Fans of Grey’s Anatomy have been getting to know a fresh face this season: Dr. Nico Kim, played by newcomer Alex Landi. The actor, 26, joined as the show’s second doctor of Asian descent and the show’s first openly gay male doctor — another win for the show in terms of diversity.
“I felt kind of a duty or responsibility to make sure I’m doing a good job,” Alex exclusively tells Closer Weekly ahead of the season 15 finale, airing Thursday, May 16. He recalls “a huge wave of support” from the LGBTQ and Asian communities after his character debuted — something showrunner Krista Vernoff warned him would likely happen when they cast the role.
After all, this was the first Asian doctor on the show since Sandra Oh‘s Cristina Yang left the show five years ago. Not only that, but it was a groundbreaking role since we’d only seen women play LGBTQ roles on the show in the past — just look at Callie Torres, a bisexual doctor played by Sara Ramirez, and Arizona Robins, a lesbian doctor played by Jessica Capshaw.
“There are a lot of eyes watching — a lot of viewers, a lot of fans,” Alex adds. “I’d say the hardest thing about joining was … maybe the expectation and the magnitude of a role like this, the shoes I needed to fill. I didn’t feel pressure because I essentially just brought myself to the character. Just being on such a grand scale after 15 years, I think that was the most challenging.”
That said, Alex notes how he enjoyed being thrown into the mix right off the bat. “It’s such a well-oiled machine,” he continues. “Everyone is like family on set.” The leader of that brood, if there was one, would most certainly be Ellen Pompeo, who plays the titular Dr. Meredith Grey.
Alex calls the 49-year-old actress “down to earth, funny and chill,” saying she welcomed him “with open arms” and even made a cute video with his dog, Ninja, posting it to her Instagram.
It was this safe atmosphere that allowed him to really settle into his role. “They gave me that freedom to kind of take the character where I wanted,” the New York City native explains. This meant embracing Nico as the confident, masculine bro who we eventually see develop a more “sentimental” side — thanks in large part to love interest Dr. Levi Schmitt, played by Jake Borelli.
The 28-year-old made quite the splash when he came out alongside his onscreen persona. “That was a big decision for him to be vulnerable,” Alex reveals, calling scenes with Jake “fantastic.” “He did a good job handling everything and I think it just added to the whole feeling of Grey’s Anatomy. I think a lot of fans appreciated the courage and bravery he had when coming out.”
As the season progressed, the Insatiable star points out about how glad he was for audiences to get to know Nico better — and that he can’t wait to see more. “I’m hoping they start exploring him outside the hospital and I’m hoping to see him interact more with the core cast,” Alex says.
One member of the original cast he wishes was still around is, of course, Sandra. He ponders what would have happened had they been on Grey’s at the same time. “Who knows if they would have made us related ’cause I know she’s Korean and I’m half-Korean [and half-Italian],” he gushes about the Killing Eve star, calling her “just incredible” as an actress and person. “It would have been interesting to see two Asian doctors, male and female, in the same hospital.”
As for what got him into acting — having previously played professional tennis — we can thank his dad for that. “I watched movies with my dad all the time growing up,” he reminisces, saying how he saw movies like Pulp Fiction, The Matrix (one of his five favorites, for the record) and The Godfather for the first time with him. “It was a family thing. It got my whole family together.”
While he is enjoying his time on Grey’s Anatomy, Alex already has his ultimate role picked out. “Shang-Chi,” Alex, who is trained in martial arts, blurts out without hesitating,” the first Asian Marvel superhero. I wanna be that guy. That would be a dream role for me. That would be sick.”
This, Alex clarifies, is much more reasonable than having him play something like James Bond — but a villain in the franchise, perhaps, is more up his alley. “On a more personal note, I feel like I could be an amazing villain,” he raves. “I want to try being the bad guy at least once.”