How to Get Cast on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’

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Photo Source: ABC/Anne Marie Fox

Arguably the heart of ABC’s scripted lineup, “Grey’s Anatomy” keeps on beating. Created by Shonda Rhimes in 2005, the acclaimed medical drama follows a team of doctors at a Seattle hospital. Over its nearly two decades, “Grey’s Anatomy” has remained popular, with 39 Emmy nominations and five wins under its belt so far. And now, with Season 20 on the horizon and Meg Marinis, its new showrunner, at the helm, the series clearly does not need any defibrillation.

Think you’re ready to scrub in? In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about the “Grey’s Anatomy” casting process, including what its veteran CDs are looking for and audition advice from the series’ biggest stars.


What is ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ about?

As the longest-running primetime medical drama in television history, “Grey’s Anatomy” has covered a lot of ground since its 2005 debut. The series follows the interns, residents, and attending doctors working at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital (formerly Seattle Grace Mercy West) in Seattle. 

Throughout the show’s 19 seasons, viewers mainly follow Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) as she climbs her way from intern to chief of surgery and navigates her complicated love life. Her relationship with Dr. Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) and her friendship with Dr. Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh) were key components of the series’ first decade. 

Other major characters have come and gone over the years (past regulars include Katherine Heigl, Isaiah Washington, and Sara Ramirez, to name a few); the current cast still includes veterans Dr. Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson), Dr. Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.), and Dr. Owen Hunt (Kevin McKidd). These doctors deal with the life-and-death situations they encounter with their patients at the hospital each day and the personal and professional challenges they face in their own private lives.

Who is in the cast of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’?

Here’s who will soon be admitted to Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital for Season 20:

  • Chandra Wilson as Dr. Miranda Bailey
  • James Pickens Jr. as Dr. Richard Webber
  • Kevin McKidd as Dr. Owen Hunt
  • Debbie Allen as Dr. Catherine Fox
  • Caterina Scorsone as Dr. Amelia Shepherd
  • Camilla Luddington as Dr. Jo Wilson
  • Kim Raver as Dr. Teddy Altman
  • Jake Borelli as Dr. Levi Schmitt
  • Chris Carmack as Dr. Atticus Lincoln
  • Anthony Hill as Dr. Winston Ndugu
  • Alexis Floyd as Dr. Simone Griffith
  • Harry Shum Jr. as Dr. Benson “Blue” Kwan
  • Adelaide Kane as Dr. Jules Millin
  • Midori Francis as Dr. Mika Yasuda
  • Niko Terho as Dr. Lucas Adams
  • Alex Landi as Dr. Nico Kim
  • Jaicy Elliot as Dr. Taryn Helm
  • Scott Speedman as Dr. Nick Marsh
  • Freddy Miyares as Dorian

Of course, fans know the new season will be the first not to feature Pompeo as the series’ lead. However, Pompeo signed on to recurring status, meaning the show won’t be entirely without its namesake. Viewers should also expect to see Jessica Capshaw return as Dr. Arizona Robbins in a guest-starring capacity.

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Who are the casting directors for ‘Grey’s Anatomy’?

Linda Lowy and John Brace of Linda Lowy Casting have been the casting directors since the beginning of “Grey’s Anatomy” in 2005. Lowy has won three Emmys for her casting work, and Brace has won two. The pair share a statuette for the medical drama, which won outstanding casting for a drama series in 2006. They won again in 2007 for their work on “Friday Night Lights.” The pair has also cast “How to Get Away With Murder,” “Dirty John,” “Private Practice,” “Prime Suspect,” and “Queer as Folk.” Lowy also cast “Station 19,” “Scandal,” and “The Catch.” 

As Rhimes’ go-to CD, Lowy has plenty of good audition tips. “When you’re working on material, don’t set it in stone before you get into the room; be loose,” she told us. “If you don’t act every day, if you don’t go to auditions every day—you might have an audition once a month or once every four months—you’ve got to stay loose in between. Work; practice your craft. I can always smell the fear, and I can also tell when actors are loose and working.” Lowy also believes in giving actors room to grow. “We like to read a lot of people, and I always give people a second chance. If they weren’t right or they screwed up, I will always bring them back for something later on.” 

So, what’s the secret to making yourself memorable to Lowy? “We don’t really help [auditioners] very much with context or backstory,” she said. “So when an actor comes in and has really created that for themselves, whether it’s right or wrong or needs to be adjusted or not, I’m always so appreciative. I always say, ‘That’s so interesting that you saw it that way; let’s use that, but let’s do it again.’ I like to play. The perfect union, so to speak, is that alchemy that happens between the person that actor is and the character on the page.” 

If you end up auditioning for Lowy, be prepared to take direction. “I give people a lot of chances because I don’t know exactly what the director’s going to do, so we might do it a few different ways. Sometimes I say, ‘I can see why you rehearsed it that way because of how it’s written; but I’ve got a little intel from the director, so let me throw that your way and see if you can assimilate that into what you’ve already created.’ And then we go from there.”

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How does the casting process work for ‘Grey’s Anatomy’?

