From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
1.
PATRICK DEMPSEY, 40 (Dr. Derek Shepherd) "I get a lot of people who confess to childhood crushes on me," says the former teen screen idol (with Kirstie Alley in 1989's Loverboy). "That makes a guy feel good about himself."

2.
ELLEN POMPEO, 36 (Dr. Meredith Grey) Playing homicidal characters "was really difficult," says Pompeo (seen here in one of her two Law & Order stints in 1996 and 2000). "I wouldn't have been able to do it if not for [late L&O star] Jerry Orbach. Working with him was a great experience."

3.
T.R. KNIGHT, 32 (Dr. George O'Malley) Knight (onstage as Mozart in Amadeus in 2001) began his career in Minneapolis's famed Guthrie Theater troupe.

4.
JAMES PICKENS JR., 51 (Dr. Richard Webber) A regular on ABC's Roseanne, "I always liked the Halloween episodes," says Pickens (with John Goodman, left).

5.
ISAIAH WASHINGTON, 42 (Dr. Preston Burke) It took four Spike Lee films "for people to take notice," says Washington (right, in Get On the Bus).

6.
SANDRA OH, 34 (Dr. Cristina Yang) Pre-Sideways, Oh scored as a sassy assistant (to sports agent Robert Wuhl, left) on HBO's sitcom Arli$$.

7.
CHANDRA WILSON, 36 (Dr. Miranda Bailey) Wilson's first TV credit was The Cosby Show in 1989. Her second was this '92 Law & Order guest shot.

8.
KATHERINE HEIGL, 27 (Dr. Isobel "Izzie" Stevens) "It was my first starring role," says Heigl of 1994's Gérard Depardieu flick My Father the Hero

9.
JUSTIN CHAMBERS, 35 (Dr. Alex Karev) The former Another World stud first turned heads as a Calvin Klein model.