Chyler Leigh, Grey’s Anatomy
It was like déjà vu from the very first episode of Grey's Anatomy
(premiering tonight at 9pm/ET, ABC). Late last season, Dr. Derek "McDreamy" Shepherd met a young babe, played by Chyler Leigh
, in the Emerald City Bar. Though they flirted, this time he stopped short of showing her his bedside manner. And thank heavens — the girl in question turned out to be Lexie Grey, Meredith's half sister and the newest addition to Seattle Grace's intern program. "We met with a lot of young actresses, but Chyler stood out — she had a quality that felt right and real to me," creator Shonda Rhimes
says about choosing Grey's
newest cast member. "It felt like she could be Meredith's sister, but she had a depth that was very interesting." Here, the 25-year-old North Carolina-born actress who played the "McBar-Hussy" (her words) spills a secret or two on her character and herself.
1) Lexie's going to have — and cause — issues. "They're saying Lexie is kind of like a shiny, happy Meredith — the one from the healthy family dynamic," says Leigh, whose character is still reeling from the death of her mother. "It hits pretty hard, especially working in the same hospital where her mother died. Lexie is trying to be very stoic and professional, but by the second or third episode, it all comes crashing down." She'll be working for the recently dumped Cristina Yang and become friends with George.
2) Chyler's a small-screen queen. She played an attorney on David E. Kelley's Girls Club and The Practice, a photographer on Reunion, an advertising exec on North Shore and a troubled teen several times, on shows such as 7th Heaven. One short-lived role she recalls fondly was on an Aaron Spelling show called Safe Harbor, which also starred her older brother Christopher. "It was about a widowed father and his three sons who owned a motel," she recalls. "I played a runaway teen that they found hiding in the motel, so my brother ended up playing my older brother on the show."
3) Chyler was a punk rocker. Leigh's parents split up when she was 12 and she and her brother moved from Virginia to Miami with their mom. "I was one of those angry teenagers," she says with a sweet smile. "I couldn't do sports or cut my hair because I was modeling, so the only thing I could do was wear makeup and listen to alternative and grunge — anything angry. I partied with my friends a lot."
4) She never graduated from high school. "I really hated school — I never did an ounce of homework," she reluctantly admits. "Any assignments I turned in were poetry. Apparently I was just really bored. I didn't actually graduate." Instead, she took the California High School Proficiency Exam. "It's the equivalent of a GED except there's less hard work on the test," she says. "And thank god it didn't include social studies or government, 'cause I would not have passed."
5) She had a supersweet 16. At the tender age of 16, Leigh came to L.A. looking for work but found herself on a losing streak. "Literally the last audition I went on before I said, 'OK, I'm done' was the first role I got." It was for a pilot called Saving Graces, and she had to test with four actors vying to be her on-screen boyfriend. "I came in and saw four good-looking guys," she recalls. "Three of them were in chairs and one guy was sitting on the floor, and when I saw him I just knew. I honestly knew that was the guy I was going to marry. It was very bizarre." Nathan West got the part and the girl — they married in 2002.
6) Her favorite role is playing mom. After pretending to be a doctor all day on a hit TV show, the actress heads home to son Noah, 3, and daughter Taelyn, 1. "It's a very kid-friendly set," Leigh says of Grey's Anatomy. "My daughter doesn't really know what's going on yet, but my son instantly fell in love with the 'crafty truck' because there's candy in there — at eye level!"
7) You can also call her "Betty Crocker." "My husband grew up in Anchorage, and we just spent nine months there," Leigh says. "When it gets that cold, you take on hobbies like cooking." She's become a major birthday-cake baker. "I made Noah a carrot cake and frosted it green and put ears on it so it looked like Shrek. And for my daughter, I just made a ladybug cake. I don't even know if she really knows what one is, but she's my little ladybug."
8) She's seen a hot young movie star nearly naked. In an especially memorable scene from her 2001 flick Not Another Teen Movie, her costar, Fantastic Four hunk Chris Evans, surprised her by wearing strategically placed whipped cream and toppings that made him look like an ice-cream sundae. "It really sucked to have to do that scene," she says, lying through her teeth. "He had such a terrible body! And he was extremely self-conscious, because when he turned around there was a banana wedged in his heinie."
9) Her husband is a very understanding man. Not to mention a very secure one. "I've been asked if I'll be having a romance with McDreamy or McSteamy," Leigh says. "And my husband told me to answer, 'What's wrong with a little bit of both? Maybe all at once, like McTeamy?'" She giggles. "Why not? They haven't done that yet on the show!"
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