Grey’s Anatomy returned for season 19 with an all new class of interns. Among them is Dr. Benson ‘Blue’ Kwan played by Harry Shum Jr. With the new interns getting through Dr. Owen Hunt’s yearly trauma training course LA Confidential spoke with Shum about playing a TV doctor, what to expect from Jules and Blue and Crazy Rich Asians.
What has it been like to join one of TV’s most legendary medical dramas?
It does feel very surreal and in a weird way it honestly feels like home. Outside of shooting we have these tournaments, like we just did a cornhole tournament and then we go back in and get back to business and film the scene, so it honestly just feels like a really wonderful work environment.
How did you prepare to play a doctor?
Stepping onto the Grey's Anatomy set, they do such a wonderful job. When you walk through the halls, you do really feel like you're walking into a hospital…We also have Linda Klein and Michael Metzner who are our brilliant medical directors and they give us a really hands-on experience.
At certain points when you're filming, you forget that you're filming something really on a fake person or on a cadaver or whatever it is. I start to get really nervous like I'm going to possibly kill the person if we do something wrong, along with all the lines.We have the medical terminology that we spend so much time, but once you put the action into it, it starts to mess with your brain. So, how real doctors do it? I don't know. But on the TV side of it, it’s definitely nerve racking.
Does that nervousness feed into your performance as an intern?
Oh, I found it very, very helpful. Instead of staying away from nervousness, you have to lean into it and hopefully it just reads on screen. That's the good part about being an intern where you're not used to this, especially when there's trauma that's happening and everything is spiking and you're trying to figure out how to stabilize him or her. Along with that, when we learn the lines, sometimes we don't know all we're gonna do until right before we're rehearsing, right before we shoot. So, we have to do these things immediately, so the immediacy definitely creates a nervousness. What I would have to say about specifically this whole cast and the crew is that it is a wonderful, supportive environment and that really helps.
I feel like last week’s episode really laid the groundwork for the rest of the season to build on the drama between the interns. What did you think of Kwan and Jules hooking up—Are things about to get messy in typical Grey’s tradition?
I remember the episode when Kwan is talking to Yasuda (Midori Frances) about why everyone is married here and that they have no lives and they don't have any friends outside of the hospital. And I think that's why you see so many interactions, especially with Kwan and Jules (Adelaide Kane), and I think them feeling the spark, but knowing in their brain that they can't have a relationship, they can't sustain one and this might not be the best idea, but the attraction is there and I'm curious to see what the fans think. But at the same time, I think it's gonna unravel in the best possible way.
On last night’s episode, “Haunted,” the interns did Dr. Owen Hunt’s (Kevin McKidd) trauma training session. What was it like working with the “cadavers?”
We didn't use real cadavers. They cast the person and then they cast them, meaning they do the whole prosthetics and then they insert bones in prosthetics. So when you're digging in or putting your fingers in, you feel “bones.” I'm not sure exactly what they use, but it's really incredible. They have certain parts of the anatomy that replicate and when you open it up, you start to see the flesh and it just leaves very little for the imagination in the best possible way because it's so real.
There are now only two episodes left until the winter hiatus. What can we look forward to, as we approach this mid season finale?
These interns are pretty good at keeping secrets in the sense of what's happening, but at the same time, they share a lot about each other. As far as Blue and Jules goes, I think what's nice is we're going to see a little bit more of a healthy side of how two people who are attracted to each other deal with whatever is happening between them. And I think it's nice to see, especially on TV where there's still going to be drama within that.
I really love what the writers are doing this season. They're slowly putting little clues and hints within how the interns deal with patience and certain patients and how they can speak to their personal lives to find and to relate to the patients. Outside of that, also confiding with each other.
I think with this class of interns, they're definitely leaning a lot into, obviously, the competitive side, but the friendship side as well.
As far as Blue goes, I think people are gonna be very surprised about his past and why he's there and why he's there later in the game and also how certain patients will affect him in a way that will definitely charge him in ways that we haven't seen yet.
Can you give us any insight into the next Crazy Rich Asians movie?
They're writing it and Jason Kim is really just the perfect writer for this and I know he has a really, really fascinating story for Astrid and Charlie's ongoing romantic dramas.The one thing I'll say is that I don't know exactly what story is, but I do know that they're trying to just make sure to have the best story, especially for the follow up or even the spin off to the beloved Crazy Rich Asians film.
Halloween is around the corner and people have been inspired by Everything Everywhere All At Once. Have you seen the racacoonie costumes already happening?
Oh, my gosh, that has been the most surprising. I was talking to Daniel Kwan, one of the directors, and he's just flabbergasted at these costumes of all the characters. Specifically racacoonie, I feel like seeing kids and seeing older adults in different iterations of it— I've seen plenty and I can't wait for Halloween to come because I know people have been preparing for it. I remember we did a Q&A and people were dressed up there at the Q&A, so it's amazing. I'm glad that people are having fun with it and I get to be part of a movie where people are just really dressing up for Halloween.
I'm very fearful, but also excited to see someone actually put a real raccoon on their head. It's gonna happen. People have got to take their time, so maybe this year, maybe next year, but I look forward to that. Hopefully no one gets hurt.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Photography by: Getty Images/ Jerod Harri