Alex Landi’s role in season 15 of “Grey’s Anatomy” might not be a particularly big one. At least not yet. And for sure it holds a particular significance for many worldwide communities and marks a huge breakthrough for the long-running medical drama. Ahead of its season 15 premiere, the show announced that Landi will be playing the series’ first gay male surgeon, Dr. Nico Kim, an orthopedic surgery fellow at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. While the series has had no shortage of LGBT characters before this, like Callie Torres and Arizona Robbins— played by Sara Ramirez and Jessica Capshaw respectively, this is the first time that “Grey’s Anatomy” has introduced a gay male surgeon on its show. What’s more, he is also the first male surgeon of Asian descent on the show.
With just a couple of episodes in, Dr. Kim’s storyline grabbed the attention of many fans, in particular for his flirtatious relationship with surgical intern Levi Schmitt a.k.a. “Glasses,” portrayed by Jake Borelli. As for Landi himself, “Grey’s Anatomy” is his first major acting role. Landi studied acting at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York City. Additionally, the half-Korean and half-Italian actor is also a model and is highly skilled at martial arts and weapons, having trained for three months in China. Safe to say, we’re going to hear a lot from him in the future.
DAMAN: Hi, Alex! Thank you very much for having us for this feature. First of all, what are you busy with these days?
Alex Landi: Thank you for having me. I am currently still shooting season 15 of “Grey’s Anatomy.”
DA: In the show, you play Dr. Nico Kim. Can you tell us a bit about your character’s background?
AL: He is the new orthopedic surgeon in the hospital. He is the show’s first gay male surgeon. He is also the show’s first male surgeon of Asian descent.
DA: What was it that drew you to play Dr. Kim in the first place?
AL: He is definitely a very distinct character. He is a masculine bro type but is also openly gay, which puts an interesting spin on the role. It is very fun to marry those two types together and get rid of the stereotypes.
DA: By the way, can you also tell us how you were initially cast as Dr. Kim in the show?
AL: It started with a self-tape in New York. I heard back from the producers that same night and I flew out to L.A. that very night on a red-eye flight. I met with [executive producer] Krista Vernoff and casting started the next day. I learned that I booked the role later that afternoon.
DA: Since you’re playing an orthopedic surgeon, did you went through any kind of special training?
AL: No, but after being cast, I did go to an actual hospital and I shadowed two different knee surgeries. It gave me the experience of being in the operating room and seeing what actually goes on.
DA: We also featured Kevin McKidd a couple issues back. How has it been like working with him?
AL: He is amazing and extremely comfortable to work with. He directed episode eight (the midseason finale) which was an iconic episode for Nico and Levi. Kevin creates a very relaxed atmosphere to work in and he knows how to work with actors. I think it’s great that “Grey’s Anatomy” lets their cast take turns directing some of the episodes. We are all family, so it makes it very fun.
DA: So, Dr. Nico Kim is the first openly gay male surgeon of Asian descent to appear on “Grey’s Anatomy.” How does it feel like playing such an important role, especially that you are representing both the Asian and LGBTQ communities?
AL: It is an incredible honor to give Asians and the LGBTQ community a voice in this industry. Less than three percent of Asians and less than one percent of LGBTQ people are represented in TV and film, so I think it’s great that “Grey’s Anatomy” combined both of these demographics into one role. It’s truly an honor and I just hope I’m doing a good job.
DA: Does all this add extra pressure for you to play Dr. Kim?
AL: I feel very relaxed in this role. The whole cast and crew make everything feel very comfortable and open.
DA: How has the response to your character been so far? Especially from the Asian and LGBTQ communities…
AL: I have only received positive feedback and support, which I am very grateful for. I dreamed of being on TV as a kid and it feels very fulfilling to live it out.
DA: Being a half-Korean and half-Italian actor in Hollywood, have you had any personal experience dealing with issues about representation of Asian- Americans in your field of work?
AL: I think being half-Korean, half-Italian gave me an advantage in this industry because I was able to mold into many different roles, both Asian and Caucasian.
DA: Do you feel that things are changing for Asian-American talent in Hollywood?
AL: It is a great time to be an Asian actor in Hollywood right now with everything going on. “Crazy Rich Asians” really ignited that spark that was really needed and now everyone wants a slice of the cake. It’s amazing that Asian actors are starting to get more recognized. It’s about time.
DA: All that being said, what was most important to you in bringing Dr. Kim alive? What did you hope to achieve through this character?
AL: I just want to make Asians and the LGBTQ community look good. I want to abolish all stereotypes associated with Asians and the LGBTQ community. I want to make us look strong.
DA: Outside of acting, we also learned that you are a model. Are you still active in modeling?
AL: We have some big campaigns planned for the future, but I cannot say for which companies.
DA: Is there anything you still want to achieve in modeling?
AL: Yes. There is always room for growth and things to achieve. It would be amazing to lead a campaign for Calvin Klein or Emporio Armani.
DA: And you are also very active in sports. As a matter of fact, we learned that you originally wanted to become professional tennis player. You also traveled to Asia for three months to train martial arts. What was that experience like and how difficult was it?
AL: Yes. I trained martial arts and weapons in China for three months. I trained for about six hours a day including strength training, stamina and weights. It was the toughest time of my life, both physically and mentally. Waking up every morning with muscle pain was tough but I knew that it would all be worth it in the end.
DA: Has the training come in handy for your acting career?
AL: Not yet, but I know it will come in handy very soon. Marvel just announced that they will be making their first Asian superhero movie, “Shang-Chi.” I want to become the first Asian superhero for Marvel.
DA: What would your dream role and film look like?
AL: My dream role would be to play Shang-Chi. He is Marvel’s first Asian superhero. Marvel just announced that they are producing this movie. It will be similar to “Black Panther” but with an all-Asian cast.
DA: One final question: What would you say is your next goal for now? What are some of the milestones—personal or professional—that you want to tackle soon?
AL: Again, my next goal is to become the first Asian superhero. I would also love to be in the “Crazy Rich Asians” sequel.
Photography Mitchell Nguyen McCormack
Styling Britton Litow
Grooming Robert Bryan using La Mer skincare
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