In 2013, Oh told TV Guide she did not originally audition for Cristina Yang. “I went in for Bailey. I actually had a pair of scrubs and had my hair in braids. I played Bailey completely differently than Chandra Wilson did. The character of Bailey didn’t resonate with me,” she said. She then auditioned for the role of Cristina without realizing it. “I did this scene for them a couple of times. I was at first nervous, but they were like, ‘No worries; you’re good. You’ll audition for the studio later.’ I don’t know how many days later, they offered me the part. It was amazing. I auditioned for the right people. I just thought they were so smart, because I wasn’t thinking I was auditioning for them.”

As for Wilson, she told TV Guide that she thought she wasn’t going to get the part of Bailey. “I did the audition, and they told me I had to come back later that evening for the network. It was me and one other actress,” she recalled. “The note that I was given was: ‘Everything is really good, but the other actor really took command. She was really in charge. You should probably bring some more of that with you to the audition.’ I went in and I did that, and then it was over. I was descending down the stairs as they were all talking to the other actors, thinking, This was a free trip to L.A. I think it was the next day when I got the role.”

Capshaw told TV Guide she auditioned for multiple parts before landing the role of Dr. Arizona Robbins. “I auditioned for Nurse Rose [who was eventually played by Lauren Stamile]. I knew Patrick [Dempsey], because I had worked with him two years prior, so he and I got along real well,” she said. “But they picked the other girl, and I was like, ‘Man!’ About a year later, I went in for a part that hadn’t been named yet, but she was this sexually promiscuous, adventurous part, and I didn’t get the role again. That was Melissa George’s part, Sadie. They kept saying they really love me, and I was like, If they really loved me, I would have a part in the show. A month later, I got a three-episode offer to play Arizona Robbins.”

However, Dempsey, who played Dr. Derek Shepherd from 2005–2015, genuinely thought Rhimes hated him during his audition—but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. “Shonda Rhimes looks at me, no expression, just looks at me, the entire meeting just looking at me,” he confessed. “No expression, no warmth, nothing. I called my agent, and I said, ‘It’s not going to work at all. Shonda Rhimes hates me.’ ” But Rhimes really adored the future “Dr. McDreamy” because he had that special something that lived up to the name. “I was trying to figure out what dialogue I could write for him to say,” Rhimes said. “He walked in the room, and I thought, ‘Oh my God, he’s so dreamy.'”

Doctor with crossed arms

Is ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ currently filming?

“Grey’s Anatomy” began filming Season 20 in November 2023, following the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes. While there’s no word on whether the shortened season has wrapped, we know it will premiere on March 14 on ABC.

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Where can you find ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ casting calls and auditions?

“Grey’s Anatomy” isn’t currently casting, as the long-running primetime drama hasn’t been renewed for Season 21 just yet. However, based on the series run, we have a feeling Season 20 won’t be the show’s last. In the meantime, keep an eye on our main casting page for the latest opportunities, and stay tuned for updates on the show’s fate.

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What are the best audition tips for landing a role on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’?

Make people feel something. Pompeo played Meredith Grey for almost 19 years. And though she didn’t begin her acting career until she was 25, she’s got plenty of advice to offer. She believes in the power of prep work. “Sit with [the script] and think, and try to connect in some way to the character or the story that you’re telling,” she told us. She also emphasized the importance of emoting. “I think that as an actor, one of the things that you hope to achieve is to move people and to make people feel. That’s what I’m looking for when I watch performances.” 

Tap into your personal experiences. Luddington believes in drawing on real-life experiences to build a character. “The ups and downs of your own life, the highs and the lows—and sometimes, really, the lows—make you a better actor,” she told us. “When Jo, for example, had the episode where she met her mom for the first time: There’s a scene that was 14 pages long of [the character sitting] across from [her] mother. And I lost my mom when I was 19. And so I, in order to really connect and feel that pain and understand what she was going through, was thinking: Put it in terms of being able to sit with my mom, and what would that be like if I hadn’t seen her for a long time and [I was] able to tell her that I needed her.”

Don’t sweat it. Kate Walsh, who reprised her role as Dr. Addison Montgomery on Season 18, does a lot of prep work for her auditions. “The first thing I do is try to get off-book. I have a friend come over, and we run it so I don’t have to sit there alone and put my hand over the other people’s lines,” Walsh told us. “If I meet up with someone and have them read with me, one: I get it easier and faster, and two: It’s rehearsing in a way, because you’re hearing it and you start finding things as you go through. And then I’m more freed up when I go into the room.” Her words of wisdom to her younger self regarding acting? “Worrying is a big, bad habit and a waste of time. It’s something I’ve had to learn and train myself out of as an adult…. You don’t always get what you want, but you get what you need.”

Establish your intentions. Looking back, Oh admits she’d tell her younger self to cool it with the criticism. In fact, she’s even softened her advice for other young actors, telling them to determine what’s driving them to succeed. “Know your intention in this business and industry,” she told us. “People would ask me the question, ‘What advice would you give young actors?’ For a long time, I had the same answer, until my best friend said, ‘You know, that’s kind of harsh. Maybe you should change that.’ It was ‘If you don’t have to do this, don’t, because it’s hard. It’s very, very difficult. But if you have to do it, that’s the kind of ideal drive you need to really be an artist.’ And now it’s a little softer: If you know why you’re doing it, or if you’re just a little more in touch with your intention, it can be a real guiding force.”

Looking to get cast? Apply to casting calls on Backstage.

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