Meet McKiwi: Martin Henderson is Grey’s Anatomy’s new heartthrob

Actor Martin Henderson from New Zealand has joined the medical series Grey's Anatomy

Martin Henderson is Dr Nathan Riggs in Grey's Anatomy.
Martin Henderson is Dr Nathan Riggs in Grey's Anatomy.PHOTO: STAR WORLD

Forget McDreamy and McSteamy - there is a new doctor for fans to swoon over on the long-running popular medical drama Grey's Anatomy.

A recent addition to the cast, New Zealand actor Martin Henderson plays Dr Nathan Riggs, who joins the team at the fictional Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital in Seattle not too long after viewers saw neurosurgeon Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) killed in the show after a car accident last year.

The handsome Dr Shepherd had been dubbed "McDreamy" by female staff, while another dashing doctor - the now also dead Mark Sloan (Eric Dane) - was nicknamed "McSteamy". So fans have taken to calling Henderson "McKiwi", in a nod to his Antipodean roots.

The 41-year-old admits he is flattered by this, but is careful to dismiss any suggestion he is somehow usurping Dempsey as the resident hunk on the series, which airs in Singapore on StarWorld (StarHub TV Channel 501, Singtel TV Channel 301).

"First of all, I always felt that what Patrick does, and did, as an actor is so different from what I do," he tells The Straits Times and other reporters in Los Angeles.

"I didn't think that my role was in any way to replace him and I don't think you ever could. So I just sort of laugh that one off a little bit. But, you know, it's flattering to even be compared to that.

"And I think he's very dreamy," quips the star, who has been romantically linked to actress Demi Moore, 53. "There'll only ever be one McDreamy."

Still, Henderson - who is best known back home for appearing in the soap opera Shortland Street in the 1990s - allows himself a little smile about his new moniker.

"I've heard 'McKiwi'. I kind of like that. Because it's more about where I'm from and not, you know, the way my eyes bat or anything weird like that."

His experience on Shortland Street, a hospital drama, helped him adjust to his new role, he says.

"I kind of grew up in New Zealand on that soap, which was in a hospital setting. There was a moment in my first week of filming on Grey's Anatomy, as I was making my way back through the hallways of this fake hospital, when the realisation came to me that, wow, this is exactly what I was doing 20 years ago."

Of course, appearing on a small Kiwi TV show is not quite the same as working on one of the most successful American prime-time dramas, where the production schedule runs like a well-oiled machine.

"It's been going for so long and it's so efficient," he says of the series, which has been on the air since 2005 and was recently renewed for a 13th season.

"And in that beautiful American way, like, s**t just works. They've figured out how to avoid wastage - there's such an economy to the way things are done."

This is Henderson's highest profile Hollywood role in some time, the actor having largely faded from view after appearing in films such as the 2002 horror flick The Ring starring Naomi Watts, 2004's romantic drama Bride And Prejudice with Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai and in Britney Spears' Toxic music video in 2003.

His character on Grey's Anatomy is a new hire who appears to have some kind of bad blood with fellow surgeon Owen Hunt, played by Kevin McKidd, 42.

McKidd - who has two children aged 12 and 14 with his wife - says it is not easy joining an established cast on a show such as this.

"I remember when I joined in Season 5 and it was like, what is this? This train's already driving so fast and I have to just grab on.

"I finally feel like maybe I actually can do this. The first couple of years I think I was faking it big time.

"Martin, I think, is doing a fantastic job," he says, turning to his co-star. "And he's just knocking it out of the park."

The series - developed by creator Shonda Rhimes, who is also behind two other current hits, Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder - impressed critics during its early seasons, winning the Golden Globe for Best Television Drama in 2007 and chalking up several Emmy nominations.

Now in its 12th year, it is still getting high viewing numbers in the United States, but it has been accused of veering towards the melodramatic, with increasingly convoluted and far-fetched storylines that have subjected the characters to numerous deaths, disasters and love affairs.

McKidd, whose breakout role was in the British movie Trainspotting (1996), has borne more than his fair share of these developments - Dr Hunt alone representing a one-man revolving door of romantic entanglements with several female characters.

But the actor has also kept things interesting for himself by stepping behind the camera to direct a dozen or so episodes of the show.

"I am starting to develop a voice as a director. I think because I am an actor, I have a shorthand with actors and can go, 'This is what we need, this is what will help, this is what might help you in this scene'."

Henderson vouches for this, saying to him: "Kevin, like a lot of actors that come to directing, has that shorthand. One of the things I love about being directed by you is it's very uncomplicated. If you give a note, I don't have to sort of try to translate that into actor talk. It's simple in a very, very good way."

As Grey's Anatomy heads into its 13th year, McKidd promises it will not run out of steam any time soon despite the many cast and story changes.

"The themes that the show plugs into - hope, community, overcoming impossible odds, bettering yourself, facing your fears - are big and quite global.

"The great thing about hospital dramas is that it's really easy to have a new story come through the ER doors every week. It's harder to construct that on any other kind of show."

•Grey's Anatomy Season 12 airs in Singapore on StarWorld (StarHub TV Channel 501, Singtel TV Channel 301) on Tuesday, 9pm.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 14, 2016, with the headline 'McKiwi's the new hospital hunk'. Print Edition | Subscribe