Kim Raver to CFA Grads: “You’ll Hear a Lot of ‘No’ Before You Get to That ‘Yes'”
Grey’s Anatomy and 24 star urges Terriers to push through rejection and stay true to their craft at convocation
This article was originally published in BU Today on May 22, 2023. By Sophie Yarin. Video by BU Productions
Ask Kim Raver about the advice she wishes she had gotten after her college graduation, and she’ll tell it to you plainly: “If you buy a couch, make sure it fits through your door.”
The actor-director-producer—and the star of TV shows including Grey’s Anatomy, 24, and Third Watch—began her address at the College of Fine Arts Convocation on May 20 with a painful recollection of spending her last dime on a big floral couch after her own college graduation, only to discover that she couldn’t get it into her apartment. No, she added, attempting to widen her front door with a sledgehammer didn’t work.
As Raver stood before the 328 Class of 2023 CFA graduates, she wanted them to see the couch as a metaphor: for the difficulty she faced, and the difficulty they would soon encounter as they transformed “from students to alumni.”
“While some of you may achieve instant success, if you’re anything like me, you’ll hear a lot of ‘No’ before you get to that ‘Yes,’” she said. “Like that couch, there will be a lot of doors that you won’t be able to get into on your first try.”
Raver’s success, though hard-won, has been characterized by her portrayals of “smart, courageous, authoritative women,” CFA Dean Harvey Young noted in his introductory remarks at the convocation. In addition to her recurring role on Grey’s Anatomy as Dr. Teddy Altman, Raver’s TV credits include Ray Donovan, Bones, and Lipstick Jungle; on stage she has starred alongside Laura Linney on Broadway and David Schwimmer at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Her film credits include Night at the Museum, Mind the Gap, and City Hall, among others. She recently branched into producing, with three Lifetime Original films under her belt—two of which she also directed. But ‘No’ followed her throughout her career, she admitted—even after landing her career-making role as Teddy Altman.
“I played Teddy for six seasons and I thought I had finally made it into the world of ‘Yes,’ until one day I decided I wanted to direct an episode,” she said. “Several Grey’s actors had directed episodes and they had good experiences, so I thought, I want to try.” Of course, it wasn’t that simple. Grey’s Anatomy’s producing director, who hires each episode director, was illustrious actor-dancer-choreographer Debbie Allen, and Raver felt the pressure immediately.
“I asked Debbie, ‘Can I direct an episode?’ And she said no,” Raver said. “Well, I had been accustomed to hearing ‘No’ and I like a challenge.” Raver worked hard and eventually got her episode, but “No” came back for her eventually. A few years later, she and her family uprooted their lives and moved to London so she could reprise her role as Audrey Boudreau in a 24 reboot—only for Audrey to get killed off by the showrunners shortly afterward.
“You’ve just spent four years studying and sharpening your craft…and now your convocation speaker is telling you that the reward for all this hard work is a lifetime of hard work, soul crushing rejection and zero job security,” Raver said, to a roomful of applause. She said knew the reason her audience would want to stick with their craft in the face of such adversity. “It’s art, and the world needs art, it needs music, it needs stories, it needs beauty,” she said as the applause struck up again, “now more than ever.”