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‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Newcomer Chyler Leigh: Kin to Meredith—and Hot for McDreamy

[IMG:L]Leave it to Shonda Rhimes to stir things up in the fourth season of Grey’s Anatomy. With the departure of pink-slipped Isaiah Washington’s Burke and Kate Walsh’s Addison, spun off to Private Practice in L.A., Seattle Grace needed some new blood. Providing part of that transfusion is Chyler Leigh, who appeared in the final two episodes at the end of last season as new intern Lexie Grey, Meredith’s half-sister, last seen having a chemistry-filled encounter with Dr. Shepherd.

Leigh, 25, brings more than a dozen years of experience to the role. The native of Charlotte, N.C., raised in Virginia Beach and Miami Beach, parlayed work as a pre-teen model and commercial actress to teen roles on TV in shows like 7th Heaven and That ‘80s Show. Her David E. Kelley legal drama Girls Club lasted two episodes, but Kelley cast her in a recurring role on The Practice in 2003, which she followed with the short-lived Reunion two years later. Having taken both the new show gamble and joined successful series, she’s breathing slightly easier in doing the latter on Grey’s.

Hollywood.com: What’s it like to join an established show?
Chyler Leigh:
It’s a little different. It’s a little intimidating but at the same time everyone has been so wonderful and so encouraging and welcoming that it’s been a great transition. I’ve worked with almost everybody, and it’s been great. The caliber of the acting on this show is phenomenal.

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HW: Were you told that the two appearances would lead to more?
CL:
I had an idea. I knew it was going to be a few episodes but I didn’t know how many and then I got the official pickup later. I’m just going to go with whatever I get, however many scripts I get.

HW: Did you get the role through an audition?
CL:
I did. It was kind of an interesting progression. It was kind of slow in the beginning because they didn’t want to reveal that I was coming on yet and then all of a sudden it was like, ‘Bam! You’re in!’

[IMG:R]HW: Were you a fan of the show? Had you watched it before you were cast?
CL:
That’s when I really started getting into it more. I don’t watch a tremendous amount of TV. I’d seen a few episodes here and there. So we rented the second season and we watched every episode in 2 1/2 days. We were crying and laughing, crying and laughing. It was extremely exhausting but it was great.

HW: Your character is a bit of a mystery woman.
CL:
Yeah, but they actually hinted a lot throughout the season—you had to really pay attention, or you can look back the episodes and go, ‘Oh, that makes sense!’

HW: What do you know about your storyline?
CL:
Honestly, I don’t really know a tremendous amount. We don’t even get scripts until the table read. I just know that she’s eager, she’s a hard worker, she’s a new intern and she’s just meeting her half-sister for the first time. Her mom just died tragically. It’s a lot to go through.

HW: You’ve potentially got McDreamy on screen. What about off-screen love interest?
CL:
I’m married.

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HW: Is your husband in the business?
CL:
Yes. I met him an audition. It was called Saving Graces for the WB. It was like nine years ago. We both booked it, as love interests. The pilot didn’t go, but we did! I was 16. He was a cradle-robber, but it’s OK. He’s only 3 1/2 years older. It’s not that big a deal. We just celebrated our fifth anniversary July 20.

[IMG:L]HW: What’s the secret to staying together in Hollywood?
CL:
It’s about keeping it real and about family, that’s the most important thing for us. We have a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old. The oldest is a boy and the youngest is a girl.

HW: You started working when you were very young.
CL:
12. I never thought in a million years that I’d be where I am today.

HW: What do you love about acting?
CL:
It’s the best way to express myself. I can’t paint to save my life. I draw stick figures but I draw them terribly. I enjoy music very much but this is the easiest way for me to let go of things that are inside and express my joy.

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