Grey’s Anatomy Star Adelaide Kane Brings Clarity To Celebrity
Adelaide Kane isn’t afraid to talk candidly about the truth of celebrity — especially on TikTok.
Adelaide Kane understands what it means to be broke. At one point, while trying to make it as an actress in Los Angeles, she regularly decided between buying gas to get to auditions, or dinner. It’s one of the reasons she’s interested in pulling back the curtain of celebrity to reveal what it’s actually like to be a working actor. Some might know Kane from an early role on Teen Wolf, but she has since grown a cult following her role in the CW period drama Reign, as well as for her unabashedly goofy TikTok presence.
Now, Kane has joined the cast of one of the most storied shows of all time, Grey’s Anatomy, in which she plays Jules Millin, who is part of the new cast of interns. In a moment for the long-running show that harkens back to Season 1, it’s the first time since 2005 that so many series regulars were brought on at once. For Kane, Grey’s Anatomy is dream job, not only for its history as a long-time primetime series, but because the show is notably good to its actors. When she started the show, a fellow cast member told her to stay “forever” if she one day wants to have kids.
“She was like, ‘Stay here forever then. This is the best show. If you want to have a family. They'll give you time for your doctor's appointments. They're really supportive,’” Kane tells NYLON over the phone from California. “While it's not necessarily discouraged per se, there's definitely a lot of pressure to hold off family planning until it doesn't conflict with the shooting schedule when there's millions of dollars involved. It does make sense. But it's just really lovely to be on a show that prioritizes keeping the work environment conducive to having a family and having a life outside of set, which is really, really wonderful.”
This treatment of actors, as humans, isn’t always a given in the industry, which is one of the ways Kane is exposing the tarnish on the gleam that is celebrity. People are notoriously weird about money, particularly the more they make – but Kane is known as much for her candor as much as her sense of humor. In 2020, she went viral for a TikTok where she broke down her $4 million network, exposing just how expensive it is to be a celebrity – and elicited a critical response chastising her for complaining about what many consider a good salary.
“There's an incredible amount of expense that comes along with being an actor. Part of why we're paid so much is because we lose two thirds of it in taxes and fees, and then if you have a publicist, a stylist, and hair and makeup, those are all very expensive as well,” she says. “It always cracks me up to hear that, the comments that are like, ‘Well, you could just not do that.’ And I'm like, very true. You could do your own hair and makeup, you could handle your own invitations, you could dress yourself, you could absolutely do that. But unfortunately, participating in ‘celebrity’ is something you have to do if you want to go and sit at fashion shows, if you want to be featured in magazines like NYLON, you do have to participate in that world.”
Grey’s Anatomy is out on ABC now.
I would love to hear a little bit about how your new role has been going and how it came about. It seems like it's an iconic moment for the show as we introduce all these new regulars, harkening back to the beginning of the show.
It definitely has that feeling, that nod to the beginning and a gentle, fresh start. I think we definitely hold a lot of space for honoring those first few seasons. I know some people who've been calling it a soft relaunch with the five of us, which is incredibly flattering and also intimidating because Grey's is a historic show. There are a whole bunch of cool little sayings that have become part of the cultural zeitgeist that are a result of the show. It's a real honor to be included and inject a little bit of fresh energy into the show. They're teaching us how to suture and how to use stethoscopes and how to intubate plastic dummies. And the prosthetics that they have on set, the bodies and the prosthetic legs that we operate on, are just some of the most incredible mind bending prosthetics I've ever seen in my life.
That's so cool. I saw that you've been making a lot of TikToks about being on set and showing some of that experience. Is that something that you normally do or were you particularly inspired by the Grey's set?
Well, I love TikTok. I think it's so much fun and for me, my TikTok started as a a sh*t posting account, so it wasn't monetized when I started it. It's almost like TikTok is like Vaudeville theater and for someone with ADHD like me, it's so appealing and I love it and I love that I get to be the most real version of myself on TikTok. When I started the show, I set a little challenge for myself because I'd like to move into directing in the next couple of years, but I get really self-conscious about asking people to do things, and I need to get over that. So I set myself a little challenge to see if I can make a TikTok for every episode, because there's some great audio that I think is really funny. I can use maybe saucier audio that I think is funny that the Grey's TikTok can't use.
I had to ask other cast members if they were willing to be involved, and if they were then to pitch the idea, and make a little storyboard in my mind of how to shoot it and then direct other actors – which makes me really nervous and really anxious. It was a silly little project to try and help me break myself of that self-consciousness and that anxiety as a precursor to wanting to learn more about directing and the cast have been really, really lovely about it, and have all been very enthusiastic about participating. And everybody has full veto if I cut it together outside of the app.
