Sandra Oh has firsthand been a victim of racism.
“Racism exists. Let’s start there. I felt it, and I have felt it deeply. And I’m extremely fortunate. So I’m not going to not say that it’s not there, because it is,” Oh, 46, tells Vulture in a new interview published Monday.
Oh garnered global success from her starring role of Dr. Cristina Yang on Grey’s Anatomy from 2005-14, and now, she’s the new leading lady in the BBC drama Killing Eve — a part she says she was shocked to be offered.
“One thing I will share with you — when I got the script for Killing Eve, I remember I was walking around in Brooklyn and I was on my phone with my agent, Nancy. I was quickly scrolling down the script, and I can’t really tell you what I was looking for. So I’m like, ‘So Nancy, I don’t understand, what’s the part?’ And Nancy goes ‘Sweetheart, it’s Eve, it’s Eve.’ ” Oh recalls.
“In that moment, I did not assume the offer was for Eve. I think about that moment a lot. Of just going, how deep have I internalized this? [So] many years of being seen [a certain way], it deeply, deeply, deeply affects us. It’s like, how does racism define your work? Oh my goodness, I didn’t even assume when being offered something that I would be one of the central storytellers. Why? And this is me talking, right?” she says,
In reflection of her career in Hollywood, Oh believes she was “brainwashed” after so many years in the entertainment business.
“After being told to see things a certain way for decades, you realize, ‘Oh my god! They brainwashed me!’ I was brainwashed! So that was a revelation to me,” says Oh.
Although she has experienced the effects of racism throughout her acting journey, she believes in the power of positive perspective for minority performers.
“It’s changing the mindset that being an actor of color, person of color, that you’re at a disadvantage in the creative life. That you don’t have opportunity. It’s all how you see the opportunity. And the clearer and deeper you get into what you really want, you just become a better artist. If that’s what you really want — becoming a better artist — does that include access? Does that include having 5 billion Instagram followers? I don’t know. That’s for you to decide,” she tells Vulture.
She adds: “But if what you want is to connect, if what you want is to be a great artist, I think you can find your way. Even within this giant paradigm that a lot of times doesn’t include people who look like us.”
While fans of Grey’s Anatomy might hope for a surprise return from Oh to Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital, it doesn’t appear likely.
Appearing on Access Hollywood Live alongside her Catfight costar Anne Heche last February, cohosts Kit Hoover and Natalie Morales asked Oh if she’d return to Grey’s Anatomy, in which she starred for 10 seasons as Dr. Cristina Yang. “At this point … no, I don’t think so,” she admitted.
When further pushed if she would consider coming back when the ABC drama eventually wraps up, she shared that she has had a conversation with creator Shonda Rhimes about such an option. “I just don’t know,” said Oh. “It would have to feel right.”