She had a short-lived stint as a wedding planner on the Fox sitcom Wedding Bells. Now KaDee Strickland is trading her stilettos for scrubs as Dr. Charlotte King, the chief of staff at St. Ambrose Hospital. Strickland may clash with her costars onscreen, but unlike her uptight alter ego, the 31-year-old is as laid-back as her warm Southern drawl. We caught up with the Patterson, Georgia, native to dish about Grey's Anatomy marathons, marrying Roswell heartthrob Jason Behr and what she loves most about her latest role.
TV Guide: What attracted you to Private Practice?
Well, the obvious talent of Shonda Rhimes and what she's been able to do with television in terms of developing rich and interesting characters. And, frankly, when you sit down with her and she says she's going to write something for you, there's nothing more flattering in the world. To do it and have it be so much fun is just remarkable. It's a dream job!
TV Guide: Did Shonda write Charlotte with you in mind?
To a degree, one never knows. This stuff is so mysterious the way it all comes to pass when you get a job. I took a meeting with Shonda and I didn't know what show it was for or what the character was. I just knew it was a female doctor. We sat down and just really hit it off. A few weeks later, I got a phone call saying Shonda Rhimes would like to offer you the role of Charlotte King. I was absolutely thrilled. It was the first time I've ever taken a job in my life without seeing the script first. But I knew it would be great. Then she told me she liked me having a Southern accent and I thought, "God, we're going to have so much fun!"
TV Guide: So nobody actually auditioned for this show?
From what I understand, that's kind of the way it went down for everybody. This stuff is very chemical. It either makes sense or it doesn't. I think that's a gift she has with Grey's, as a case in point. That ensemble is extraordinarily talented. I've had the good fortune of working with her and being surprised when scripts come in. You never know what to expect. You just know she's excited about it and, when we sit down and do the table readings, we're all excited about it. It's just a very collaborative, wonderful process.
TV Guide: So you don't know anything about Charlotte's storyline?
Oh, no! I'm not the kind of person who normally would take a contract for a character when I haven't even figured out who I'm going to be bringing home at the end of the day. But there's something about this lady where you just know she's going to give you a gift.
TV Guide: Are you having fun?
Honey, I'm having the time of my life! This cast is a hoot. We sit around and laugh so hard. On Friday night, the cast and crew saw the first episode and you just don't know what's going to end up in there. When I saw it, I was so proud to be part of it because these actors are so good. Have you seen it?
TV Guide: Yes, I did see it and you're pretty tough in that episode....
Me? Well, yeah.... That's why when somebody writes a part for you, you're like, "God, what do I communicate?" She's so smart and intuitive in terms of starting a character in one place and leading them completely to another. Artistically, I think that's something I look forward to. You've seen it with every character on Grey's. They all go through such an incredible journey, especially the ones who start out kind of tough and hard to get to know. When that facade starts breaking down, it's just heaven. I've had some interesting stuff to do so far but I can't wait to see where I go.
TV Guide: What first drew you to Charlotte?
I think there's something to be said for someone who is so hardworking. I like that she has a pretty strong moral code, even if it's different than my own. Playing her is challenging sometimes. I don't necessarily agree with her way of handling people or what she stands for. But I think, at the root of it, people who have that much responsibility at such a young age can get there by accident. I'm going to be taking off my heels before too long, so I like that!
TV Guide: How does she compare to characters you've played in the past?
I don't think I've ever played anyone so hard in terms of her moral code and [she's] very strong. It's a good challenge. I've played strong women before. It's something that I'm comfortable doing because I admire strong women and I certainly grew up around them. But I have to say that she challenges me a lot because I'm a little shocked at how her point of view just really takes over for her and that's kind of it. I think that there are a lot of people in this world who get humbled no matter how good they are or how good they are at what they do. It will interest me to see how that plays out, what will melt her heart.
TV Guide: Did you do any research for the role?
I was not allowed to follow doctors because there's a huge fine if you do it without the proper paperwork, and the proper paperwork is really intense. So, even to this day, I don't think that everything has been passed that would allow me to do that. The wonderful good fortune I have is that my mother is an RN. She is somebody who's been recognized across the country and honored for the work that she's done in hospitals. She was just a phenomenal resource for me to call and get research material. We also have a wonderful gentleman who works with us named Fred who is a remarkable doctor and resource himself.
