefront. I think there are pockets of people on the spectrum of sexuality who are underrepresented.
AE: Have you had any negative feedback from Callie’s coming out?
SR: I got a letter from a former fan saying she would no longer watch the show because of "the road your character is going down." It’s disappointing when you hear that. I dream of a world that opens it hearts to everyone. But I’m not trying to preach or control people’s minds. But it is disappointing.
AE: Are you aware of the hugely positive reaction within the LGBT community to your character’s arc, and as a result, to you?
SR: To some degree, yes, and I’m happy to hear that. The first year I was on the show, admittedly, I would check blogs and try to see what people were saying about me. I gave that up pretty quickly because you take it too personally, you’re human. You open this Pandora’s Box and this negativity or positivity is something that sticks to you and you lose track of reality and being true to your work and your character.
AE: I’m going to go out on a limb and say that since Callie started with women, you’ve gone from being perceived as a respected actress, to a respected actress who is also a sex symbol.
AE: Well AfterEllen puts out a Hot 100 list every year. In 2007 you were number 80. In 2008 you were number 8.
SR: That’s really flattering! I don’t know, I think when Callie first came on Grey’s people were like, "who is this freak that lives in the basement?" They felt weird about the pairing of Callie and George. Then when she went through the ringer with that relationship I think people began to respect her. To see her as strong and also vulnerable.
I have to admit I was afraid that when Callie started with Hahn, the majority of viewers could reject Callie’s sex appeal and have trouble relating to her. That hasn’t been how it’s worked out, which is really amazing.