Ramirez's portrayal of the original Lady of the Lake in the 2005 Broadway musical Spamalot, won her acclaim and the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. She gained wider recognition for her role as Dr. Callie Torres, in ABC's long-running medical drama Grey's Anatomy. The character's popularity soared as the series progressed, and Ramirez garnered multiple nominations for Best Actress at the ALMA Awards, and a Favorite Dramatic TV Actress nomination at the People's Choice Awards. She made her debut as a voice artist with the 1999 video game entitled UmJammer Lammy, and has voiced Queen Miranda in the animated series Sofia the First (2012–present).
In addition to her acting career, Ramirez released her first single "Silent Night" in 2009. Her self titled extended play debuted at no. 37 at the Billboard 200 in 2011. Ramirez is also an activist and extensively campaigns for LGBT rights. She was awarded the Ally for Equality Award by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation in 2015. She has been married to Ryan Debolt since 2012.
Ramirez was born in Mazatlán, Sinaloa, in the northwestern coast of the Pacific coast of Mexico. Her father is Mexican and her mother is of Mexican and Irish-American descent. Her parents divorced when she was eight years old, and Ramirez went to live with her mother. They eventually settled in Tierrasanta, San Diego, California. Ramirez's interest in music encouraged her mother to send her to San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts, where she discovered her singing talent during an audition. Ramirez started acting in stage productions at her high school.
After having played such roles as the Witch in Into the Woods, Dolly in Hello, Dolly! and Miss Hannigan in Annie, Ramirez was recommended for the Juilliard School, New York City. She graduated with a degree in Bachelor's of Fine Arts (Dramatics). At Juilliard, she further worked on her acting skills and trained as an alto singer. Ramirez speaks both Spanish and English fluently.
While still at Juilliard, Ramirez was discovered by a casting director and was offered the role of Wahzinak in Paul Simon's 1998 Broadway musical The Capeman. Based on the life of the Puerto Rican gangster Salvador Agron, the production garnered negative reviews, but Ramirez was singled out for her "outstanding" performance. She made her screen debut in the same year, with a minor yet "memorable" role in the romantic comedy You've Got Mail. Starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, the film had Ramirez play Rose, a Zabars cashier who was, "very serious about her line's cash-only policy." Ramirez voiced the titular character of Lammy in the video game UmJammer Lammy, a spin-off of PaRappa the Rapper, on Sony's PlayStation console. She later reprised her role in the latter's sequel for PlayStation 2, but had a smaller role.
In 1999, Ramirez appeared in Mark Lamos' The Gershwins' Fascinating Rhythm (1999). She garnered praise for her performance and received an Outer Critics Circle Award nomination for her role. Charles Isherwood of Variety praised her "beautiful, smoky voice", but was critical of her "torchy" performance of “The Man I Love” which ignored, "the wry irony that infuses Ira’s lyrics". Ramirez then appeared in the 2001 Broadway production of Edward Kleban's A Class Act. She replaced Julia Murney (from the off-Broadway) to play the role of Felecia, the protagonist Ed's boss. The same year, she starred in other productions including Fascinating Rhythm and Dreamgirls, and then performed in the 2002 production of The Vagina Monologues with Tovah Feldshuh and Suzanne Bertish. During this time, Ramirez also appeared in guest roles in several television series, including NYPD Blue, Law & Order: SVU, Third Watch, and Spin City among others.
Ramirez's breakout role came when she was cast as the Lady of the Lake in Eric Idle and John Du Prez's musical Spamalot. Based on the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the musical opened on Broadway in 2005 to widespread acclaim. Ramirez in particular was singled out for her performance, winning several awards including the 2005 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical and the Drama League Award for Distinguished Performance. Ben Brantley of The New York Times described her as "a toothsome devourer of scenery", while another reviewer for The Playgoer emphasizing on her stage presence remarked that, "her intensity is totally serious and totally ludicrous and totally on key". An Entertainment Weekly review gave her the highest praise by calling her a show-stealer.
Following her success on Broadway, Ramirez joined the cast of Grey's Anatomy in a recurring role as Dr. Calliope 'Callie' Torres, a love interest for Dr. George O'Malley, in the show's second season. On a special Grey's Anatomy-themed episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, she revealed that top executives from ABC, who were greatly impressed by her performance in Spamalot, offered her a role in any ABC show she wanted. She picked Grey's, as she was already a fan of the show. Ramirez further explained that at her initial audition, the producers liked her, and had intentions to add her to the show, but did not know who to cast her as. She also said she was in awe of how the executives said, "Pick a show, any show", explaining that it is rare. The series creator and executive producer, Shonda Rhimes explained: "I was looking for a girlfriend for George, but it was in the infancy stages, so I had no idea what I was looking for." Rhimes built the character around Ramirez after she met her. Ramirez, who was initially given a recurring status at the time of the character's inception, received a star billing in the show's third season, alongside fellow cast member Eric Dane, who portrayed Dr. Mark Sloan.
