Seeing the Silver Lining: A Conversation with Anthony Hill

“Grey’s Anatomy” star Anthony Hill talks with DA MAN about his journey in the entertainment industry and his passion for football.

In life, some things are inevitable – including unfortunate events. For actor Anthony Hill, it was a football injury in college that left him with both physical and mental pain. But as the old saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining. This turned out to be true for Anthony, as his sister suggested he take acting classes during his newfound free time. This conversation started him down the path of his acting journey. Despite the pain of his injury, Anthony was able to use it to his advantage and ultimately find success.

Shirt by Buck Mason; pullover by 4funkyflavours

Anthony has a stellar list of filmography. Series he has starred in include MTV’s “Scream: TV Series,” “How to Get Away with The Murder,” and “Station 19”. However, his role as Dr. Winston Ndugu in ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” further catapulted his name to stardom. In a conversation with DA MAN, Anthony talks about his career and what he loves about acting and shares a bit about his passion—football.

DAMAN: Hello Anthony! How are you doing, and what keeps you busy these days
Anthony Hill:
What’s up! I’m feeling great these days. Very blessed. “Grey’s Anatomy” is keeping me busy!

DA: Can you share with us a bit about your childhood?
AH: I was born in Springfield, Missouri. I have one older sister, Erica. My dad’s job as a collegiate basketball coach took us to Pittsburg, Kansas, when I was two, and then to Kansas City at an age where I lived until I went to college. I was an athletic dude, so sports were my life, specifically basketball, baseball, and football. They felt like my refuge in life during that time. Grabbing a ball and walking onto a basketball court or a football field felt like a sanctuary. I found peace playing those games.

DA: How did you discover your passion for acting?
When I was a kid, I looked forward to Halloween because it was a day when I could dress up, transform into someone else, and play a character for a day. So, that’s a sign that I look back on as being pretty telling for my future profession. But ultimately, getting injured on the football field in college led to a conversation with Erica where she pointed out that my new free time could be used to take acting classes, and that’s what I did.

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DA: What do you love the most about acting?
AH: The empathy that it evokes both within me–as I go through the process of playing a person who isn’t myself–and in the viewers. I’ve received a lot of messages over the years and have had many deep conversations with strangers about how a scene or story arc affected their lives or made them see other people with a new perspective. Empathy is everything. I love how central it is in acting and storytelling.

DA: Now, moving onto your acting journey, what were the challenges you experienced during the first years of your career?
AH: Just about everywhere I turned, there was a hurdle of some kind. That’s the nature of a business with so many people clamoring for the same things. The consistent “No”s were particularly tough early on, and the close calls were even tougher because it was almost a yes before it was a no. Having those experiences pile up while still protecting your confidence and self-belief is an uphill battle, but it’s crucial. Self-motivation and belief fueled me then, and it still fuels me now.

DA: You began your acting career in 2014, and among the first titles you were in was MTV’s “Scream: TV Series.” Can you tell us about the experience?
AH: It was a very specific and interesting experience in my career. I was brought on to that show as a “Local Hire,” a term for actors living close to where the project is being shot. They have this category for tax purposes, union equity rules, et cetera, and they can often save money overall by hiring locally. The problem was I lived in LA, not Louisiana, where that show was shot. I ended up paying out of pocket for travel, transportation, and hotels every time I was on an episode, and a couple of times, I was mid-flight from LA and got word they scrapped my scene. So, I would land at my layover and fly back home to LA. Needless to say, I ended up spending more money than I made on that show. Luckily, my manager at the time (shout out to Steve Buchsbaum) was aware of this and refused to take a commission. He’s a good man.

DA: In “Scream: TV Series,” you play Deputy Mike Newsome for the series’ first season. What was playing that character like?
AH: Playing a young Black police officer in the American deep south was something I felt I needed to validate. Not because it’s necessarily uncommon but because I, Anthony, needed to create a lengthy backstory for Deputy Mike Newsome to arrive at a place that made sense for me to play him with conviction. I honestly wish there would’ve been more material, because I enjoyed the scenes I had.

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DA: Speaking of filmography, we cannot miss ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy.” Can you share with us how you landed on this project?
Prior to the pandemic, Linda Lowey and John Brace cast all of Shonda Rhimes’ shows, and at the time in 2019, they cast me on all of her current running shows except “Grey’s,” “For the People,” “How to Get Away with Murder,” and “Station 19”. I had auditioned two or three other times for “Grey’s” and hadn’t gotten the roles, but the casting directors and I had built such a trusting relationship over the years that they called me in to read for Winston. I was the only unknown actor in the group of people reading, but Linda and John knew I had a shot at it, and they were right—I ended up being the guy for the role.

