It took years of building his résumé on more than a dozen television series—including “True Blood” (on which he had a three-episode arc), “Friday Night Lights” (on which he co-starred in the final season as Hastings Ruckle), and “Aquarius” with David Duchovny—before Grey Damon landed the role of Lt. Jack Gibson on ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” spinoff “Station 19.” Today, it’s the real-world unsung heroes depicted on “Station 19” that inspire Damon to do his best work.
What has your latest role on “Station 19” added to your acting skills?
I walk away from these episodes having more respect for firefighters. We work with a lot of tech advisors who are usually former firefighters, and they’ll let us know if we’re doing something wrong.
You posted about this on Instagram, but given the recent fires in California, how does it feel to be portraying a very real part of American life?
Humbling. I’m pretending, and there are people actually out there risking their lives. It just makes you want to do a good job so you can show the respect that these firefighters deserve, work hard to convey what they might be going through. When there is a firefighter helping out on the show, I like to ask them a lot of questions and understand what they’re going through. Sometimes they’re very gracious, but other times they’ve seen some things and you’ve got to respect they don’t want to talk about it. I’m never going to be as excellent as they are.
Does it help you get into character or get into the world of the show knowing it’s tangentially related to “Grey’s Anatomy”?
No. I understand the universe and I think it’s important to understand, but we’re “Grey’s”-adjacent. I do feel like we’re very much our own show even though we do crossover events. But I do think there’s a general vibe that I think all the Shonda shows share; they have their watermark, but they also have their unique nuances. I just show up and try to do good work.
How do you typically prepare for an audition?
Realistically, we don’t know much and we have to make stuff up and muster up the best of what we think the character is about. Other times, it’ll be a popular book, [so] you can Google a lot or you can read the book. If I have enough time, I like to read the book so I can get the meat and potatoes of what the character is about and what fans are looking for, because I think we have a responsibility to respect the material. And a lot of Googling—thank god for Google. A lot of reading, and sometimes you can talk to people who have personal experience in whatever your character might [do].
It’s hard to paint a whole picture of someone’s life when you only get a few pages.
That’s a lot of where the work is. That’s us figuring out how to fill in the gaps. That can be really challenging, but it can be really amazing, because you can get insights into other lives. That’s what’s so incredible about this job: You can see through someone else’s eyes and into their souls and get a glimpse into what it’s like to be somebody else. And through that, at least for myself, I find myself a little more. That’s what’s been rewarding about the job to me.
Was there a performance you saw that brought all those things to life for you?
When Cate Blanchett played Bob Dylan, I was blown away. When John Turturro was on “The Night Of,” I was blown away. But I think the performance that made me want to take acting seriously was seeing Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.”
Who was the casting director who gave you your first big break?
She actually cast me on “Station 19”: Linda Lowy. She fought for me very hard to be on “Friday Night Lights” and [it’s] come back around full circle.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Know your limits. Don’t run yourself to the ground. Get your sleep—that’s a huge one that people underestimate. Know your people. Are your people there to cheer you on and support you, or are they there to hold you back? It’s OK to work hard for something. Just because it’s easy to get doesn’t mean it’s going to be good for you. I think, just as a human being, you have to feel like there’s a sense of purpose. If things fall in your lap, you lose that. There is an actress, I can’t remember who it was, but she said, “Don’t get famous when you’re too young. Don’t get famous too quickly.” I know what she’s saying. When things happen too quickly, you get burnt out. But if you pace yourself, by respecting yourself, the world will respect you.
How do you keep yourself from burning out?
I’ve had fatigue issues my whole life, so I try to do little things that give me a little bit of a leg up: changing things in my diet, getting enough sleep, working out. The things doctors tell you to do that no one ever listens to, I do those. On a set, sometimes you’re going to be working a night shoot and then you’re going to be working a very early shoot. It’s rare, but it happens. And it throws you all out of whack and you know you’re going to be tired, and you’ve got to keep going. I just try to maintain the little things so the bigger things don’t feel so big.
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