When Buffalo-born actress Charlene Amoia landed a role on an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy,” she was excited. That’s expected: “Grey’s,” in its 14th season on ABC, is one of the most successful series in television history.
But it wasn’t the show’s hit status that excited Amoia. She has already appeared in an impressive list of hit series: “Glee,” “Castle,” “House,” “Nip/Tuck,” “90210,” “Criminal Minds,” and many more shows and movies. Amoia was a recurring character known as Wendy the Waitress on “How I Met Your Mother” and earlier this year was a guest star on “NCIS.”
She’s also part of the cast for the independent movie “Cold Brook,” shot in the area last summer by actor-turned-director and Cheektowaga native William Fichtner.
Amoia’s episode of “Grey’s” airs at 8 p.m. March 8 on WKBW.
“For me, it’s an opportunity to act,” Amoia said by phone from Los Angeles, where she lives.
And therein lies the little-recognized reality: Amoia’s resume is stacked with recognizable gigs not only because she’s an employable actress, but because she’s an actress who’s constantly looking for employment. It’s normal for Amoia to audition twice a week. When she lands a job, it’s a victory.
When she plays a character that’s interesting or relatable, even better.
Her “Grey’s” character, an obstetrician named Dr. Kate Lachman who grapples with an ethics issue, fits that. While Amoia couldn’t discuss the storyline, she did talk about how she found ways to identify with her character (whom she hopes becomes a recurring one), and working with the episode’s director, Chandra Wilson, who also plays Dr. Miranda Bailey. We also discussed her recent appearance on NCIS, her take on the #MeToo movement and her recent personal trip to Cuba.
Question: I get that, at this point, you don’t focus too much on the popularity of a show. But at some point, I’m guessing, you must feel the magnitude of being a small part of a hit franchise. True?
A: Booking the job is the exciting part. Once it’s released, the reaction I get is always about the fans and the show. I forget about that part — there’s actually a whole life around it. “Grey’s Anatomy” has been on for 14 (seasons). That’s a lot of somebody’s life if they’ve stuck with it for that long.
Q: Do you get excited about the characters you play?
A: If there’s some quirk about the character that I really like, that’s much more exciting to me. It is definitely more character-driven for me.
Q: Talk about your “Grey’s” character.
A: There was a quality in her that was kind, very human, soft. She’s an OB, so (she is) maternal. I liked that. When I auditioned for the role, in that scene she was initially drunk. Before I did the audition, the casting director came out and said to everybody that this was changing, and that’s not the direction they were going in with this character. Which changed a lot, because you could really just see her humanness. I liked that about her.
There are some issues with her ethics in this episode that put that into question: trying to keep a family life in balance with a professional life. Which I think is a real issue out in the world. People can relate to trying not to let work take over your whole life.
Q: Longtime “Grey’s” fans know your director, Chandra Wilson, as Dr. Miranda Bailey. What was she like as a director?
A: She’s great. She was very cool and laid back. She had a lot of energy. I felt she was an actor’s director, because she was thinking about beats and moments and blocking from an acting standpoint. That made it very easy for me, because she had already thought about it. Being on a set I had not been on before, I need to see what I’m working with, and consider where I’m moving when, and why. The fact that she was already thinking about that before, I was very appreciative. It’s really lovely when you’re working with a director who understands acting, because they’ve done it.
Q: What’s it like to walk onto the set of long-running, successful shows like “Grey’s” and “NCIS”?
A: “NCIS” was probably the loveliest experience I’ve had on a show. It’s such a well-oiled machine. From the day I got there to do the table read, everybody was so kind, and so welcoming, and that’s not always the case, because actors can be closed off. That was a really nice show to be on. They have their rhythm that they’ve had for 15 years. Everybody is just kind of comfortable, it seemed like.
With “Grey’s,” when I was there for my shoot days, they just know what they’re doing. There’s no real stress. There’s a lightness about it, I think. With new shows, every year it’s like, “Are we going to get picked up again? What are the ratings?” These shows are so highly rated, there’s really no worry.
Q: What’s your perspective on the #MeToo movement?
A: I’m really thrilled about it. I’m thrilled about it for Hollywood, but also for our country and, eventually, globally. There’s been a certain level of ugliness that has been arising along with ugly political views. The ugly has come to the surface and so people are speaking out and coming together. It is effecting change, and I think it is very due time and so necessary and I’m really happy about it. Awareness is so huge, and people are talking about something that people were afraid to talk about before. That’s such a big deal.
Q: I saw on social media that you and some friends spent some time in Cuba recently. What was that like?
A: I got in involved in a humanitarian where we were helping rebuild a run-down building into an arts center, and doing painting and arts and crafts. To work with the Cuban people, and taking salsa lessons and dancing all night, it was lovely. There’s something about the level of suffering that everybody is in there, so everybody knows the same struggle. So what I saw was a lot of the real stuff, which is love and community, because they lacked most material things. Everybody there was so warm. There was a lot of love.