Alex Landi is now known to millions of Grey’s Anatomy fans as the smoldering Dr. Nico Kim, but the 26-year-old actually didn’t grow up envisioning acting — let alone acting on one of TV’s most popular shows.
Here, the actor and those who know him reveal the story of the man behind Grey’s Anatomy’s first openly gay male surgeon.
You can thank Disney for bringing him to Grey’s.
“When I was younger, my parents took me to a lot of Broadway shows,” the New York City native tells EW. “But it wasn’t until I saw Lion King that I felt that spark of interest in acting. When I was around early 20s I made the complete switch, enrolled at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York and did the two-year conservatory there, and from then on it’s just been full force ahead. It’s been a grind. It’s taken a lot of hard work and perseverance to get here, but I couldn’t ask for a better show to be on than Grey’s Anatomy.”
Those muscles aren’t just for show.
“I was into sports growing up,” Landi tells EW. “My original goal was to be a professional tennis player.”
Even when Landi got into acting, he continued his athletic training in anticipation of doing martial arts as part of a role.
“As an actor you have a lot of free time, so I wanted to utilize that free time as much as possible. I went through a period where it wasn’t very busy, and I felt like why not make use of this time and head over to Asia and train in martial arts and try to develop skills that may come in handy later down the line,” he says. “I feel like it’s good to get a little head start, so I went over to China and trained over there for a solid three months. It was about 12, 13 hours a day of just straight-up weapon training, stamina training, weight lifting, strength training. It was probably one of the most difficult three months of my life, but I got a pretty decent training reel out of it, and hopefully I’ll be able to utilize it — maybe even on Grey’s Anatomy.
Check that reel out here:
He exudes confidence in real life, too.
“I looked at a dozen tapes, and [Alex] was the only one and I said, ‘I need to work with him. I want to meet him because this storyline is ultimately going to be a big deal,’” Grey’s showrunner Krista Vernoff says of casting Landi as a potential love interest for Jake Borelli’s character, Levi (a.k.a. Glasses). “He flew in from New York, and in the casting room I said, ‘So how long are you in town?’ And he said, ‘I only bought a one-way ticket.’ And I was like, ‘That’s my guy.’ Just the confidence, it was just great.”
He’s of Italian and Korean descent — and has maybe the best parents ever.
“On my IMDB, I don’t have any meaty, significant credits, so this is a big break for me, but my parents have been 100 percent supportive since day one,” says Landi. “Usually I feel like when children say they want to get into acting, the uncertainty and instability of it worries people, but my parents were totally supportive. When they knew that’s what I wanted to do, they were 100 percent behind me.”
He also feels supported by the Asian community, as he has become the first Asian surgeon on Grey’s since Sandra Oh left the series in 2014.
“Obviously me being half-korean, the Korean and Asian community has been very excited to see the first male Asian surgeon,” he says. “Sandra Oh was the last surgeon of Asian descent, and I feel truly blessed to take that on. The overall reaction has been very welcoming.”
He wasn’t a Grey’s Anatomy superfan — but he’s a quick learner.
“I definitely had to crash-course a lot when I was cast,” he says. “I did a lot of research on the characters and their various relationships. I know a lot of them are hopping around, and my sister is actually a huge Grey’s fan and has been watching since season 1, so she also helped me catch up, though it’s hard to catch up when there’s been 20-something episodes a season for 14 seasons.” [Editor’s note: He should take a look at EW’s binge guide of the 25 most essential Grey’s Anatomy episodes.]
He has one of the most adorable puppies.