It makes a lot of sense because on a set I feel like you have so much downtime, but I think it also speaks to your drive and creativity because you're giving yourself a job while you’re already at work.
Most actors, because we are at work for such long hours when we do have downtime, everyone's on their phones, they're messaging partners or friends or managers or publicists. They're on their computers and they're doing life stuff or making doctor's appointments. A lot of our cast has kids, so in our downtime we don't spend that time kicking it. We're not just hanging out and chatting and reading books and stuff. Most of us then get on our computer or our laptop or our iPad or our phone and we're handling other work related or personal related stuff.
We all still need to get our teeth cleaned twice a year. We all still need to fix that one leaky faucet. We all still have to do that stuff. But when you're on set 24/7, you find the time in between scenes. So I’m very conscious of asking permission, making sure people have time because if they'd rather spend their time when they're not on the phone in between scenes, just reading a book or scrolling through Instagram, I want to be very respectful of that.
“You see it even in our industry, the people who come in who have financial support from family or family connections. Sure, there are extremely talented people in there, but privilege and opportunity are very real things and they apply to everything, not just entertainment.”
It's cool that you are willing to talk candidly about that. I know that one of your original TikToks went viral for talking about peeling back the curtain on the true cost of being an actor.
Hey look, it's expensive. I grew up with very little money. When I moved to Los Angeles, I was broke as a joke. I know that for most people my takeaway is more than they earn in three years, and I have absolute understanding and appreciation for that. That video wasn't like, ‘Oh, woe is me.’ It was just like, ‘Hey, totally hear you. Actors earn a lot of money, but it is that classic thing: More money, more problems.’ There's also an incredible amount of expense that comes along with being an actor. Part of why we're paid so much is because we lose two thirds of it in taxes and fees, and then if you have a publicist, a stylist, and hair and makeup, those are all very expensive as well. It always cracks me up to hear that, the comments that are like, well, you could just not do that. And I'm like, very true. You could just not do that.
You could do your own hair and makeup, you could handle your own invitations, you could dress yourself, you could absolutely do that. But unfortunately, participating in "celebrity" is something you have to do if you want to go and sit at fashion shows, if you want to be featured in magazines like NYLON, you do have to participate in that world.
I think it also went viral because I just think that a lot of actors are actually unwilling to pull back that curtain for whatever reason.
I think nobody talks about it because we do earn so much money. And I think in a world where there is such intense class division and there are so many people living below the poverty line who cannot afford healthy food, who cannot even afford healthcare. If you are a high earner and you are talking about money, people will f*cking come for you because capitalism's crippling everybody and it's not fair. It's a game the majority of people are destined to lose. That's how the game is set up.
You see it even in our industry, the people who come in who have financial support from family or family connections. Sure, there are extremely talented people in there, but privilege and opportunity are very real things and they apply to everything, not just entertainment. But if your parents are lawyers and you decide you want to be a lawyer, then you might have a better chance of getting into your parents' alma mater. Or at the very least they can pay for your dormitory and they can give you money every month so you don't have to study in addition to working a part-time job to be able to feed yourself.
People get so angry and inflammatory over money in the US because it is crippling people. Not having money cripples you. I have been broke as a joke scrounging for change in the bottom of my car, deciding to save that five dollars I have in my wallet for gas to get to work in the morning instead of buying dinner. I do know what that feels like. It's been a long time, but I do know what it feels like. And when you can't afford to feed yourself, nothing else f*cking matters. Nothing else matters. Not meditating, not doing your laundry. Nothing makes it better when you are f*cking hungry.
It’s refreshing to hear an actor talk about this and be so transparent. People are finally talking about nepotism and you've seen these celebrities have such defensive reactions to it – acting like they don't benefit from these connections.
Everybody has their struggles. It's not a, ‘Whose d*ck is bigger’ contest. Me and my closest actor friends, all of us grew up poor. All of us came out to LA and didn't know anybody who could help us. It's a miracle that me and my two best friends are where we're at professionally. And I always knew that. But every year I'm in the industry, it hammers home even more how lucky, how fortunate all three of us have been to have careers where we've been able to support ourselves financially, that we have acted and we have kept acting for all of these years. It is a miracle, not one, not two, but three of us.
Is anything that we have been talking about in regards to this something that you would want to explore in your directing or filmmaking or what stories would you want to tell?
