Grey's Anatomy actor Alex Landi on breaking Asian stereotypes as a stripper in Insatiable
Get ready to see Alex Landi like you’ve never seen him before: In season 2 of Netflix’s Insatiable, theGrey’s Anatomy actor plays a stripper named Henry who hooks up romantically with the show’s protagonist Patty Bladell (Debby Ryan). Here, Landi — who already broke ground last season when he was cast as Dr. Nico Kim, the first openly gay male surgeon on Grey’s — talks exclusively to EW about how he hopes his role on Insatiable helps to defy Asian stereotypes in Hollywood. “There’s never been a Magic Mike, masculine Asian stripper ever,” says Landi proudly to EW. “You would never expect that.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When did you book this role?
ALEX LANDI: It was toward the tail end of season 15. As soon as I saw it, I fell in love with it. This is the first time I’m able to talk about it and I’m bursting at the seams. I’m playing Debby Ryan’s boyfriend for season 2. It’s very rare that you see the Asian guy with the leading white actress. It’s very rare on TV. I’m playing her love interest and I’m also playing the first Magic Mike Asian stripper on TV. I’m wearing a Speedo and I’m going to be dancing in Bulges strip club — that’s the name of the strip club — and it’s crazy. I had to go through a whole stripping class. I had to learn a whole dance choreography. I had to learn Brazilian martial arts because me and Debbie do a bunch of stuff in season 2 together. I’m all oiled up. I have a sweat suit on, and I rip it off. It’s like a huge reveal midseason. So it’s hilarious.
Where do you meet Patty?
I meet her at the Wiener Taco and I ask her for a ride to work. I take her to a strip club and she gets all confused and all of a sudden I tell her to just come in with me thinking that she probably thinks I’m like a bartender there. I end up being on stage giving her a performance.
When they came to you for this role, was that all on the page? That you need you to strip and look good doing it?
No. That’s why it was very shocking. When I was first in the casting office, they gave a heads up saying like, “You may have to do a two-week training of dance choreography. They may have you dance a little bit.” There was nothing about being a full-on stripper on stage, all lubed up. When I got on set I was like, “Holy shit, this is actually happening.” This was the most vulnerable I have ever felt in my acting career. Before I started acting, I was a shy kid doing an improv class for the first time ever. I was terrified. But after doing this with just the Speedo on, doing this whole dance number in front of hundreds of girls and in front of all the crew cameras, I’m not shy anymore! This really opened me up as an actor and it feels like there’s really nothing I can’t do at this point. It was really liberating for me.
You talk about breaking stereotypes.
This is a big thing for the Asian Hollywood community. Because of Crazy Rich Asians, there’s been a surge of Asian actors being put into the spotlight. But there have not been Asian actors put in this spotlight before. There’s never been a Magic Mike masculine Asian stripper ever. You would never expect that. This whole arc revolves around Asian masculinity, which has been a revolving theme in Hollywood for a while. I have a whole monologue in one of the episodes after I’m done stripping and Patty says, “What is going on here? What made you want to do this?” And I go into this monologue that says as a kid growing up in Minnesota, I was bullied. I was picked on. I was never seen as the cool guy until I started getting into dance and I started being able to understand myself and my family’s history. To be able to go on stage and dance and act like you are that masculine Caucasian guy that everyone lusts for … It’s this whole thing about Asian masculinity and white women being attracted to Asian men. There’s a whole theme that Asian men aren’t considered attractive through a lot of white women eyes. So it was a nice medium for me to explore that and shed light on that stereotype.
Did any of this conflict with your Grey’s work?
No, it was perfect. The last day of season 15 for Grey’s, I literally got on a plane that night to Atlanta. And then I shot for like two months. It could not have worked out any more perfectly.
The second season of Insatiable, which is about how the formerly overweight Patty uses her powers as a newly svelte hottie to exact revenge on those who wronged her, is currently available on Netflix.