In the first of a new Insider series about multitasking Disney stars, we got a chance to chat with Sara Ramirez of both Grey’s Anatomy and Sofia the First. On the heels of an episode centered entirely around her Grey’s character Callie—about which she says, “I was in every scene but one”—we found out what it’s like for her to play these two very different characters. (We also asked her to reveal her favorite Disney movie, just for good measure.)
What’s it like to play a character for eight years on a show that’s lasted this long?
My experience has been really interesting. Never a dull moment playing this character and that’s great. It’s fun when the writers take risk regardless of the reaction that it might get, and that’s fun for an actor. You’re able to not just play one thing all the time. Specifically with Callie, they’ve really taken a chance with this character in terms of opening up her development around her sexuality and revealing that part of her. Not only to the audience, but getting to discover that there’s this whole other side to her that is brought out by the character of Erica Hahn, which I thought was really cool and brave. And without making too much commentary about it. It was handled beautifully and I really appreciated that.
What do you like most about playing Callie?
The range that she gets to explore as a character. Obviously for me as an actor, all of the comedic tones and the dramatic ones.
What do you think are Callie’s greatest strengths?
Physical strength as well as her courage. And her vulnerability. She can be incredibly strong and aggressive when she needs to be, but she can also be vulnerable.
While you’re doing all this, you’re also voicing a character (Queen Miranda) on Sofia the First. What’s that like?
It’s so fun. I love voice over work. What’s so great is that not only do you get to work with some really talented people in animation who just love what they do—and it’s a fun energy to be around—but you don’t have to put on hair and makeup. You can just roll on over in casual comfy clothes and be in the studio and just have fun. We have a lot of laughs. It’s such a great time. There’s so much room to play with voice over work, which also can make it interesting. The show has a lot of music that’s written for it, so a lot of us are getting to sing which is really fun. Again getting to tap into a different side of what I do and that certainly keeps it diverse and interesting.
So you’re working with Disney in more than one way. Which Disney movie is your favorite?
When I was a kid, I really loved watching Cinderella. It’s a fantasy and every girl knows that real life isn’t always like these movies, but as a child I just really loved the story of Cinderella. I found it to be so romantic and just a beautiful movie to watch.
What about the Disney Parks. Do you have a favorite ride?
One of my favorite rides has to be Space Mountain. I just recently went over there during Halloween Time and rode Space Mountain and they had a ghosts that chased you through the whole ride. I’m not typically a roller coaster person, but Space Mountain I really love out of all roller coasters. That and Splash Mountain.
You’re playing two really different characters. Do you see any similarities?
They both have a daughter named Sophia. I always thought that was an interesting coincidence. That’s really the only similarity. Miranda did come from humble beginnings. What’s really great about Sofia the First too is that it shows a blended family. And a lot of lessons for Sofia are about how to get along with new siblings and how to meet new people at her age. A lot of kids that young can really relate to being in a new environment and getting to know themselves and make decisions. So the show really talks about how grace and loyalty and honesty are the true characteristics of a princess. But I think it goes beyond royalty and shows a lot of lessons about how to be a kind, compassionate person.
What are you most looking forward to on Grey’s? What are your hopes for Callie?
On the one hand, everyone hopes for happiness for anyone that they’re rooting for. But, because I’m so aware of the fact that I’m on a drama, that’s not a very realistic hope. (Show creator) Shonda Rhimes always says the character’s happy endings will come when the show ends. So I would focus on her career and say I hope she gets past this lawsuit unscathed and that she takes what she learns and it makes her stronger. I also sometimes wish that she could grow past her field and possibly investigate a new specialty that’s a bit different. Maybe it’s in trauma, maybe neurology. I know they have Callie and Derek working together more so I’m excited to see that develop.
What’s it like being with a cast that’s worked together for that long?
It’s great. We don’t all see each other all the time unless we’re at the read throughs. That’s one of the few times that we’re all in the same room. You see a few people you’re in scenes with. So that’s what’s great about when they shake things up and mixing folks. not just romantically, but characters working together on cases. It’s great because every once in awhile it feels like you’re reuniting with another cast member. Patrick (Dempsey) and I have been working together a lot lately and we just have a laugh riot. He’s really funny.
So what’s up next for you?
Grey’s and Sofia are keeping me pretty busy at the moment. Grey’s is almost all year long—it’s ten months out of the year. So I’m feeling great about that.
You can see Sara on Grey’s Anatomy on Thursdays at 9|8c on ABC and hear her in Sofia the First on Disney Junior.