The Most Enduring Character on Grey’s Anatomy Is a Real-Life Scrub Nurse

Summary

  • BokHee, played by scrub nurse Kathy C. An, is the longest-lasting supporting character on Grey’s Anatomy.
  • Kathy C. An’s history as a real-life medical professional adds an important level of realism to Grey’s Anatomy.
  • Grey’s Anatomy has medical professionals working to fact-check and give advice on how to make the show more realistic.


BokHee, the longest-lasting supporting character of the cast of Grey’s Anatomy, is played by an actual scrub nurse who certainly takes her role seriously. Actor Kathy C. An, also known as BokHee An, portrayed BokHee on both Grey’s Anatomy and its six-season spinoff Private Practice. She has garnered a massive following among Grey’s Anatomy fans, and for good reason — she is undeniably one of the most dedicated actors on the show.

Designated as a “protect-at-all-costs” character by fans, Grey’s Anatomy‘s BokHee has appeared in every season to date. She has very few speaking lines throughout the series, usually being spoken to by other characters rather than driving the narrative herself. She didn’t actually talk until Season 10 when she recommended a bypass surgery for Alex’s father in “Get Up, Stand Up.” She spoke again in Season 15’s “I Want a New Drug,” praising Ellen Pompeo’s Meredith Grey as “Wonder Woman.” Aside from these two instances, BokHee largely communicates through facial expressions and reactions, often telling the main characters what they need to hear without ever saying a word.

Updated by Jordan Iacobucci on January 4, 2024: Grey’s Anatomy is officially returning for its twentieth season on March 14, 2024. Now bereft of its main character, Dr. Meredith Grey, the series is poised to take a new direction as its supporting cast fills the void left in Ellen Pompeo’s wake. Nevertheless, while the series is always transforming itself, it is good for viewers to know that some things never change. In over twenty years of television, the supporting character Nurse BokHee has remained a fixture of Grey’s Anatomy. Moreover, the actress’s history in the medical profession adds some much-needed realism to the long-running medical drama.


BokHee An Is a Special Part of Grey’s Anatomy

During a party in Grey's Anatomy, BokHee smiles and looks at her husband, Jae

  • Bokhee is one of only a handful of characters to appear in all nineteen seasons of Grey’s Anatomy so far.
  • Kathy C. An has appeared in 265 episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and one episode of the spinoff series Private Practice.
  • Bokhee makes her first appearance in Season 1, Episode 1 of Grey’s Anatomy, “A Hard Day’s Night.”

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Kathy C. An worked as a scrub nurse in Los Angeles for 56 years before retiring in 2015. Prior to her retirement, actor Giacomo Gianniotto — who played Andrew DeLuca from Season 11 through Season 17 — watched a surgery in which An assisted in order to prepare for his part. Though it is yet unconfirmed, it’s quite possible Gianniotto is not the only member of the Grey’s Anatomy crew that has shadowed An in the decade she worked on Grey’s Anatomy and was assisting in surgeries in Los Angeles. After all, many cast and crew members regularly watch real-life surgeries in the Los Angeles area to prepare for specific episodes and scenes that include those surgeries.

BokHee An adds to the authenticity of Grey’s Anatomy just by being onscreen. Whether viewers consciously realize it or not, they can catch small details and tell whether they’re fake. This is the reason why Tom Cruise hangs out of actual airplanes when doing his stunts and why CGI car chases aren’t as appealing in action movies. An actor can train to play a nurse for as long as they want, but it’s near-impossible to replicate the simple, natural, swift hand movements that only an experienced nurse has. BokHee is the only Grey’s Anatomy cast member to have a medical career outside the show. Behind the camera, however, there are a few more medical professionals who help add to the show’s authenticity.

Grey’s Anatomy Has an Astounding Level of Realism

Grey’s Anatomy Ratings And Scores

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Score

Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score

International Movie Database

84%

74%

7.6/10

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Grey’s Anatomy may not be viewers’ first idea when it comes to strictly realistic procedural series, but it is actually far more realistic than audiences give it credit for. While the Shonda Rhimes-created show makes the occasional suspension of reality for the purpose of storytelling, Grey’s Anatomy is consistently accurate, according to most medical professionals. Executive producers Zoanne Clack and Fred Einesman, both doctors themselves, play a huge role in the fact-checking process. Many other real-life doctors and medical professionals are also brought on to advise and fact-check the work, often adding medical text to the scripts wherever the writer’s room puts “medical medical.”

Given her surgical background, having Kathy C. An star on Grey’s Anatomy as a recurring character is a testament to the show’s incredible attention to detail. Not only does it add to the medical drama’s nuance, but it also makes BokHee an even more lovable character. Though it’s unlikely BokHee will ever get her own Grey’s Anatomy episode, knowing this piece of information about Kathy C. An makes her appearances all the more entertaining to watch. Even with her generally limited storyline in the series, BokHee’s presence greatly elevates Grey’s Anatomy as a whole, injecting a certain sense of realism into the series that other procedurals often lack.

Grey’s Anatomy’s Realism Elevates It Beyond Other Series

A Grey's Anatomy poster featuring Ellen Pompeo and the cast.

  • Grey’s Anatomy‘s first spinoff, Private Practice, began in 2007 and ran for 6 seasons.
  • Grey’s Anatomy‘s second spinoff, Station 19, began in 2017 and is set to return for its seventh season on March 14th, 2024.
  • Grey’s Anatomy‘s third spinoff, Grey’s Anatomy: B-Team, began in 2018 and ran for 6 episodes.

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Grey’s Anatomy may not be strictly realistic in every regard, but its attempts to remain somewhat consistent with actual medical practices help it stand out from other medical dramas. The series understandably has to heighten some of its medical aspects in order to keep viewers engaged, but it at least makes an effort not to take things too far. In part, this has helped Grey’s Anatomy remain popular for two decades. While other medical procedural series like Chicago Med and New Amsterdam have found their audiences, no series of their genre holds a candle to the popularity of Grey’s Anatomy.

For all of the extra work that must be done behind the scenes, the attention to detail in Grey’s Anatomy‘s medical scenes greatly improves the overall series. Real-life professionals like Kathy C. An help keep the series grounded in actual medical science, even if the personal relationships and storylines sometimes exit the realm of believability. So long as the series works to maintain a certain level of realism, it can expect to continue to enjoy a high level of popularity among audiences, even as it prepares to enter its twentieth season.

Grey’s Anatomy is available to stream on Netflix and Hulu.

Greys Anatomy TV Show Poster-1

Grey’s Anatomy

Release Date
March 27, 2005

Creator
Shonda Rhimes

Cast
Ellen Pompeo , Chandra Wilson , James Pickens Jr. , Justin Chambers , Kevin McKidd , Jesse Williams , Patrick Dempsey

Rating
TV-14

Seasons
20 Seasons

Production Company
Shondaland, The Mark Gordon Company, ABC Studios, ABC Signature, Entertainment One

Number of Episodes
420 Episodes

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