Wilson, 53, returns to "General Hospital" Monday (3 EDT/2 PDT), marking the superfan's fourth guest appearance – and the second as glamorous New York City fashion editor Sydney Val Jean, who wields the red carpet microphone and the fashion commentary at the drama's Nurse's Ball charity gala.
"I get to escape into this New York City fashion editor character, who brings her own fashion sense and style to the red carpet to judge others," says Wilson, who promises she won't be throwing style barbs. "It's not a deep judge, it's a light judge. Besides, once the soap world dresses up for an event, baby, they really dress up."
Wilson spilled the tea on ABC's "Grey's" – she's one of two remaining original cast members on the series, which premiered in 2005 – and "General Hospital," which first aired from fictional Port Charles on April 1, 1963. (The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity).
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Question: It's not surgery, but red carpet interviews require a particular set of skills. How are yours?
Chandra Wilson: I don't have to be great. Sydney does her own version. You want to look at who you're interviewing, but it's really about eye contact with the camera. The audiences are living vicariously through you.
Shoes are the bane of every red carpet reporter. Did you wear heels?
I did have heels. Usually, I'm good for about 26 minutes in heels. But I made it through. I was able to sit down and get circulation back in my feet. And I didn't even have to go to the podiatrist.
"General Hospital" is taped on the same Los Angeles studio lot as "Grey's." It's an easy commute, but is it also fun?
In the early "Grey's" seasons, I was fan-girling being on a studio lot with "General Hospital." I used to sneak over there often. But once they started inviting me on the show, I tried to respect the boundaries. I do run into people at the commissary during lunch breaks. It does hurt me a little to see that they are actual real people, and not living in Port Charles.
You've played three characters in guest appearances, including a fashion editor, a mental patient and a therapist. Has anyone questioned how these characters all look like the same person?
That's s running joke. I figure the next time I'll have to be blonde if I'm playing someone else.
"Grey's" was renewed for a 20th season. How do you commemorate that?
What a milestone for this unexpected journey we've been on. We're not an old sinking ship. It really encourages everyone to keep giving 100%, because we're still valuable.
Kelly McCreary announced that she's leaving after nine seasons. Ellen Pompeo departed last month. Do you ever think about how you'd want to leave the show?
I haven't. I still have that mentality of the first season – that shows don't last that long –so hold on, because it's going to end you're going back to your place in New York and wait for the next audition. That's never gone from me. Even for Kelly, nine seasons, that's a lifetime in television. Right now, I'm just being stubborn about it. I want to be there at the end. Even if don't know when that end will be.
What's changed the most in 20 TV seasons?
How people watch our show. You used to have to be in front of your television when it came on. Then it was people recording on VCRs for years, then DVRs and DVD box sets and then to streaming. For whatever reason, we've been able to ride all of those waves. And we're still here.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of your first film role, in "Philadelphia." What are your memories of working with Spanish newcomer Antonio Banderas, Tom Hanks in his Oscar-winning role and Denzel Washington?
We had long days in the courtroom with Antonio Banderas and we would go through his lines. He was very concerned to make sure that people could understand him. The other really strong memory was watching Tom Hanks master the art of being still. That was my classroom, teaching me that a little bit is a lot.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'General Hospital' turns 60: 'Grey's Anatomy' Chandra Wilson scrubs up