An Acting Career Like Knight and Day

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As awkward, lovable and socially inept intern George O'Malley, T.R. Knight has emerged as a fan favorite on Grey's Anatomy. In many ways, the actor's roundabout road to success mirrors George's unlikely status as everyone's hero.

Knight's multifaceted portrayal ensures that George is never a sad sack, but far from a stereotypical leading man. We've grown to love George like a brother as he's bungled romantic encounters, struggled to fit in, and grown immensely as a surgeon. In an interview with the Arizona Republic, Knight said he was instantly drawn to George's complexity when he auditioned for the pilot.

Dr. O'Malley
"I liked that you saw more than just one side of [George]," Knight said of the script. "In a pilot, there's a lot of information you have to get across, and especially in this case, a lot of characters. I saw more than one side to him. He wasn't just someone who sticks his foot in his mouth... You saw him struggle, get hurt. You saw him try to do good."

Despite how badly he wanted the part, Knight, who travelled from New York to L.A. for "pilot season," tried not to get his hopes up.

"Every once in a while you feel there's a part that's kind of more of a match than some others. But I don't know. I guess, in an effort to self-protect, [you] can't assume too much. I get in trouble when I do. So you just think, 'Okay, this is going to be really fun to do for the audition, and whoever gets this role is really gonna be lucky.' It was surprising that it actually worked out, because in my experience, the ones you really want aren't normally the ones you get," he said.

Although Knight performed in plays and was featured commercials while growing up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, he didn't always fancy himself an actor. By the time he reached high school, he was hooked.

"I just ended up concentrating on the plays in high school at the expense of, you know, class work," he said.

Once he finished high school, Knight performed at local theatres and applied to several acting schools. After being rejected, he eventually he became a company member at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, and finally decided to move to New York in 1998. He credits his initial rejection from acting school as what sparked his desire to leave Minnesota.

"I think it was my last effort to get into [acting] schools and then not getting in the final time that kind of propelled me," he says.

Knight landed work in off-Broadway shows, but still experienced plenty of hard times as an actor trying to make it in the city that never sleeps. He spoke of a friend and he constantly loaning each other $20 for food. In New York, after all, it's a victory just to pay rent and survive, even if one has the good to be working. The last off-Broadway play Knight appeared in paid him a paltry $187 a week. Then there was the difficult experience of getting fired from a play -- a role he describes as far from the best fit.

"It was a Restoration comedy, and I was supposed to come in in the fifth act as the foil to the main guy. It was a role for someone much taller and studlier than I am. He was this braggart soldier, and the costume was, like, slit all the way up the arms -- my little chicken arms were showing. It didn't make any sense unless I played it like a little Napoleon, right? Some guy with a severe short-man's complex. It didn't work, because the main character was kind of a dork. It just didn't work," Knight said.

Knight was dropped by his agency shortly thereafter, then tried in vain to garner her representation. He recalls being told that if he looked like Brad Pitt, he'd have an agent in a second.

"You just kind of get worn down, because you've been fired, you've been dropped, you haven't worked, and you're supposed to go in and be, like, 'Hey, invest in me. Believe in me.' I'm sure I walked in and my tail was completely between my legs and my shoulders were slumped. I'm sure I didn't make a very attractive picture," he said.

Knight eventually found work as a reader for casting director Jim Carnahan at the Roundabout Theatre Company, which he found to be a great learning experience in spite of the pride he was forced to swallow. Then about six months later, he finally landed an acting gig -- the title role in Peter Shaffer's "Amadeus," back on his home turf at the Guthrie (see image below).

Making his way back to Minneapolis, the broke actor decided "Amadeus" would be his swan song as an actor. It was a role he'd always wanted, and thought it would be the perfect exodus from a field that hadn't paid off for him.

[Photo below by Michal Daniel,]

T.R. Knight as Mozart

As for his planned retirement, fate had its own ideas.

Soon Carnahan called Knight and summoned him back to the Big Apple for an audition. The director wanted Knight to star in a Broadway revival of Michael Frayn's "Noises Off," an offer that flattered Knight, but one he initially refused. With no money and schedule conflicts, Knight told his former boss that it was out of the question. After insisting the role was a great fit, Carnahan talked him into auditioning.

Sure enough, Knight landed the part of shy, good-natured (sound familiar?) stage manager Tim Allgood. He performed opposite Peter Gallagher and Patti LuPone, drawing critical praise and rejuvenating his career. This was Knight's turning point. He credits Carnahan for encouragement, and for recommending him to "Noises Off" director Jeremy Sams. The rest, as they say, is history.

"I really think he's ultimately responsible for every job I'll ever get," he said.

Steve Marsi is the Managing Editor of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Google+ or email him here.


