'Grey's Anatomy' star Giacomo Gianniotti on dancing to Drake, his greatest 'pinch-me' moment and epic road trips

By Ava Baccari, with files from Alisandra Puliti

Grey’s Anatomy star Giacomo Gianniotti is quickly adapting to the medical demands of his new gig – both on and off screen. “I picked a very large splinter out of my co-star Kelly [McCreary]’s finger,” the 26-year-old told Hello! with a laugh. “I felt like that was like surgery.” The Toronto-raised Italian actor, who joined the staff at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital as intern Andrew DeLuca late last year, has been promoted to series regular for season 12 (returns Feb. 11, CTV/ABC) – and finds his character embroiled in a fledgling romance with Kelly's Dr. Maggie Pierce.

Giacomo has also been getting used to working opposite some seriously famous faces. Denzel Washington directed an episode of Grey's, while he acts opposite Jason Sudeikis in the Jesse Owens biopic Race (in theatres Feb. 19.)

The rising star opened up to Hello! about the pressure of joining the critically acclaimed TV show, his new life in Los Angeles and why all roads still lead to Rome – his hometown.

The handsome actor's star is rising fast. Photo: Getty Images

You’ve acted in CW’s Reign and Murdoch Mysteries both filmed in Toronto, where you grew up. What prompted the move to Los Angeles? I came out to L.A almost a year ago... got an Airbnb for $1,500 a month and I just rented that for three months. And when I got here, I had gotten this call back for a Grey’s Anatomy audition I had done like four months ago and I went in and met with [creator] Shonda Rhimes and their producers, I did an audition with them and they gave me a part. So there I found myself at the beginning of pilot season and I hadn’t even auditioned for a single thing and I already had a role. All of my actor friends hated me. I was very fortunate.

Where were you when you got the call? I was probably in my Airbnb with my two buddies that drove out here with me, in the midst of a Corona or two, and we just celebrated.

Did you drive out from Toronto? Where did you find out about the audition? Yeah. We drove out, and I think if I'm not mistaken [I was at] some gas station in Missouri when I got a call from my manager.

Who did you road trip with? Two of my musician friends that I write music with, we all brought our guitars and whoever was driving would just sing and the rest of us would play our guitars. That was beautiful... [I had] a tiny little economy car hatch back, that was the car I had, and we had attached this 5X8 trailer... This poor little car was just chugging along pulling this trailer and they had, because it was a lower car they didn't put the chains from the trailer properly so the chains were dragging on the cement as we were driving and at night we started seeing all these sparks in the rearview... We called our trailer Trailer Swift and Two Chains.

Being on a medical show, do you ever think you can diagnose your friends? No, no, none of that. I'll tell you what though. I'm waiting to be in a situation like on an airplane or restaurant when somebody collapses or is choking and I know someone is going to yell out 'is there a doctor in the building' and I know a little part of me, just a small little part of me is going to like start to get up and then I'll immediately check myself and sit down.

Giacomo Gianniotti is now a series regular on Grey's Anatomy. Photo: ABC

Do you still have pinch-me moments on set? I think one of those moments was when, before the holidays, we were directed by Denzel Washington, and obviously, I’m a huge fan of his work and I respect him immensely, so that was a "pinch-me moment." I never thought that Grey’s Anatomy was what was going to connect me with Denzel Washington. But it did.

What about Ellen Pompeo? She's pretty much the face of Grey's. She is so much fun, she is just in a state of constantly having a good time. She's making sure everyone else is having a great time. She's always pumping the latest Drake song while she's walking by, dancing to it, making sure everyone else is dancing to it.

Who would your dream leading lady be? Probably Julianne Moore. I don't think there's a single actress I have more respect for than her. She's the real deal.

What made you decide to become an actor? I was always interested in telling stories. My dad used to bring me to this little lake in Rome where they put on little puppet shows as a kid and I loved going. I was obsessed with it and I would always make him take me. So then I just started getting more interested in going to theatre.

What was your first acting gig? I was like 10 or 11 in Italy, in Rome, and my uncle had a casting director buddy and he had a small part in a film and they asked me, sort of a joke, if I wanted to be in it. And I of course said yes. So then I played the small part in this movie in Rome and I had a blast and I just thought it was so much fun.

Songs and sunsets at #elmatador #acoustic #guitar #inspirational #music #beachlife

A photo posted by Giacomo Gianniotti (@giacomo_gianniotti) on

You've said theatre is your first love. Do you plan on acting onstage again any time soon? Definitely. It’s just about finding the right project with the right people. I love doing plays. You get to do things that you just can’t do in film, unfortunately, and in television especially. It’s just TV moves so fast, sometimes you can’t second guess your choices, you just have to do it. But with theatre you spend hours, and weeks, and days in a room with your people talking about it and figuring it out and finding all the truths of the play. So it’s a really nice atmosphere to be a part of.

You were born in Rome, grew up in Toronto, and now live in L.A. Where is home for you? Rome is home, for sure. I love Toronto and I went to high school there...I don’t know how to describe it. There’s just a feeling inside of me that I want to go back to my hometown, go see the house I grew up in when I was a kid. Nothing will ever compare to that.

How do you spend your days off? I ride my Harley motorcycle down the coast. It’s beautiful.

Anything you're currently reading? A Robin Williams biography, sort of going from his early years to his death. I got it for Christmas.

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