Her shiny, cinnamon-colored waves bouncing with every step, the 5'9" Kate Walsh looks picture-perfect. But there's something about her mischievous smile that makes you think she'd walk straight into a pole just to get a laugh. In person, Walsh is infinitely funnier than Dr. Addison Shepherd, the intimidating surgeon she plays on the ABC hit Grey's Anatomy.
Walsh, 39, was born in California, grew up in Arizona, and studied theater in Chicago before moving to New York.
She headed to Los Angeles seven years ago, and though she earned some fans as Nicki on The Drew Carey Show, she remained relatively unfamous before joining Grey's Anatomy during Season 2.
Life has changed dramatically since, and Walsh admits to wearing sunglasses in airports now, after a fan ran up and literally screamed in her face.
Yet despite newfound stardom, she doesn't seem at all self-conscious amid a crowded Hollywood lunch spot. Here's what she told the magazine:
WOMEN'S HEALTH: I hate to sound corny, but you're glowing. Did you just work out?
KATE WALSH: Well... I was supposed to do Pilates this morning. I got as far as putting the sports bra on. Then I realized there was no way I was about to drive through traffic and go to the gym. Noooo. So I threw my bathrobe on over the bra and read the paper. Sometimes I hope that through osmosis I might get a workout — just by wearing the clothes.
WH: You wore a fat suit when you starred on The Drew Carey Show. Did that give you perspective on what it feels like to struggle with weight?
KW: I don't think there's any woman who doesn't struggle with body image or weight. I was intoxicated with the story line on the show — a woman who worked hard to lose weight then dates this guy who eats. And she eats with him and gradually gets bigger and bigger until she can't stand herself. I remember going out to eat wearing the fat suit, and some people stared at me like I was an animal going to the trough. People can be cruel.
KW: I've done every diet there is. When I quit smoking years ago, I did the cabbage soup diet. I went on Atkins because I was going to have foot surgery. I knew I wouldn't be able to move or work out and I was afraid of becoming huge. I remember sitting by the pool with my legs elevated, eating a mixing bowl's worth of whipped cream with Equal in it.
KW: Yes, it was so disgusting!
WH: Why did you have foot surgery?
KW: I had bunions. Such a charming word. It's partly hereditary. Both my mother and grandmother had them. Part of it is from wearing pretty shoes. Your feet get screwed up. And I love high heels.
WH: How many pairs are in your closet?
KW: I probably have, like, 100 pairs of shoes. That's a pretty healthy shoe situation. I keep them in boxes with Polaroids on the front. That's how much of a shoe weirdo I am.
WH: Obviously you like to be organized.
KW: Yes... I struggle with control. I'm not anal. I'm not a clean freak. My house is a mess. But I definitely struggle with wanting things my own way.
WH: How so?
KW: I was going on a date recently, and the guy was like, "Okay, this place or this place?" and I happened to know of three better steak restaurants. So I texted back, "Well...how about this place instead?" and he was like, "Wow! Are you trying to take control of the date?"
WH: How long have you been on the dating circuit?
KW: My boyfriend and I split up a month ago, so I'm just starting to date.
WH: Are you heartbroken?
KW: No, I'm all right. We were together for a year and a half. He's a great guy, but it was long distance so it was really hard. It was a mutual, very adult breakup.
WH: Ever felt like you'd found a soul mate?
KW: I've had some amazing relationships, very transformational. But the idea of a soul mate is tricky. I get so many different things from so many different people in my life. Maybe it's dangerous to say, "You're the one, and there's only you." I really thought the last guy was it. So now I'm in this place where I'm like, "I don't know anything anymore." And I'm okay not knowing.
WH: In Under the Tuscan Sun, you played the lesbian girlfriend of your Grey's Anatomy co-star, Sandra Oh. What was it like preparing for that part?
KW: That's the fun thing about being an actress: You get to do things you wouldn't normally do — like be a lesbian. It was funny, that part came in the middle of a trilogy of lesbian roles for me. I had just played a closeted lesbian suburban wife in an indie movie, and then I played a lesbian detective on Karen Sisco. Do I give off a girl-on-girl vibe, I wonder? Or is it because I'm tall? I guess the chicks just dig me!
WH: On Ellen you talked about spending a night in jail. You threw a cue ball at a mirror in a Chicago bar?
KW: Yes — I was maybe 26 when that happened. It sounds so punk rock, doesn't it? The weird thing is I've always been relatively conservative. I take my risks onstage, in my work. So the one time I decide to rage, the universe goes, "Uh-uh, sorry, you can't do that!" I remember walking into the cell and there were two other women in there spooning. I was like, "Oh my God — lady sandwich! What's going to happen to me?!"
WH: Maybe that was the redhead in you coming out?
KW: Actually, naturally I'm a sort of medium mouse.
WH: Did people treat you differently when you changed your hair color?
KW: I behaved differently. When I was a blonde, guys treated me like a girl...a girly girl. Then as a redhead, I was a little more sassy, maybe a little more boorish — more how I am inside.
WH: So you feel like red is the real you?
KW: Yes. Being blonde was always other than what I really am. I thought I wanted to be one of those softer, girly girls. Then I grew out of that. I realized I'd never be a sweet girl. [Laughs] Never.