“Booking Grey’s out of the self tape was really, really nice,” they told Deadline. “You send so many of these auditions into the void…and I got the phone call the next day. It was just one of those things that worked out.”
The Shrill and Work in Progress actor made their Grey’s Anatomy debut as Dr. Kai Bartley in “Some Kind of Tomorrow.” A neuroscientist at the The Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, Fightmaster’s Dr. Bartley joins Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) and Amelia Shepherd (Caterina Scorsone) to find a cure for Parkinson’s Disease. Chemistry goes beyond the research as Amelia and Kai begin to learn more about each other, sparking potential for a romantic relationship.
While Kai Bartley is the latest queer doctor to join the world of Grey’s Anatomy, following the likes of Schmitt (Jake Borelli) and Calli Torres (Sara Ramirez), Fightmaster says it’s exciting that their identity isn’t the sole focus of their time on the series.
“It’s very exciting to get to be a full human on a show, to get to act and not worry about my gender. It just gives me so much more leeway to play, knowing that as a baseline I personally am being respected,” they said.
Musing about the respect of both the series’ writers and fanbase have for how they identify, Fightmaster also reflected on portraying nonbinary love interests for both Grey’s and Shrill. In the Aidy Bryant-led Hulu series, Fightmaster appeared as Em, the romantic partner to Lolly Adefope’s Fran.
When asked whether being cast as a love interest multiple times was an ego boost, Fightmaster quipped: “I would be lying if I said otherwise.”
They continued: “When I get hired as a love interest, I just think that this is another way that people get to see themselves. I think sometimes we spend so much time explaining our identity when you see trans or nonbinary characters on TV. It’s nice to just see them get to connect. It’s nice to see them just live out other parts of life that aren’t all explanatory or explanation-based. A lot of character writing for gay people is talking about trauma. It’s nice to, instead of playing trauma, get to play love.”
Playing love with Scorsone is “such an easy job,” Fightmaster added. They praised Scorsones’ dynamic personality and noted that the Grey’s vet “welcomed [them] so quickly and so warmly.” Between Kai and Link, it may seem like Amelia may have a thing for intelligent doctors with great hair, but ultimately “Amelia’s kink is connection,” regardless of how the person with whom she shares it identifies.
After joking about bringing their musical talents to Grey’s Anatomy (“I’m gonna bring my electric guitar to set and I’m just gonna improvise and if they don’t write it in, then I quit”), Fightmaster reflected on the significance of further pushing the boundaries of on-screen queer romance.
“If you look at the show like Grey’s, obviously the fanbase is interested in the medical aspects of it. But the thing that really keeps them yied is this constant search. for connection that all of their characters are trying to achieve,” they said. “Adding a non binary storyline to that, getting to see a non binary person get to be part of this extremely flirty world, this compassionate world is really fun for me. I just think about me as a queer kid to watch this on screen. I cannot imagine what it would have done to my brain and what it would have done for my heart.”
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