Sara Elena Ramírez (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈsaɾa eˈlena raˈmiɾes]; born August 31, 1975) is a Mexican American actress, singer, and songwriter. Born in Mazatlán, Sinaloa, she graduated with a fine arts degree from the Juilliard School. She began acting in Broadway productions, making her debut with Paul Simon's The Capeman, and later ventured into film and television roles. Ramirez is a recipient of a Tony Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and a Satellite Award, among other accolades.
Ramirez in 2008.
Sara Elena Ramírez
August 31, 1975
|Education||Juilliard School (BFA)|
Ryan Debolt (m. 2012)
Ramirez's portrayal of the original Lady of the Lake in the 2005 Broadway musical Spamalot won her acclaim and the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. She gained wider recognition for her role as Dr. Callie Torres in Grey's Anatomy. She made her debut as a voice artist with the 1999 video game entitled UmJammer Lammy, and has voiced Queen Miranda in the animated series Sofia the First (2012–2018).
Ramirez released her first single "Silent Night" in 2009. Her self titled extended play debuted at no. 37 at the Billboard 200 in 2011. Ramirez is also an activist and extensively campaigns for LGBT rights. She was awarded the Ally for Equality Award by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation in 2015.
Ramirez was born in Mazatlán, Sinaloa in northwestern Mexico. Her father is Mexican and her mother is of Mexican and Irish-American descent. Her parents divorced when she was eight years old, and Ramirez went to live with her mother. They eventually settled in Tierrasanta, San Diego, California. Ramirez's interest in music encouraged her mother to send her to San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts, where she discovered her singing talent during an audition. Ramirez started acting in stage productions at her high school.
After having played such roles as the Witch in Into the Woods, Dolly in Hello, Dolly! and Miss Hannigan in Annie, Ramirez was recommended for the Juilliard School, New York City. She graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (dramatics). At Juilliard, she further worked on her acting skills and trained as a vocalist. Ramirez speaks both Spanish and English fluently.
Broadway breakthrough and other roles (1998–2005)
While still at Juilliard, Ramirez was discovered by a casting director and was offered the role of Wahzinak in Paul Simon's 1998 Broadway musical The Capeman. Based on the life of the Puerto Rican gangster Salvador Agron, the production garnered negative reviews, but Ramirez was singled out for her "outstanding" performance. She made her screen debut in the same year, with a minor yet "memorable" role in the romantic comedy You've Got Mail. Starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, the film had Ramirez play Rose, a Zabars cashier who was "very serious about her line's cash-only policy." Ramirez voiced the titular character of Lammy in the video game UmJammer Lammy, a spin-off of PaRappa the Rapper, on Sony's PlayStation console. She later reprised her role in the latter's sequel for PlayStation 2, but had a smaller role.
In 1999, Ramirez appeared in Mark Lamos' The Gershwins' Fascinating Rhythm (1999). She garnered praise for her performance and received an Outer Critics Circle Award nomination for her role. Charles Isherwood of Variety praised her "beautiful, smoky voice" but was critical of her "torchy" performance of "The Man I Love," which ignored "the wry irony that infuses Ira's lyrics". Ramirez then appeared in the 2001 Broadway production of Edward Kleban's A Class Act. She replaced Julia Murney (from the off-Broadway) to play the role of Felecia, the protagonist Ed's boss. The same year, she starred in other productions including Fascinating Rhythm and Dreamgirls, and then performed in the 2002 production of The Vagina Monologues with Tovah Feldshuh and Suzanne Bertish. During this time, Ramirez also appeared in guest roles in several television series, including NYPD Blue, Law & Order: SVU, Third Watch, and Spin City among others.
Ramirez's breakout role came when she was cast as the Lady of the Lake in Eric Idle and John Du Prez's musical Spamalot. Based on the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the musical opened on Broadway in 2005 to widespread acclaim. Ramirez was singled out for her performance, winning several awards including the 2005 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical and the Drama League Award for Distinguished Performance. Ben Brantley of The New York Times described her as "a toothsome devourer of scenery", and another reviewer for The Playgoer emphasizing her stage presence remarked, "Her intensity is totally serious and totally ludicrous and totally on key". An Entertainment Weekly review gave her the highest praise by calling her a show-stealer.
