How Sara Ramirez's Real Life Influenced Their Grey's Anatomy Role

Sara Ramirez was a lead character on "Grey's Anatomy" for ten seasons. The actor joined the hit network drama in Season 2, playing Dr. Calliope Iphegenia Torres. Per ABC, the orthopedic surgeon was a no-nonsense, outspoken and fearless trailblazer, working in a testosterone-fueled "male-dominated" hospital. On the show, Torres was left broken-hearted when her whirlwind marriage ended in tears after T.R. Knight's character, George O'Malley, cheated on her.

However, she was back in the love saddle again after falling for Dr. Arizona Robbins, resulting in a whole load of issues and drama. The two brides eventually walked down the aisle in a fairytale wedding. But, sadly, after a rollercoaster romance, they went their separate ways in Season 11. Torres finally got her happy ever after, though. In Ramirez's final episode, Torres headed off into the New York sunset to reunite with her on-off-on again love interest, Dr. Penelope Blake.

Ramirez's character was groundbreaking. Before Dr. Torres, there were few, if any, bisexual relationships positively portrayed on primetime network TV, so it proved a big step forward for the LGBTQ+ community. "Prior to Callie Torres, I'd never seen myself represented on television," Ramirez, who announced they were non-binary in 2020, told Out. And, it transpires that Ramirez's off-camera real-life influenced their "Grey's Anatomy" role — as much as the part helped shape theirs.

Sara Ramirez is a LGBTQ trailblazer

As People reports, Dr. Callie Torres was the longest-lasting LGBTQ+ TV character ever — appearing in a total of 239 episodes of "Grey's Anatomy," and the impact Torres made on the community can't be underestimated. "Dr. Torres was the first, full-fledged representation of bisexuality I'd ever seen," Shayna Maci Warner wrote for GLAAD. "And not only that, her portrayal was overwhelmingly positive, and she was a successful adult! At that point, I had never met an out bisexual adult and didn't even know they existed."

After departing the show, Sara Ramirez came out as bisexual themself. They went public with their sexuality during a speech at the True Colours Fund's 40 Summit in 2016. "Woman, multi-racial woman, woman of color, queer, bisexual, Mexican-Irish-American, Immigrant, and raised by families heavily routes in Catholicism on both my Mexican and Irish sides," they described themself.

Ramirez says that often people think that playing the role of Dr. Torres is what led to them coming to terms with their own sexuality. "To correct that misconception, I will share that I came into my queerness incrementally over time," Ramirez told Glamour. They shared that they'd been "exploring" their sexuality since the early 1990s, and that it was Ramirez who convinced "Grey's Anatomy" creator Shonda Rhimes to develop Torres' sexuality.

How Sara Ramirez shaped Callie Torres

Working as an actor on a hit primetime show, Sara Ramirez didn't feel comfortable coming out as bisexual, fearing they would lose work because of it. So, in a way, they used their "Grey's Anatomy" character as a declaration stepping stone. "As the years went on, I said to [Shonda Rhimes], 'I've never seen a bi character played on TV — not in a way that embraces bisexuality,'" Ramirez told Glamour. "I thought, Here's my chance to speak up. So I did. And Shonda said, 'Okay, let's do it.'"

Rhimes admitted she was surprised when she learned Ramirez wanted to leave the show. She said she found out just three days before them announcing their departure on Twitter, and that the New York ending wasn't supposed to be the actual end of the road for Dr. Callie Torres.

"[Them leaving] was interesting. It was different because it wasn't a big, planned thing," Rhimes admitted during a Q & A at the Vulture Festival in New York, per TV Line. "I had a different plan going, and when Sara came and said, 'I really need to take this break,' I was sort of lucky that we had shot the end of the season with her going to New York."

How Callie Torres shaped Sara Ramirez

Despite their shocking departure, Sara Ramirez definitely has zero regrets about their time on "Grey's Anatomy." They said that playing Dr. Callie Torres made them feel emboldened and helped them grow as a person. "There was so much I didn't know that I didn't know ... so I've caught up with myself in a lot of ways," Ramirez told Out.

Meanwhile, there's a chance Dr. Torres could be back on the screen sometime in the future. In an interview with People, Ramirez shared that working with Shonda Rhimes was "one of the greatest honors of my life, one of the greatest privileges." They admitted they would always hold dear the "Grey's Anatomy" crew and cast — and be grateful for having the opportunity to play Torres.

"I wouldn't be who I am today without the experience I had on [the show], and my heart is completely open to going back and checking in with Dr. Callie Torres," Ramirez said. "But that would only happen if the writers' room and the story really organically led them to need a character like Callie to come back. They all know that I support them from afar and that I'm rooting for them."