“Grey’s Anatomy” returned for its fifteenth season on September 27, giving a viewers another chance to get to know the latest batch of interns who walked through the doors of the beloved fictional Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital last season.
One of those interns is the Indian-American Dr. Vikram Roy, who is portrayed by Rushi Kota. The character is notable for several reasons, including the fact that Vik — as he is often known — is far from an ‘Indian doctor‘ stereotype. He isn’t mild-mannered or even likable. Instead, Vik is brash, doesn’t follow orders, and loves to talk about himself. Vik has also given Kota the chance to shine on primetime television.
Another reason Vikram Roy is significant is because while “Grey’s Anatomy” has been hailed for it’s diverse cast, the hasn’t had a noteworthy Asian character since Sandra Oh exited in season 10. While actors like Ravi Patel and Sendhil Ramamurthy have had small roles, this is the first for the show when it comes to prominently featuring South Asian actors.
We had the chance to talk to Kota about this groundbreaking role, what it’s like to join a show with an already massive fanbase, and his thoughts on South Asian representation.
The Teal Mango: Congratulations on season 15 of “Grey’s Anatomy”! I’m sure it must be exciting to be part of this long-running and beloved show. You joined last season. What’s it like to be a part of this well-established drama?
Rushi Kota: To be part of “Grey’s Anatomy” is pretty exciting. The cast and crew are beyond amazing; they all truly enjoy working with each other and are super happy to be on set doing what they love to do. Telling these stories that touch people’s lives on such an iconic show is priceless. It’s been a whirlwind since I joined to say the least.
TTM: Your character Vikram had a wild run last season. The relationship with April; getting fired from the hospital; the lawsuit. The story has given you a lot to play with. I’m curious as to what the response has been like to Vik? The “Grey’s” fanbase is very vocal!
Kota: (laughs) Yeah, let’s not sugarcoat it. Vik is quite a dick. He is not a well liked character. He’s pretty much the younger, hotter, browner version of Alex Karev from when the show began.
The fans have mixed feelings about Vik, and so do I. As a person, you want to be liked and fit in. As a character, you know you will not always be the most liked on the show. As an actor, it has been a fun role to play and yes, Vik gets a lot of action!
TTM: I really enjoy watching Vik because he doesn’t fall into the norm of South Asian-American doctor at all. He’s also the first major character of Indian descent (along with Sophia Ali’s Dahlia Qadri), which for a medical drama in its 14th season is a big deal. How much did that weigh on you while working on the show?
Kota: It was exciting to have my first big job where I get to work, play, and pretend all day but then once the news broke and the tremendous support from the community started pouring in, it reminded of me why I wanted to be an actor in the first place, so quite a bit. Representation really matters.
TTM: What can you tell us about Vikram’s journey as we go into season 15 of the show?
Kota: Vik is always on shaky ground and pushing limits, that is all I can say.
TTM: Another great thing that’s come out of you joining the cast last season is the web-series “Grey’s Anatomy: B Team,” which was also just nominated for an Emmy! Congrats! Will we be seeing more episodes of it?
Kota: We shot six episodes in three days on “B Team,” and it was amazing working with our fearless director Sarah Drew (who played April Kepner on the show from 2009-2018), and the interns absolutely slayed. I haven’t heard if there will be more.
TTM: Previously, you’ve worked on different shows like “Extant” and “Famous in Love” and “9-1-1.” What were all those experiences like for you and how did it shape you as an actor?
Kota: “Extant” was really cool because I got to work with Halle Barry. I mean she’s Halle Barry, what more is there to say! Not going to lie, I was so star struck, and she was just so damn cool to act with, it was humbling! Ryan Murphy’s “9-1-1” was really different just because of the level of production that went into coordinating the massive stunt in the scene. They built two floors of a banquet hall where the top floor was going to collapse. So each take was costing them a ridiculous amount of money, meaning all the actors had to be ready to hit the mark every time.
TTM: As an Indian-American artist breaking into this industry, do you feel there’s been a slow but steady rise in South Asian representation? Do you notice it when you go to auditions or the roles you see your peers get?
Kota: This is always a tough one for me, because South Asians have such a particular image, the proverbial stereotype that plagues the industry and that’s hard to shake off. As I’m defining who I am and specifying my niche, I’m able to get into rooms I otherwise wouldn’t have, so that’s a plus. Asians, and I mean all Asians, fit into the 10% when a project is filling out its cast, so all those Asians, men and woman, are still clawing for that one spot of the diversity quota.
TTM: Growing up, who were some of your role models or who inspired you to pursue acting?
Kota: Michael C. Hall. I was a huge fan of “Dexter,” he inspired me to apply for an MFA. Not literally, of course, but upon researching him and learning that there were programs available to study acting on a professional level, I knew I had to pursue it. Actors and actresses that inspire me now are Ryan Reynolds, Idris Alba, Ben Stiller, Riz Ahmed, Robin Wright, and Chandra Wilson, who is the most loving person in the whole world. (Wilson has starred in “Grey’s Anatomy” since it began).
TTM: What are some future projects you’re excited about?
Kota: I just shot this thriller anthology with six different writers/directors, called “Phobias,” which was really exciting because it was all night shoots and obviously I couldn’t sleep during the day so I really enjoyed discovering a new side of myself at the end of day 5. I’m working on various projects, which I obviously can’t talk about yet. You have no idea the amount of NDA’s actors have to sign these days. I’m also penning a comedy about the mess our generation has to navigate. Very, very excited for the future!
“Grey’s Anatomy” season 15 opens with a 2-hour premiere on Sept. 27 on ABC at 8/7c. It airs every Thursday. You can watch all the episodes of “B Team” here.