When E.R. Fightmaster was cast as Grey’s Anatomy’s first non-binary doctor Kai, they were excited to take on a role that allowed them to fulfill their childhood dream. Growing up in Cincinnati, they didn’t see queer relationships on TV or in real life, so they made it their goal to be the “queer person onscreen.” But they were equally thrilled to get to “pretend to be good at science” — never their strongest subject in school.
“I was good at anatomy, but that’s because my anatomy teacher had a British accent, and she was kind of a bad b*tch,” Fightmaster, 29, tells Bustle. When they booked their role on Grey’s, they immediately called their mom, who holds a PhD, to say, “Haha, me too.”
After performing and touring with Chicago’s Second City improv troupe, Fightmaster broke out on Hulu’s Shrill as Fran’s partner Em, another role that allowed them to live out their goal of playing queer characters. With Grey’s in particular, Fightmaster is proud that Kai hasn’t had to explicitly state their gender identity. “That’s so important to me, that someone would be able to watch the show and see that non-binary doesn’t always have to be this huge discussion,” the actor says. “Treating Kai being non-binary as just another acceptable identity … is revolutionary on its own.”
It’s been personally affirming for Fightmaster, too. “When I looked at the script, I understood that this character was non-binary right away,” they add. “To get in the room and not have to think about my gender while I’m acting is a gift. I had that when I was working on Shrill, and to be able to do it on Grey’s is this affirmation that I think I needed — that I will be able to be a non-binary person who’s living my gender onscreen almost as an afterthought, so I get to just act like everybody else does.”
On Grey’s, that’s meant drawing out romantic tension between Kai and Amelia (Caterina Scorsone), who’s fresh off of a complicated breakup with Link. Fightmaster isn’t allowed to say much about how the two’s relationship will unfold, but like many Grey’s fans, they’re definitely shipping the maybe-couple. When asked what Kai’s theme song should be, they offer a telling answer: “F*ck the Pain Away” by Peaches. “Now I’m wondering if this answer will get me in trouble,” Fightmaster laughs. “But I think it would be an appropriate song.”
Get to know more about Fightmaster in their Bustle Booth questionnaire below.
In the Bustle Booth
What's your coffee order?
Am I feeling fun? Matcha latte. Serious? Iced Americano with a splash of oat.
What are the saved weather locations on your phone?
LA, NY, Chicago, Portland, Cincinnati, and Amsterdam.
What’s your sign?
Gemini. And I’m done apologizing.
Favorite overused movie quote?
Literally cannot think of a single line from a movie except Ewan McGregor in Moulin Rouge! screaming “Satine!”
What was your favorite cartoon as a kid?
What’s one movie or TV show you're currently obsessed with?
I’m currently rewatching all of Wife Swap. Intoxicating propaganda.
Who is your celeb idol?
Cate Blanchett forever and always.
If you had to be on a reality TV show, what would it be?
Thank you for asking. Temptation Island as one of the horny singles.
Go-to karaoke song?
Cincinnati’s Skyline Chili theme song. Look it up, it’s gorgeous.
What’s something that’s inspiring you lately?
Women and queer-run sets. Everything is better with women and queers at the helm.
What is something you would want people to say about you?
“They can bench press 400 pounds.” Or maybe, “I loved you in Temptation Island as one of the horny singles.” Kind of manifesting with this one.