Sandra Oh Facts That'll Make You A Fan If You Aren't Already One

For decades, Sandra Oh has been an absolute powerhouse on screen. However, her prowess as an inspirational figure extends far beyond her myriad of screen roles. She has cemented herself as an advocate in and out of Hollywood while simultaneously making history time and again. Whether you know her as Dr. Cristina Yang in "Grey's Anatomy," Eve Polastri in "Killing Eve," or for her incredible portrayal of Dr. Ji-Yoon Kim in Netflix's "The Chair," Oh is renowned not only for her versatility and range but also for fighting to make the industry more equitable

"When I started working professionally, I was about 14, 15," she told Esquire. "Immediately, I could never go for any lead parts. As a young person of color, your world is being shaped deeply unconsciously. It takes a lifetime to free yourself from your own diminished sense of possibility." If that isn't enough to convince you to hop aboard the Sandra Oh fandom, then read on to learn all about this unparalleled Hollywood icon and to become a fan at once.

Sandra got her start as a teen

As she explained in an interview with The Gentlewoman, Sandra Oh's adventures in performance started in childhood. Her love of performance was sparked when she started taking ballet as a four-year-old. However, she realized that dance wasn't her destiny as she approached her teenage years, realizing she wanted to be an actor when she saw a production of "Annie. "I basically freaked out," she told The Globe and Mail. "Like, I had to do what they were doing."

With the encouragement of her sister, Grace, she took up acting, and from about age 12 onward she performed in plays and operettas and even competed in a Canadian improv competition. By 15, she had an agent, landing her big break four years later when she starred in "The Diary of Evelyn Lau." Grace explained to The Globe and Mail that she and her sister performed plays for their parents when they were young. "My sister is a big personality," Grace told the outlet. "She's very funny, very loving and generous, direct and to the point. She does not put up with a lot of nonsense. And she's very driven. She always knew what she wanted to do, and she worked very hard to make it happen. I envied her for knowing."

She was almost cast as Miranda Bailey

It may feel impossible for fans to imagine "Grey's Anatomy" without Chandra Wilson as Dr. Miranda Bailey. A lynchpin of the medical drama, Dr. Bailey is one of the only original cast members left on the long-running series. It is also a role that almost went to Sandra Oh over Wilson. 

The "Killing Eve" star told PaleyFest in 2006 (per Digital Spy) that she actually auditioned for Dr. Bailey first. However, she was glad when the role ultimately went to Wilson because she had her eyes on another character — Dr. Cristina Yang, who she ended up playing. During the panel, Oh emphasized that she pushed for the role of Cristina even though the producers wanted her to be Bailey. Though it's been years since she said goodbye to Cristina for good, the actor still sees much of herself in the role. So much so that she even named the character one of her muses in a 2021 Instagram post.

While Oh may have grown beyond Christina, she's nonetheless grateful to have seen the cardiothoracic surgeon make such an impact on audiences and the television landscape as a whole. "It's very rare, I would say, to be able to see in such a way the impact of a character," Oh told the Los Angeles Times' "Asian Enough" podcast. "... I left that show, my God, seven years ago almost. So in my mind, it's gone. But for a lot of people, it's still very much alive."

Sandra repeatedly made Golden Globe history

Though we know Hollywood still has a long way to go until it reaches real equity, it is still worth celebrating the firsts. Among them, Sandra Oh was the first woman of Asian descent to host the Golden Globes and to win multiple Golden Globe awards. Her two Golden Globe wins were in 2006 for her portrayal of Cristina Yang in "Grey's Anatomy" and her 2019 win was for her role as Eve Polastri on "Killing Eve." Per Vox, she was also the first woman of Asian descent in nearly 40 years to win the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a TV drama. 

The actor fully celebrated the cultural shift during her historic opening monologue when she hosted the glitzy event alongside Andy Samberg in 2019. "I said yes to the fear of being on this stage tonight because I wanted to be here to look out into this audience and witness this moment of change," Oh proclaimed.

