How Grey’s Anatomy Set Chris O’Donnell Up For Success On NCIS: Los Angeles

Chris O'Donnell Grey's Anatomy screenshot Season 2

Chris O’Donnell kicked off his career as a young man in the movies. He starred in films like Fried Green Tomatoes and Scent of a Woman before graduating to more adult fare like Batman Forever and Vertical Limit. But by the early 2000s his movie career had stalled and now as NCIS: Los Angeles kicks off Season 12, he’s crediting another wildly popular drama for his career resurgence: Grey’s Anatomy.

Back in 2006, Chris O’Donnell was signed on for what he thought would be a minor stint on Grey’s Anatomy, then still sporting its original cast. While O’Donnell says he knew Grey’s Anatomy already had a bunch of popular leads and that he wasn’t one of them, he still credits the series for getting his name back in the minds of casting agents. It helped that Grey’s kept asking him to stick around to play Finn.

It was always supposed to be an in and out thing. They kept asking me to stay for some more episodes. At a certain point they wanted me to stay even longer, but having been in the business long enough I knew it was never going to be my show. I was going to be so far down the totem pole. TV can be a great business but you need to participate in it. From a business standpoint, it wasn't going to be a success for me. But what it did for me was incredible. It gave me an enormous boost.

Notoriously “the vet” doctor of Grey’s Anatomy, Finn Dandrige popped on the scene in Season 2 to deliver some bad news about Meredith and Derek’s dog. He later became a competing love interest, though it became clear after a while that Meredith was hung up on Derek Shepherd. The TV romance didn’t pan out, but Chris O’Donnell’s career did, as he related to EW.

Shortly after the run on the ABC series, Chris O’Donnell booked a TV miniseries called The Company. Then he landed the TV series lead role that he was really hoping would make him a TV star in NCIS: Los Angeles. The CBS drama has been on the air for 12 seasons now, and shows no signs of slowing yet; the series even celebrated its 250th episode last year. But O’Donnell credits Shonda Rhimes and co. at ABC for setting him on his new path.

I was blown away by how many people were watching that show. Everywhere I went, people were watching that show! I'm very grateful to Shonda Rhimes and the team for the run. It opened up a lot of doors for me and kind of brought me back.

If you’d like to catch Chris O’Donnell, TV lead, on the NCIS spinoff, the show just recently hit the airwaves again. New episodes air on Sunday nights, only on CBS. O’Donnell also has another new show in the works with his actor pal LL Cool J. You can catch more of what’s coming to TV before the end of the year with our full schedule

Jessica Rawden
Managing Editor

Reality TV fan with a pinch of Disney fairy dust thrown in. Theme park junkie. If you’ve created a rom-com I’ve probably watched it.