Taye Diggs typically plays the kind of guy most women would trade their favorite pair of Manolo Blahniks to date. But in his newest endeavor, the genetically blessed actor breaks the mold as best-selling author Dr. Sam Bennett, a flawed internist who co-owns the Oceanside Wellness Group with his heartbroken ex-wife, Naomi. We caught up with the star of Private Practice (which debuts Sept. 26, 9 pm/ET, on ABC) in the Big Apple moments before he caught a plane home to Los Angeles. Here's what the 36-year-old had to say about ABC's decision to cancel his 2006 series Day Break, meeting executive producer Shonda Rhimes and what cracks him up about Kate Walsh.
TV Guide: What attracted you to the show?
Taye Diggs: Day Break had just gotten canceled and I had decided that my next job would be drastically different. I wanted to do something involving comedy. Then, almost as if it were destiny, Shonda Rhimes called me. At the time, I thought it was to come on Grey's Anatomy because all of that craziness was going on with Isaiah Washington. But she told me that she was going to have this new television show about doctors. As soon as she said that, I was in because I'm a huge fan of her writing. I follow Grey's Anatomy like it's nobody's business.
TV Guide: Did she write the character specifically for you?
Diggs: I don't know. The only thing I know is I told her I have a Yorkie and people look at that as being humorous because I'm this big guy walking around with a small dog. I have a small dog on the television show as well.... Other than that, I told her that I wanted to go against type. Instead of being the cool, suave, perfect character, I wanted to explore the more unconventional, awkward, sometimes nerdy side of myself.
TV Guide: Did you audition or did Shonda just offer you the role?
Diggs: It was kind of both. Like I said, she called me into a meeting to see what my vibe was, to see what I was like in the room. Then she expressed her interest. I don't know what goes on behind closed doors.
TV Guide: But you never had to read a script?
Diggs: No, no I didn't. I'm definitely grateful that I've reached that level.
TV Guide: Did you and Shonda hit it off right away?
Diggs: They made me feel very comfortable. It was her and two other producers. We immediately started talking about whatever. I forget. It took a while to bring the conversation back to work.
TV Guide: Did you do any research for your role?
Diggs: I had to figure out what kind of doctor I was, but for each episode, they type out all of the technical terms. So we have our own study sheets right there. If I had the capacity to memorize all of those little study sheets, I could do something! But, unfortunately, I spit them out and they leave me.
TV Guide: Spin-offs tend to have a stigma attached to them. Why will this be more successful than, say, Joey?
Diggs: Obviously we've been asked this question quite often. I think, at the end of the day, we're a little better off than if we were starting fresh. Whether or not people who watch are Grey's fans and want the show to succeed, they're going to show up to see what we've got to offer. After that, it's up to us. Hopefully, the proof will be in the pudding.
TV Guide: Is it a relief to be on such a high-profile show after Day Break?
Diggs: Yeah, sure! People immediately started saying it would be a home run. That's not the case. It's never the case. But if you had to gamble, I would gamble on us. You know what I mean?
TV Guide: Are you a longtime fan of Grey's?
Diggs: Yeah. I jumped on pretty early on and watched everybody else climb on the bandwagon. Unlike Day Break, it's the type of show where you don't really have to work to understand it. You see yourself and your friends in a lot of the characters.
TV Guide: Do you stay home to watch TV on Thursday nights?
Diggs: I'm not ridiculous. I set the TiVo and then, when I have a chance, I watch. But when my wife [Wicked star Idina Menzel] and I are in the same city, it annoys me if she catches up on episodes before I watch them.
TV Guide: She'll probably be begging for scoop on Private Practice. Did Shonda swear you to secrecy?
Diggs: I don't know any of the secrets! Oh, my god, no. I asked one of the writers what the future holds for Sam Bennett and he didn't know. It's either deliberate or Shonda has sworn him to secrecy.
TV Guide: Do you like not knowing what's next?
Diggs: It would be nice [to know], but it's also kind of exciting. As actors, we tend to be kind of cerebral. So I'm sure she wants us to stay in the moment as opposed to knowing what's going on four episodes in the future.
TV Guide: How would you describe your relationship with the rest of the cast?
Diggs: It's great. Everybody in that cast has enough talent to man their own shows. A lot of people already have. So, first and foremost, that's great. I feel privileged to be working with such a highly esteemed cast. I know you hear this constantly, but everybody seems like they're really good people. If I had kids, I'd let any one of them babysit my kids!
TVGuide.com: How would you describe your relationship with the rest of the cast?
Diggs: I was really impressed with how Kate handled everything, because she was getting married and starring in her own show and she was pretty graceful, I have to say, under all of that pressure. And she was ridiculously funny. We have a really funny cast. Everyone has a really good sense of humor.
TVGuide.com: Does that help during long days on set?
Diggs: Sure. We tend to get punch drunk.
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