I'd like to tell women's stories. Mostly. I'd really like to tell stories about life. At the moment I'm pretty focused on just learning what the f*ck directing entails.
I'm just starting my process. It's a lot of reading, paying attention on set. It's a lot of paying attention to different directing styles. I'm watching a lot more movies and TV shows. I'd love to spend some time shadowing editors and directors of photography. I'd love to tell just stories about the human condition. I've discovered that I'm neurodivergent in the last couple of years and all of the research I've been doing for that has been extremely illuminating and fascinating. I've struggled with mental illness. The human condition and the human experience is fascinating. It's so interesting.
But by that same token, I also want to make a dumb action film or a horror movie with stunts and fake blood and prosthetics. I think my ultimate goal was I'd really love to make movies about people, but I'd love to experiment and wet my feet in all genres just for sh*ts and giggles. I think the one genre I don't have a lot of interest in is comedy because I'm bad at it, I'm bad at comedy. My sense of humor is very specific.
Your TikToks are very funny.
I feel like I have a very specific brand of humor and people either get it or they don't, and maybe that's from growing up as a weird comic reading Tumblr girlie all through high school.
Well, but there's certainly an appetite for that, too.
I was surprised that my Tiktok took off and that people thought I was funny because I choose my friends in life based on who thinks I'm funny.
Being embarrassing and being cringe is hilarious. I really feel for young people who are so curated. Don't be afraid of being cringe. Don't be afraid of being embarrassing. Don't be afraid of being embarrassed by your past self. It's funny. It's hilarious.
It’s just not that serious.
We are all cringe, all of us, all the time. It just makes me think of cats, like cats who are so pretty and they're so majestic and they're so poised and they always land on their feet or whatever, and then my cat will do this just the dumbest sh*t out of nowhere. He'll be walking on the couch like he has 100 times and he'll put a paw wrong and he'll fall over and flop around like a dead fish. He'll get up so offended that I witnessed that. It's hysterical. It's funny. It's actually more cringe.
Is there anything else you want to add about Grey's or your new role?
I love Grey's. I'll be there forever, if they'll take me honestly. Everyone has been so nice. The crew is wonderful. The cast was so welcoming and has been so kind to us. All the new kids I came in with — Midori [Francis], Alexis [Floyd], Harry [Shum Jr.], Niko [Terho] — are just some of the best people. You truly don't find groups of people like that very often in any industry. There's always a couple of people that maybe you just don't gel with, and it's not that you don't like them, they're just not your people or you end up with a couple of assholes, and everyone has to manage the fact that there are a couple of assholes around. I think the last time I had a work experience be so just kind and collaborative and compassionate and fun and supportive was the last couple of seasons of Rain.
Me and the cast from Rain, every time we get together we reminisce about it. We're like, “We'll never have it that good ever again.” That was a once in a lifetime show and group of people. We were just so happy with each other and the job. It's rare for any work environment to just be that pleasant and I'm just really grateful because I feel like I have a repetition of that now on Grey's. I didn't think that I would ever be on a show where I just across the board unconditionally adored everyone I was working with.
Do you think that part of why people stay a long time is not just because of the people, but because it’s also a nice work environment?
I think that's part of it. I think it's also that Grey's and Shondaland in particular are extremely supportive of their actors, and that's not to say that every production doesn't treat its actors like people. They do, but Grey's in particular. One of the first things I was asked by one of the more senior cast members was, “Do you want kids?” And I said yes she said, “tay here forever then This is the best show. If you want to have a family. They'll give you time for your doctor's appointments. They're really supportive.”
lot of TV shows, if you want to get pregnant, they're like, “Could you maybe wait until hiatus?” And none of us want to be having a kid mid-season. And while it's not necessarily discouraged per se, there's definitely a lot of pressure to hold off family until it doesn't conflict with the shooting schedule when there's millions of dollars involved. It does make sense. But it's just really lovely to be on a show that prioritizes keeping the work environment conducive to having a family and having a life outside of set, which is really, really wonderful.
Yeah, they're cool with you having a life, which it shouldn't be that's so rare, but so many industries are like that.
Yeah, and they're really supportive of, if you want to learn how to direct. A lot of the actors on the show who have been with us for a long time direct episodes. If you want to learn, they'll teach you. They'll let you shadow and they'll teach you and they'll give you that kind of opportunity. They're very supportive of you growing within the industry in whatever direction you want to grow, which is really lovely and a little unusual. I feel like I can learn a lot here.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.