DA: You play Dr. Winston Ndugu in the series. Do you have a special preparation for your character?
AH: The way things work at “Grey’s,” everything moves very quickly, including rehearsals. So when we’re taught how to mimic surgeries or procedures, for example, we have about 10 minutes to learn them before we shoot them. So what I do for Winston is research the surgery or procedure he will be doing according to our script, and a day before we shoot it, I watch surgeries at home to help familiarize myself. If my co-stars knew this, they would be like, chill out, man, but it helps me. I’m not playing a resident, rookie character, Winston is a seasoned veteran cardiothoracic surgeon. So I want to try to feel as comfortable as possible when I step into the OR set and scrub in.

DA: Any challenges you experienced while filming “Grey’s Anatomy”?
Seriously? Yes. Every day is challenging in one way or another. I learn so much daily on this show. The technical parts of making a TV show are crucial, but they aren’t always at the forefront of an actor’s mind when filming a scene. We’re usually focused on emotion, dialogue, character intention, motivation, et cetera, but working on this show has helped me strengthen and balance my focus on the technical elements. For example, being accurate and believable with surgical tools, working with our DPs with movement blocking and lighting, and discussing audio logistics with the sound crew to avoid ADR sessions –  it’s a lot of fun.

Pullover by Penguin; jogger pants by Nike; shoes by PONTO

DA: What are some of the best or most memorable moments you’ve had from the series?
AH: One of my most memorable moments was shooting roadside scenes involving racial profiling (in season 17, episode 12). It was one of the heaviest emotional days I’ve had on “Grey’s”, but the response was, and still is, incredible. People always bring up that episode to me, along with how it affected them. One woman told me it was a teaching tool for her to talk with her young Black son about injustice. It was deep. I think the scenes in that episode started a lot of conversations, and that’s profoundly important.

DA: Onto a more general note, how would you describe yourself as an actor?
AH: I wouldn’t… [laugh] I’ll leave that to other people.

DA: Who do you look up to in the entertainment industry?
Lots of people. Issa Rae, Donald Glover, Jordan Peele, and Ellen Pompeo, to name a few. I admire artists who forge new paths, break down doors, blur lines and boundaries, and do it unapologetically.

DA: Any dream characters or genres you would love to try?
Anything involving time travel, I’m here for it. I am also looking forward to something with a murder mystery or suspense vibe.

Jacket by Karl Lagerfeld; tracksuit and t-shirt by XIVI

DA: Can you share with us what you are passionate about besides acting?
AH: Animals and nature, but space is a big one for me. The universe is mind-blowing in any and every capacity, and I love learning about it and trying to grasp the vastness of it all. I’ve been known to throw out random space facts from time to time. Don’t get me going.

DA: We learned that you played football at Oklahoma State University. How did you manage your time between sports and acting—theater, to be exact?
AH: To be honest, being 20 years old helped. If I had to do it today, I’m unsure how well I’d manage my time and balance school, NCAA football, and theater. Each one is a full-time job. Between morning lifts, meetings, classes, practice, rehearsals, workouts, and shows, running from our football stadium to our theatre was a lot of running from one thing to the next. I would always do homework in the locker room, learn football formations in our theatre greenroom, and go over lines for shows in football meetings. It was wild, but I loved it all.

DA: What are some of your most significant achievements so far?
AH: What I’m doing right now, being a series regular on a top-rated, world-renowned, network TV show. It’s a dream, and I’m really proud. It’s been a fulfilling journey.

Jacket by Calvin Klein; shirt by 4funkyflavours; pants by AG Jeans; sneakers by Champion

DA: What’s next for you?
AH: Well, I’ve got a couple of things out there on the horizon. I may or may not have alluded to one earlier. So, we’ll see how things pan out. It should be fun.

DA: Last but not least, what’s your greatest hope for yourself and the entertainment industry?
AH: I want to keep helping to tell stories that ignite empathy – stories that are relevant to the human experience, stories that represent ALL of us. It matters.

Jacket by AG Jeans; pullover by Folk; shirt by XIVI; jogger pants by Cotton On
Jacket by Karl Lagerfeld; tracksuit and t-shirt by XIVI