Ramirez provided a cappella vocals in the song "Silent Night" for the soundtrack of the show's sixth season episode "Holidaze," airing on November 192009. Ramirez's served as the main vocalist for the musical episode of Grey's Anatomy, "Song Beneath the Song", which on aired March 31, 2011. Marcus James Dixon of Gold Derby calling her the "show-stopper", wrote, "stole the show in a gut-wrenching performance worthy of an Emmy award." In May 2016, Ramirez left the show at the conclusion of the twelfth season, after having played the character for a decade. She released a statement saying, "I'm deeply grateful to have spent the last 10 years with my family at Grey's Anatomy and ABC, but for now I'm taking some welcome time off".
As the series progressed, th character's popularity soared and Ramirez garnered widespread recognition and critical acclaim for her portrayal of a complex character on television. Reviewing the performances of Ramirez and Jessica Capshaw an episode of the eleventh season, Maggie Fremont of Vulture called them, "goddesses walking amongst mere mortals". Rhimes wrote of Ramirez's work on the show: "Dr. Callie Torres came into our lives dancing it out in her underwear almost a decade ago, and I could not be happier or more proud of her journey. Sara Ramirez’s performance inspired me as well as millions of fans each week." Ramirez was nominated for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Television Series at the Alma Awards, in 2007 and 2008. Also in 2007, at the 13th Screen Actors Guild Awards, the cast of Grey's Anatomy, were the recipients of the Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series. She and the cast were nominated for the same award, in 2008. In 2011, at the 42nd NAACP Image Awards, Ramirez was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.
Ramirez turned producer with the 2016 teen comedy film, Loserville. The project was released in partnership with the Pacer Foundation's Center for Bullying Prevention & Stomp Out Bullying.
In June 2011, Ramirez got engaged to her longtime partner, Ryan DeBolt, a business analyst at TIMEC in Paris, France. They were married on July 4, 2012 in a private beachside ceremony in New York. Ramirez came out as bisexual at the October 2016 40 To None summit, organised by True Colors Fund's in Los Angeles, California. She wrote to The Huffington Post in an e-mail that her decision to come out publicly was a “very organic and natural” one. In September 2016, Ramirez donated her hair to "Locks of Love", an organization that makes wigs for children who suffer from medical conditions that lead to hair fall out. She sports a buzz cut.
Ramirez released her first single, a rendition of Silent Night, in 2009. Her debut self titled extended play came out in March 2011, on the iTunes Store under the label of Atrevida Records. The EP included four songs, including a cover of "The Story", which was originally recorded by Brandi Carlile in her 2007 album. Two of the three songs were co-written by Ramirez and the album's writer-producer Rob Giles. Sara Ramirez debuted at number thirty-seven on the Billboard 200, number nine on Billboard's Independent Albums chart, and number thirty-eight on the Canadian Albums Chart. "The Story" debuted the same week at number 69 on the Billboard Hot 100, number 72 on the Canadian Hot 100, and number 34 on the Irish Singles Chart. Soundtracks for Monty Python's Spamalot (Original Broadway Cast Recording) (2005) and Grey's Anatomy: The Music Event (2011) were released under the labels of Decca Records and ABC Studios respectively.
Ramirez is an activist and extensively campaigns for LGBT rights. She is a member of the True Colors Fund’s Board of Directors and The Task Force, and The San Diego, New York, and San Francisco LGBT Centers. She spoke in support of the homeless LGBTQ youth at a True Colors Fund's conference. In addition to that, Ramirez supports other groups including Bisexual Organizing Project, NDLON, Mujerez De Maiz among others. In 2015, she was awarded the Ally for Equality Award by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.
Elena and the Secret of Avalor 2016(film) Loserville 2016(film) Sofia the First 2013-present(series) Grey's Anatomy 2005-present(series) Chicago 2002(film) Washington Heights 2002(film) Spider Man 2002(film) You've Got Mail 1998(film)
Ramirez won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical and the Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical for her role in the 2005 Broadway musical Spamalot. She gained widespread acclaim for her portrayal of Dr. Callie Torres in ABC's medical drama Grey's Anatomy. She garnered nominations for the Best Actress at the NAACP Image Award, the ALMA Award, and won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series."Silent Night" (2009)