Actress Sandra Oh reflects on her banner year and her coded ‘shoutout’ to Canadians

by - 3 min read

Actress Sandra Oh reflects on her banner year and her coded ‘shoutout’ to Canadians

by - 3 min read


There was this year’s Golden Globe win. Her Screen Actor’s Guild Award. Last year’s ground-breaking Emmy nomination. And a stellar performance recently on Saturday Night Live. After years of hard work, Sandra Oh has been raking in the recognition lately.

But getting appreciation from her home country with the prestigious Governor General’s Performing Arts Award holds special meaning for the Killing Eve star, who hails from the nation’s capital.

“You always wish that your career starts with such opportunity, but you actually have to work on it for 30 years,” Oh told The National‘s Rosemary Barton during a sit-down interview in Ottawa ahead of Friday’s ceremony. “It forces me — because I’m also not really good at this — to be proud of things.”

The Korean-Canadian actress, who’s well-known for her role as Dr. Christina Yang on the hit medical drama Grey’s Anatomy from 2005 to 2014, has a lot to be proud of.

A ‘moment’ that’s taken years to achieve

She currently stars as MI5 officer Eve Polastri obsessed with a psychopathic assassin on the critically-acclaimed BBC America series Killing Eve.

She’s taken home multiple awards for the role, including a Golden Globe and a Critic’s Choice trophy.

And she also became the first Asian woman to be nominated for a 2018 Emmy in the category of lead actress in a drama series.

Blazing a trail not without hurdles

The actress, who has made a name for herself succeeding at both drama and comedy, said if this is indeed a “moment” in her long-standing career, it comes only after facing multiple barriers earlier on.

Oh recalls a 1995 meeting when she was trying to build a career in Hollywood after already gaining name recognition in Canada. She said a prospective agent told her to “go back home” and “go get famous” before returning to Los Angeles, unlike many non-Asian actors who were able to break through more easily.

Watch as Sandra Oh reflects on her most recent award:

Canadian actor Sandra Oh talks about what it means to her to be recognized with the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award. 0:52

“I’m relating it to the natural progression of a white actress,” Oh said. “I’m trying to go with a similar road and someone is absolutely telling you, ‘There’s no space for you here.'”

That encounter affected her so deeply that when she co-hosted the Golden Globe Awards in January — becoming the first person of Asian descent to do so — she made a point to recognize the “faces of change” in the audience in her monologue.

Oh, who co-hosted the Golden Globe Awards in January with actor-comedian Andy Samberg, took a moment on stage to recognize the diversity in the crowd with films like Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/Associated Press)

“I knew when I was writing it and working with the writers, it could possibly be some of the most important words that I say because it is such a large platform,” she said.

“Change is slow but I’m experiencing it because I have been in rooms like that before. I’ve been the only person of colour in a very wide radius. So the fact that Crazy Rich Asians, Black Panther as well as Roma was in the room — I needed to address it.”

Her attire on SNL was code

She also held her own next to her comedian co-host, Andy Samberg, and the gig paved the way for the ultimate improv challenge: hosting Saturday Night Live.

Oh’s performance on the sketch comedy series in March received mainly positive reviews. She even managed to work her Canadian roots into the opening monologue and between sketches.

Watch as Oh speaks with Rosemary Barton:

Canadian actor Sandra Oh talks with The National’s Rosemary Barton about wearing a T-shirt with the CBC logo while hosting Saturday Night Live. 0:33

Oh, who sported a CBC signature logo shirt while introducing the evening’s musical guest, said she wanted to do a “shoutout to my Canadian peeps.”

“I just thought, no one’s gonna really know this, unless you are from Canada,” she said.

In fact, no one recognized the symbol on set, she said. No one, that is, except SNL‘s executive producer Lorne Michaels — a fellow Canuck.

Watch Rosemary Barton’s full interview with Sandra Oh, Sunday night on The National. 9 p.m. on CBC News Network, 10 p.m. on CBC Television (10:30 NT).

This story originally appeared on CBC