Grey's Anatomy and other projects (2006–2016)
After her success on Broadway, Ramirez joined the cast of the ABC medical drama Grey's Anatomy in a recurring role as Dr. Calliope 'Callie' Torres, a love interest for Dr. George O'Malley, in the show's second season. On a special Grey's Anatomy-themed episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, she revealed that top executives from ABC, who were greatly impressed by her performance in Spamalot, offered her a role in any ABC show she wanted. She picked Grey's, as she was already a fan of the show. Ramirez further explained that at her initial audition, the producers liked her and intended to add her to the show but did not know who to cast her as. She also said she was in awe of how the executives said, "Pick a show, any show", explaining that it is rare. The series creator and executive producer, Shonda Rhimes explained, "I was looking for a girlfriend for George, but it was in the infancy stages, so I had no idea what I was looking for." Rhimes built the character around Ramirez after she met her. Ramirez, who was initially given a recurring status at the time of the character's inception, received a star billing in the show's third season, alongside fellow cast member Eric Dane, who portrayed Dr. Mark Sloan.
Ramirez provided a cappella vocals in the song "Silent Night" for the soundtrack of the show's sixth-season episode "Holidaze," airing on November 19, 2009. Ramirez served as the main vocalist for the musical episode of Grey's Anatomy, "Song Beneath the Song", which on aired March 31, 2011. Marcus James Dixon of Gold Derby calling her the "show-stopper", wrote that she "stole the show in a gut-wrenching performance worthy of an Emmy award." In May 2016, Ramirez left the show at the conclusion of the twelfth season, after having played the character for a decade. She released a statement saying, "I'm deeply grateful to have spent the last 10 years with my family at Grey's Anatomy and ABC, but for now I'm taking some welcome time off".
As the series progressed, the character's popularity soared and Ramirez garnered widespread recognition and critical acclaim for her portrayal of a complex character on television. Maggie Fremont, a TV critic for Vulture, reviewed Ramirez and Jessica Capshaw’s performances during an eleventh season episode, calling them "goddesses walking amongst mere mortals". Rhimes wrote of Ramirez's work on the show, "Dr. Callie Torres came into our lives dancing it out in her underwear almost a decade ago, and I could not be happier or more proud of her journey. Sara Ramirez's performance inspired me as well as millions of fans each week." Ramirez was nominated for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Television Series at the Alma Awards in 2007 and 2008. Also in 2007, at the 13th Screen Actors Guild Awards, the cast of Grey's Anatomy received the Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series. She and the cast were nominated for the same award in 2008. In 2011, at the 42nd NAACP Image Awards, Ramirez was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.
From 2017 to 2019, Ramirez co-starred in the fourth and fifth seasons of the CBS political drama Madam Secretary, replacing Bebe Neuwirth, who played Nadine Tolliver. She played Kat Sandoval, the new policy advisor of Secretary Elizabeth McCord (Téa Leoni).
In September 2016, Ramirez donated her hair to Locks of Love, an organization that makes wigs for children who suffer from medical conditions that lead to hair loss. Afterward, she sported a buzz cut, styled as an undercut.
In October 2016, Ramirez came out as bisexual at the True Colors Fund's "40 To None Summit" (now known as the "Impact Summit") in Los Angeles, California. In an email to The Huffington Post, she wrote that her decision to come out publicly was a "very organic and natural" one.
Ramirez released her first single, a rendition of Silent Night, in 2009. Her debut, self-titled, extended play came out in March 2011, on the iTunes Store under the label of Atrevida Records. The EP included four songs, including a cover of "The Story", which was originally recorded by Brandi Carlile in her 2007 album. Two of the three songs were co-written by Ramirez and the album's writer-producer Rob Giles. Sara Ramirez debuted at number thirty-seven on the Billboard 200, number nine on Billboard's Independent Albums chart, and number thirty-eight on the Canadian Albums Chart. "The Story" debuted the same week at number 69 on the Billboard Hot 100, number 72 on the Canadian Hot 100, and number 34 on the Irish Singles Chart. Soundtracks for Monty Python's Spamalot (Original Broadway Cast Recording) (2005) and Grey's Anatomy: The Music Event (2011) were released under the labels of Decca Records and ABC Studios respectively.
Ramirez is an activist and extensively campaigns for LGBT rights. She is a member of the True Colors United board of directors and The Task Force, and the San Diego, New York, and San Francisco LGBT Centers. She spoke in support of homeless LGBTQ youth at a True Colors Fund conference. In addition, Ramirez supports other groups including Bisexual Organizing Project, NDLON, and Mujerez De Maiz. In 2015, she was awarded the Ally for Equality Award by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.
Filmography and awards
Ramirez won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical and the Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical for her role in the 2005 Broadway musical Spamalot. She gained widespread acclaim for her portrayal of Dr. Callie Torres in ABC's medical drama Grey's Anatomy. She garnered nominations for the Best Actress at the NAACP Image Award, the ALMA Award, and won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series.
|Title||Album details||Peak chart positions|
- "Silent Night" (2009)
- "Rollercoaster" (2015)
|2005||Monty Python's Spamalot (Original Broadway Cast Recording)||69||—|
|2011||Grey's Anatomy: The Music Event||24||5|
|"—" denotes items which were not released in that country or failed to chart.|
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