She is not shy about fighting racism in Hollywood

Although Sandra Oh has spoken at length about pushing back against racism in her industry, she has also made a point of saying that said racism will not define her as a person or as an artist. Speaking to Vulture in 2018, Oh shared that while she'd experienced racism first-hand, she remained focused on the work — taking the opportunity to be an artist where others claimed she couldn't. "It's changing the mindset that being an actor of color ... you're at a disadvantage in the creative life," she explained. "... 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."

Two years later, Oh told Variety that for the first ten seasons she was on "Grey's Anatomy," race wasn't a topic of discussion on the show. The star claimed that she brought situations up time and time again with the show's team — and often to no avail. "I would go toe-to-toe with Shonda and a lot of the writers, which has been challenging," Oh told the outlet. "But I think ultimately, for the entire product and our relationship, if you're fighting for the show, if you're fighting for your character, people can tell that." Though the situations didn't always work out in her favor, fighting for deeper stories is something that Oh began in her "Greys" days and which she has continued to do in her career ever since. 

She beat out thousands for her a role

When Sandra Oh was just starting out as an actor, she was still in theater school when she booked her big break in "The Diary of Evelyn Lau," per The Gentlewoman. Still, how she snagged that role in the first place was a feat in itself, beating out over 3,000 other actors with an unconventional, yet memorable, audition. The film's director, Sturla Gunnarsson told The Globe and Mail that Oh asked for a minute to focus before her audition. She then proceeded to lie on the floor for five minutes before getting up and doing her piece. Still, Gunnarsson assured the outlet that he didn't give Oh her a big break — she did that for herself. "She put herself on the map," he told Globe and Mail. "She stood out from the beginning." 

Oh told Variety that she spent much of her early career, even in her teens, just trying to get on camera for anything and everything. However, "The Diary of Evelyn Lau" was different. "I knew it was going to change my life," she told the outlet. Upon hearing of the open call from her sister, Oh recalled being determined to depict the character — a young runaway who takes solace in art. "I knew that I had to play this role," she explained. "It just established everything I think of who I am as an actor. I just remember giving my all, it was just so fundamental for me." 

When will Sandra Oh win an Emmy?

The Golden Globes are not the only awards Sandra Oh has to show for her screen time — she also has two Screen Actors Guild Awards and 13 Emmy nominations under her belt as well. Five of those nominations were for her role as Dr. Cristina Yang for five consecutive years between 2005 and 2009. Despite her baker's dozen worth of nominations, as of this writing, Oh is yet to have secured an Emmy Award win.

In 2022, she was nominated for her performance as Eve Polastri in the final season of "Killing Eve." Sadly, her losing streak didn't end there, with Zendaya taking home the trophy for her performance as Rue in "Euphoria," instead. Speaking to Variety at that year's Emmy award ceremony, Oh addressed her multiple nominations and even misremembered her overall Emmy nomination tally — stating that she'd received nine nods, instead of 13. She stated that the only way to truly prepare for the awards ceremony was to let go of any expectations of winning or losing. Not that doing so had gotten easier for her as her career progressed. "I will say, I feel like it's getting harder ... As time goes on, I get more nervous," she shared.

Grey's Anatomy is in her past for good, save for the finale

Sandra Oh isn't the first longtime cast member to leave "Grey's Anatomy" behind. Still, her departure after ten seasons as Dr. Cristina Yang was a big moment for fans as well as for herself. While many previous "Grey's" performers have come back since leaving, as of 2022, Oh hasn't done the same. Still, after shooting the final episode of the show's tenth season, Oh told The Hollywood Reporter that rather than being glum, she had a wonderful last day and gave out nearly 250 gifts.

And those gifts? Well, in true Cristina Yang fashion, they were heart themed. "It was this beautiful champagne in a box, and on it is an anatomical heart and a 'ten.' It was like, 'Here's my heart in a box for a celebration. Please take it. This is my gift of thanks.'" Oh noted that the sentiment was even inscribed on the box. How heartfelt is that?

