Meet Tyra, Emily Owens, M.D.'s Lesbian Best Friend
At first glance the halls of Denver Memorial on the CW’s freshman series Emily Owens, M.D., billed as high school in a hospital, may appear to look something like Grey’s Anatomy: The Younger Years, but the show claims its singular voice early on in the pilot when Emily’s soon-to-be best friend Tyra Granger delivers a brilliantly choreographed walk-and-talk explaining the hospital’s cliques from the stoners to the rebels to the all-American girls.
At first glance the halls of Denver Memorial on the CW’s freshman series Emily Owens, M.D., billed as high school in a hospital, may appear to look something like Grey’s Anatomy: The Younger Years, but the show claims its singular voice early on in the pilot when Emily’s soon-to-be best friend Tyra Granger delivers a brilliantly choreographed walk-and-talk explaining the hospital’s cliques from the stoners to the rebels to the all-American girls. Tyra also rather matter-of-factly comes out to Emily and millions of viewers as a lesbian in that opening pièce de résistance.
Equal parts verve and heart are at the core of actress Kelly McCreary’s (White Collar, Cyberchase) portrayal of Tyra. She’s the practical antidote to Mamie Gummer’s hilarious and heartfelt depiction of Emily – the ultimate nerd of sorts.
While Tyra and Emily will surely endure long shifts, life and death medical decisions, a tough attending surgeon played by Elena Undone’s Necar Zadegan and even high school-esque antics while attempting to navigate hospital life as interns, Tyra, an out-and-proud lesbian, will also face her demons around remaining closeted to the person from whom she seeks utmost approval – her father. Her father also happens to be the hospital’s Chief of Staff. Tyra does, after all, introduce herself to Emily as “the Principal’s daughter.”
SheWired caught up with native New Yorker McCreary to chat about her portrayal of Tyra, what clique she belonged to in high school, her lesbian fans and the advice Zadegan gave her on the first day of shooting.
SheWired: How did the role of Tyra come to you?
Kelly McCreary: Pilot season. I went in for something else for the CW and the casting director in New York – I live in New York – liked my audition and said, “I have another script I’d like you to look at,” and brought me back in for Tyra. As soon as I read the script, I was like, “You know, there are some auditions where you really have to sort of work at finding the voice of the character and do all kinds of actor-y homework and research to try to figure it out. This one fit me like a glove, and felt so natural and fun — mostly. So I went in for the audition, they sent my tape to LA, and the rest is history.
That’s kind of a testament to the writing then, if the character spoke so clearly to you.
Oh, absolutely. Out of all the scripts I had the fortune to read and audition for this year this is definitely my favorite. It’s fun, it’s funny, it’s heartfelt. It’s all of those great elements that you look for in an hour of TV.
And you have to be fussy these days—there’s so much!
Exactly! And there’s a lot of good TV too, so it’s nice, you know, when you get a script and you’re like, “Oh yeah, this is as good and exciting as some of the stuff that I’ve seen already and would love to be part of.”
Speaking of fun, the first scene you’re actually in, where you’re walking Emily through the halls and pointing out the cliques. It’s such a great sequence. Was that fun to shoot? It was certainly fun to watch.
I’m so glad to hear that, first of all, that it’s fun for you, because it was really fun for us. Our director Bharat Nalluri was just so much fun to work with. He really just made you feel like you wanted to do your best, and be as playful and have as much fun as you could to give a great performance. In that spirit, it was very playful.
He blocked the background actors in position as we passed them. They were so perfectly garbed and positioned — with the stoners coming out of the bathroom. It was so easy to have fun with that because he had sort of built this perfect environment for it. It was great fun to shoot. And to walk and talk like that is more challenging than it looks. You’ve got to hit your marks, you’ve got to see the people at the right time, and also, don’t hesitate or definitely don’t mess up the line. So it was a little bit nerve-wracking, but mostly, great fun.
For those really long takes, it’s must be more like theater in some ways, where you really have to rehearse getting it right.
Yeah, well, you come to set prepared, and that day I knew it was going to be a big show with lots of people and camera moves and I just didn’t want it to be me messing it up. I came as prepared as I could, and we played quite a bit on the fly, and everybody was really good at their jobs. It was actually a pretty smooth take. We all came prepared to do what we needed to do to get it done pretty efficiently. So it was fun.
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