‘Grey’s Anatomy’: Why Chandra Wilson Auditioned for Miranda Bailey Even Though Casting Directors Wanted a ‘Tiny Blonde With Curls’

Grey’s Anatomy viewers have watched Chandra Wilson as Chief Miranda Bailey for 17 seasons. Longtime fans of the show saw Bailey go from a resident to the leader of Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. They’ve also seen the character marry Ben Warren  (Jason Winston George)

Although Dr. Bailey is one of Grey’s Anatomy’s longest-running characters, Wilson shared that casting directors initially wanted to go in a different direction.

Chandra Wilson as Miranda Bailey on 'Grey's Anatomy'
‘Grey’s Anatomy’ star Chandra Wilson as Miranda Bailey|Gilles Mingasson via Getty Images

Chandra Wilson acted on Broadway before ‘Grey’s Anatomy’

Wilson was born in Houston, Texas, on August 27, 1969. After graduating from a performing arts high school in the ‘80s, she decided to study acting for college. The actor attended New York University’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts and earned a BFA in drama in 1991. 

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While in New York, Wilson began auditioning for stage roles. She landed her first Broadway role in 1991 when she starred in a production of The Good Times Are Killing Me. The actor continued to work on Broadway until she made her feature film debut in Philadelphia. The movie premiered in 1993 and starred Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington. Afterward, Wilson landed guest spots on shows such as Sex and the City before booking Grey’s Anatomy.

 Once she accepted the role of Dr. Miranda Bailey, Wilson mostly focused on playing the lead surgeon. However, she returned to Broadway in 2009. According to Broadway Buzz, the actor played Mamma Morton in Chicago. During her interview with the outlet, Wilson revealed she was on another Broadway show, Caroline, Or Change when she got the callback for Grey’s in 2004. 

Why the Miranda Bailey actor auditioned for ‘Grey’s Anatomy

Since premiering in April 2005, Grey’s Anatomy gained notoriety for its diverse cast. The show’s creator, Shonda Rhimes, intentionally used “color-blind casting” while selecting the faces of her characters. In Feb. 2021, Grey’s writer and producer Zoanne Clack interviewed Wilson and her co-star Kelly McCreary for Good Morning America. They shared their views on being Black actors in the TV industry. 

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During their discussion, Clack noted that, initially, Grey’s Anatomy’s casting directors wanted Bailey to be “a tiny blonde with curls who was underestimated.” However, Wilson convinced them that she was the perfect choice for the role. 

“I wasn’t (an) ingénue; the actor said. “I didn’t have whatever that look was, and casting always likes to give you a type,” she said. “I was always the thing that they called ‘non-traditional casting,’ so I would just go in for anything and just say, ‘I know that the role says this, but let me show you how I would do this,’ and see if that’s OK.”

How much does Chandra Wilson make per episode? 

Throughout the past 16 years of Grey’s Anatomy, many cast members have come and gone. Wilson, Ellen Pompeo, and James Pickens, Jr. are the show’s remaining original stars. In addition to acting, the Miranda Bailey actor also directs several episodes of Grey’s. She’s also said she doesn’t plan on saying goodbye to her character anytime soon.

Wilson’s paydays from Grey’s could be why she’s never left the show. According to StyleCaster, the actor earns $125,000 an episode. Additionally, she has a reported net worth of $10 million.