Wow, I never knew T.R. had struggled for a while. It's a bit weird to me, to be quite honest. He is, in my eyes, one of the most talented, underrated actors in Hollywood. Why doesn't this guy get in movies? I think he's far better than a lot of the tabloid whores that get part after part. And may I add that he's better looking? ;-) Really, I was shocked when I read some of this.
I really hope he's staying for the rest of the series, and even after they shut the stage down once the series finale is finished, I hope it won't be the last I see of him. He's so talented. Oh, and if anyone's got his email, can I have it? I wouldn't sell it, and probably wouldn't email him considering I'm a pansy, but I'd just like to look at it and be like, "Yeah... That's T.R.'s email address."


hey this is like from two years ago but can i have tr's email aswel please:)??


Hello, im spanish and my name is jose. I dont speak english very good, but i want say a thing. In my country Grey´s Anatomy have shown for one year, and i am a very very fan of this. If you love this programm and you want talk with me, please put me in your msn messenger!! My email is Bye see you


I certainly hope that T.R. Knight is not considering leaving the show- his character is so great and honestly a much bigger part of the show than Isiah Washington's. I like that George married Callie- what a great twist! It's too bad that Mr. Washington doesn't have the qualities of his character- not only was his usage of a derogatory slur offensive in the first place, it was tacky to mention it at the Golden Globes and even worse to say the word again in the process.
But a note to T.R. - I'm sure you can get past this, he's the one who has the problem, not you. If I could recommend a movie for you to watch, it would be "The Secret", it is a great way to view life and will help you overcome any negative feelings you have- regardless of Mr. Washington's behavior. I support your decision to talk about this subject on shows like Ellen, because silence gives consent. Good luck to you and hang in there, hopefully this whole experience will make Mr. Washington a better person also.


I don't think TR Knight "came out of the closet", I think he was publicly "outed" for shock value from an angry co-worker. Straight people don't have to "come out of the closet" and say who they are intimate with, so why do we label this for gay people? How about "everyone is entitled to their personal privacy, and whether someone is straight or gay should be such an insignificant part of who they are as a person and what it is about them that we hold value as being", and angry rude ugly words like faggott should fall into the same category as nigger .....NOT ACCEPTABLE - NO ROOM IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE FOR IT, AND PEOPLE WHO USE THESE WORDS SHOULD BE "OUTED" FROM BEING A PART OF ANY PUBLIC PROFESSION. I don't want to hear it, and I don't want my kids to hear it. TR Knight is entitled to his privacy at whatever level he is comfortable, and the choice of what he discloses to others should be owned entirely by him. Washington should be fired. Counseling does nothing for that ugly part deep inside that knows that word and even considers using it. No matter how much alcohol that I would consume, those horrible words would never enter my mind much less spoken. Washington showed everyone what he carries inside his heart, and no therapy or apology will change the fact that now we know a lot more about who he is.....


Didn't plan to stop watching the show because of Isaiah's insensitive remarks, but would definitely STOP watching the show and boycott sponsors if TR Knight leaves the show,as today's news reports he is. "TR, don't teach other people a lesson at your expense!"


i just want to say that im absolutly on LOVE with TR Knight and im gutted that he's gay! I think he is really cute and i watch the show because of him! i had a dream about him last night. he is so much cuter than derek or Alex! I love him. TR Knight, if youre reading this, I love you!


I just wanted to say that I think it is crap that everyone is so worried about TR's sexual orientation. WHO REALLY CARES??? Isaiah Washington's comments on the Globes were ridiculous along with the comments that were made in the October "confrontation". I really hope that TR can get past all of this and continue to rock on for the fans of Grey's Anatomy!!!!


It's nice to see actors brave enough to come out of the closet. Always be honest to yourself and your fans.


As a (luckily) steadily employed stage actor (I sing, too.), I really appreciate the article spotlighting T.R. Knight's theater career. A career in the arts is always a gamble, but I'm sure T.R.'s making more than Equity minimum now! The scene where "George" tells his lover he has syphyllis was the funniest awkward moment on television last season. T.R.'s acting choices make "George O'Malley's" quirkiness interesting and more watchable than some of the other Seattle Grace bed-hoppers; although "George" deserves some good bed-hopping, too. Rock On, T.R.!


Grey's Anatomy Quotes

Did you say it? 'I love you. I don't ever want to live without you. You changed my life.' Did you say it? Make a plan. Set a goal. Work toward it, but every now and then, look around; Drink it in 'cause this is it. It might all be gone tomorrow."

Meredith (closing voiceover)

Burke was- He took something from me. He took little pieces of me, little pieces over time, so small I didn't even notice, you know? He wanted me to be something I wasn't, and I made myself into what he wanted. One day I was me Cristina Yang, and then suddenly I was lying for him, and jeopardizing my career, and agreeing to be married and wearing a ring, and being a bride. Until I was standing there in a wedding dress with no eyebrows, and I wasn't Cristina Yang anymore. And even then, I would've married him. I would have. I lost myself for a long time. And now that I'm finally me again, I can't. I love you. I love you more than I loved Burke. I love you. And that scares the crap out of me because when you asked me to ignore Teddy's page, you took a piece of me, and I let you. And that will never happen again.