TV Guide: What kinds of things have you learned from them?
Strickland: I'm very intrigued by how a person can be around so many intense, moving moments such as death or birth. No matter what happens, you have to be even. I think that's something that's so noble that we don't think about in our day-to-day lives. What happens when these people leave the hospital or even on the other side of the curtain, when somebody has just watched a pretty brutal death? Things like that are so extraordinary. As far as being able to follow somebody, which I desperately wanted, I did not have the luxury of doing that. But, as I said, I did grow up in a [health care] environment. This brought back a lot of my experiences as a child with my mother. So it's pretty cool!
TV Guide: Is it a total 180 from playing Annie on Wedding Bells?
Strickland: [Laughs] Oh, honey, she was pretty tough, but nothing like this! You've seen it so I don't even have to tell you. You probably saw it before I did.
TV Guide: Were you very disappointed that Fox canceled that series so quickly?
Strickland: I think four or five episodes aired. I honestly don't remember what made it to the air and what didn't because we shot so much stuff that I didn't even see. But, you know, the good thing about that is it made me available to someone like Shonda. That kind of stuff has no rhyme or reason. I'm just proud I had that under my belt because it prepared me for this and made me very grateful for what I've got now.
TV Guide: So it was really a blessing in disguise?
Strickland: I do believe life does work that way. In this business, you think you would give your arm for certain roles. Then you see somebody else do them and you think, "Oh, god, that makes so much sense!" You just can't question it. It's just perfect when it's perfect.
TV Guide: Were you a longtime fan of Grey's Anatomy?
Strickland: I'll tell you what. As soon as I found out I was meeting with Shonda, I watched it back-to-back. Honestly, when that phenomenon hit, I was either working out of the country or knee-deep in another job. I heard about it from all of my friends and I was like, "What is this thing?" The minute you watch one episode, it's ridiculous. I was honestly kind of happy that I wasn't waiting week to week and I could just sit down and watch all of it and get caught up.
TV Guide: Did you ever leave the couch?
Strickland: There wasn't a lot of downtime, but that's fun, too. I like to marathon a little bit. But, really, I couldn't believe how well put-together it was. To be perfectly honest, I'm not the biggest fan of television. I met with one of the producers and I just chewed her ear off ridiculously about episodes and why I liked them and blah, blah, blah.
TV Guide: What did you tell her?
Strickland: You don't know what to expect, which I love! Frankly, now I understand why because, when you don't get scripts, you're shrouded in a world of surprise.
TV Guide: Have you roped your husband, Jason Behr, into watching Grey's Anatomy too?
Strickland: Oh, absolutely! I'd rope anybody that sits down who hadn't already seen them for themselves.
TV Guide: What did he think when you told him you landed a part on Private Practice?
Strickland: It made sense to him that this would be a wonderful environment for me to grow in as an actor. When you're with someone and you get to see them come home with something that excites them, there's really nothing better.
TV Guide: He was on Roswell with Katherine Heigl, wasn't he?
Strickland: Yeah, he was! The world is so small. Half of the people on this crew worked with him then. We've had directors who worked on that show say, "You're married to the best man!" So it's very validating to me.
TV Guide: Were you a fan of Roswell when it was on the WB?
Strickland: Can I tell you something? I'd never seen it and I kept hearing that it was the greatest thing. And now, especially when he's on location, the dogs and I will sit around and watch it.
TV Guide: That's so cute!
Strickland: Yeah. I am a major dork.
TV Guide: Any chance your husband will guest-star on Private Practice?
Strickland: Oh, I'd love to work with him! If he would indulge me and they would indulge me, it would make my day. Are you kidding me? I would die to act with him, because we did The Grudge and we didn't have a single scene together. I would love that! In fact, I'm going to recommend it.
TV Guide: What do you think of the buzz around the show?
Strickland: I think that kind of stuff is what you make of it. We're all there to do our jobs and do them well. If people in the public receive us, that is the greatest gift we can ask for. I think if we even allowed that kind of thought process in, we wouldn't be doing our jobs well. There is way too much work to focus on the media attention. Is it nice? Absolutely! If it means more people will welcome us into their homes, then I say, "Great! Bring the attention." But you never know. That's why you just have to be very much in the moment.
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