In Depth

Toughing It Out Leads to Emmy Nods

Nominated ‘Grey’s’ Co-Stars Turn Up the Mean

Looking at the list of character traits the Emmy nominees for supporting actress in a drama have been assigned on ABC’s hit show “Grey’s Anatomy,” it’s like a contest for Queen of Mean.

Chandra Wilson plays Dr. Miranda Bailey, softening a little but still mired in bitterness after losing out on her dream job as chief resident at Seattle Grace Hospital. The woman known as “the Nazi” tells new interns not to bother sucking up.

Fellow cast member and nominee Sandra Oh plays the commitment-phobic Cristina Yang, who continues to patch up her self-esteem, frequently sacrificing the self-esteem of others in the process.

“She makes the character vulnerable and believable,” said Executive Producer Betsy Beers—no small feat, since Ms. Oh’s character is so impatient she numbers the new interns rather than learning their names. “She knows they’ll be moving on,” Ms. Beers said. “In her mind, they haven’t earned the right to names yet.”

Both actresses “bring a full commitment and intensity to their craft,” she said, “but also to their characters. They got into the skins and understood who these people were.

“There was never a moment they didn’t understand who they were playing, and they helped form the characters’ reality as much as we did.”

As Dr. Bailey, Ms. Wilson, who won rave reviews in Tony Kushner’s “Caroline, or Change” on Broadway, is like “a vacation in a storm,” Ms. Beers said. The actress “has a natural authority, and a peace with her authority, that she brings to the character in an effortless way.”

Ms. Beers, who developed the show along with writer and Executive Producer Shonda Rhimes for the Mark Gordon Co., said the ethnic makeup of the show, which has been widely acclaimed if not widely emulated, is simply a reflection of the world at large.

“We believe in a multiethnic America and a multiethnic world,” she said. “So on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ there will be a multiethnic mix. We want to see every ethnicity for every part.”

ABC “got what we were doing right away,” Ms. Beers said, and stood behind the producers for the racial makeup of the show.

Other nominees in the supporting actress in a drama category are five-time Emmy winner Candice Bergen as Shirley Schmidt, founding partner of the law firm Crane Poole & Schmidt, for “Boston Legal,” a David E. Kelley production in association with 20th Century Fox Television; Australian actress and four-time Emmy nominee Rachel Griffiths as Sarah Walker, a working mom just trying to keep it together, in “Brothers & Sisters,” produced by ABC Studios; and two-time Oscar winner Dianne Wiest as Dr. Gina Toll on “In Treatment,” HBO’s psychiatric showcase that reveals the workings of a different therapy session each night, produced by Sheleg, Closest to the Hole Productions and Leverage in association with HBO Entertainment.

Last year’s winner was Katherine Heigl, also of “Grey’s Anatomy,” who withdrew her name from competition this year.