Seven things you didn’t know about Sandra Oh, who played Cristina Yang on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’


Sandra Oh as Dr. Cristina Yang on “Grey’s Anatomy.” (ABC/Danny Feld)

Much digital ink has already been spilled about “Grey’s Anatomy” character Cristina Yang — particularly about her friendship with Meredith Grey — and for good reason. It’s one of the most visible, accurate and frank depictions of female friendship on television. And as of Thursday night, it’s gone. Yang left Seattle to take over Preston Burke’s job in Zurich running a cutting-edge hospital with more resources than she could ever hope to have stateside. Yang was a driven, ruthless perfectionist who was also compassionate, sensitive, loving, fiercely loyal, and passionate in her personal life. Plus, she relished being tortuously mean to interns — at least the ones she didn’t respect — and reveled in her power over them. She was a fully fledged character, and one of television’s feminist icons, brought to life by Sandra Oh, the amazing actress responsible for portraying her for 10 seasons.

Oh won a Golden Globe in 2005 and a Screen Actor’s Guild Award for her role on “Grey’s,” and was nominated for an Emmy five straight times. She’s also been nominated for NAACP Image Awards, both for her role as Yang, but also for playing Rita Wu on the critically acclaimed HBO show “Arli$$.”

 Jim Turner, Robert Wuhl, SandraOh, and Michael Boatman, from left, are shown in a publicity photo from the HBO show, 'Arli$$.' The comedy, which stars Wuhl as an agent for professional athletes, airs Sundays at 9:30 p.m. EDT. (AP Photo/HBO, Andrew Eccles)
Jim Turner, Robert Wuhl, Sandra Oh and Michael Boatman from the HBO show “Arli$$.” (AP Photo/HBO, Andrew Eccles)

Though we won’t be able to see her as a series regular on “Grey’s” any longer, Oh’s already got other projects. She’s in “Tammy,” the Melissa McCarthy/Susan Sarandon movie that promises another look at a female relationship — this one between a woman and her grandmother. She’s also slated to be in “33 Liberty Lane,” a movie about four middle-aged women who start a phone sex company starring Oh, Emily Watson, Nia Vardalos and Melora Hardin.

Here are seven things you may not have known about Oh:

1. She’s Canadian. Her parents emigrated from South Korea when they were in their twenties.


In “Adrift and at Peace,” Derek, played by Patrick Dempsey, takes Cristina, played by Sandra Oh, on a fishing trip. (ABC/DANNY FELD)

 

2. She doesn’t have a college degree. She told Ellen Degeneres, “I’m the only person in my family who doesn’t have a master’s in something.” Oh went to the National Theatre School of Canada. Before “Grey’s” began its third season, Oh appeared on “Ellen,” where she talked about her parents’ initial disapproval of her choice to be an actor. She also talked about it with Canadian television host George Stroumboulopoulos. “Because I was able to overcome them, that just gave me a tremendous amount of fortitude because I love my parents,” Oh told Stroumboulopoulos. “And when you have the two most important people in your life telling you that you can’t do something and you do it anyway, then it just doesn’t matter what anyone else is really going to say because I’ve already been hurt.” When Oh was nominated for Emmys after seasons one and two, she brought her parents to the ceremonies.

3. She wants to take a bunch of stuff with her from the “Grey’s Anatomy” set, including the wedding dress Meredith had to cut her out of when Burke stood her up. So far, ABC has told her she can have one thing. She also wants her scrubs, her lab coat, and her stethoscope.

4. She originally read for the part of Miranda Bailey and, following her manager’s advice, walked out of screen tests because she wanted to play Yang. She told Chelsea Handler: “That’s the antagonist. I want to play that.”

5. She was the voice of Toshi’s mom on “American Dad.”

6. She was in “The People Speak,” a documentary based on Howard Zinn’s “People’s History of the United States.” Oh read the words of Emma Goldman, an architect of anarchist philosophy in the early 20th century who was imprisoned for distributing birth control.

7. She doesn’t consider herself a celebrity. “There are choices that you are making,” she told “George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight” in 2012. “And my choice to talk to you on your show and what you do on your show is very conscious on my part. I stepped out of doing press because it’s too big a price for me, because I just think that if you want to be an actor and if you want to be an artist, to be known in that entire world, it throws you off your game. It throws you off what I think is really important … I don’t know when I stopped being an actor. I don’t consider myself a celebrity. I know many actors who don’t consider themselves celebrities and I want to publicly make that statement and that differentiation.”

Soraya Nadia McDonald covers arts, entertainment and culture for the Washington Post with a focus on race and gender issues.
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