Still, even with all the warm fuzzies, Oh wanted to leave Cristina in her past. With one potential exception: the series finale. In 2014, Oh told The Hollywood Reporter that she would be open to coming back for the grande finale of "Grey's" only if it makes sense for her character. However, just four years later she told Variety that she wouldn't go back because she's moved on and it was a special time in her life. We'll have to simply wait and see. 

Sandra swiped a prop from Grey's Anatomy

There are a lot of things Sandra Oh walked away from when she departed "Grey's Anatomy." And while she wanted to snag items like Christina's wedding dress, scrubs, and stethoscope from the set, there was one particular item that she wanted and actually took. She told People magazine about her stolen prop in 2018 –and it's been in her living room right under everyone's noses the whole time! "The best thing I've ever taken from a set is the rug in Owen and Cristina's apartment on 'Grey's Anatomy' before they broke up," Oh told the outlet. 

We can't know for certain which of the several visible rugs in Owen and Cristina's apartment Oh actually brought home. Though here's hoping it was the large, ornate rug from their bedroom — which honestly would be very hard to sneak out of anywhere. So, if that's the one, big props to Oh for finding a way to sneak it out. Or props to the props person for looking the other way.

Killing Eve's lead role was a surprise to her

When Sandra Oh was approached about a new show by Phoebe Waller-Bridge called "Killing Eve," she wasn't sure which role she was supposed to be considering. As the "Fleabag" star and creator told Time in 2018, Oh had assumed they wanted her for any role besides Eve, the lead character. Up until that point, she'd only ever played supporting roles — usually as a best friend to the lead. As reported by the outlet, even as of that year, Oh was only one of a few actors of Asian descent leading a series. 

Meanwhile, Vanity Fair reported that Oh's portrayal of Cristina Yang was one of the most mainstream, non-stereotypical Asian characters on television. Such a fact only furthers Oh's drive to be part of pushing that representation forward. "Young Asian people who come up to me have a certain vibration, and I receive it, and I understand it, and I feel emotional just talking about it," she told the outlet. "I'm here for you. And I'll continue doing everything I can to fill something that I know you need right now, that we don't yet have as a community." While she didn't anticipate taking the lead in "Killing Eve," anyone who has seen her powerhouse performance in the show would agree she has that role down pat.

Sandra has a key to the city

Canada is rightly proud of the success of its own Sandra Oh. In 2011, the actor was inducted into the Canadian Walk of Fame in Ontario for her work in the arts and then eleven years later she represented her home country at Queen Elizabeth II's state funeral. In 2013, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson even gave Oh the prestigious award of a key to the city, in recognition of her work and success.

At the time, Oh was delighted to be home for such an occasion. "I'm happy and excited to be back in my hometown and to be a part of such a celebratory event", Oh said, per Watson's website. "I'm looking forward to seeing all my friends and all those who I haven't seen in many years and to figure out what this key to the city opens." Other key recipients have included "The Handmaid's Tale" author, Margaret Atwood, and celebrated photographer, Yousuf Karsh — so Oh is in good company.

Although she also holds United States citizenship, Oh made it clear in her 2019 "Saturday Night Live" monologue that Canada is her first home and that it shaped her into who she is — even with a few quirks. "I love Americans, you are confident and direct and now that I am an Asian-Canadian-American I'm trying to learn a thing or two about tooting my own horn," she quipped about struggling to accept praise. 

She keeps her personal life under wraps

If you pop over to Sandra Oh's Twitter or Instagram, you'll see the usual industry posts: The actor hanging out with other celebs, some work-related promo pieces, and the occasional glimpse into her private life. But, generally speaking, Oh stays pretty quiet about her close relationships

That could be, in part, because Oh was thrust so suddenly into stardom when "Grey's Anatomy" first premiered. In 2018, she opened up to Vulture about how difficult it was to get so much unwanted attention. "There's a certain type of perceived success, but I can also see how that causes stress, how that can cause conflict, and how that can cause people to lose their way," she explained. "I experienced it as traumatic." "Grey's" casting director Linda Lowy told Vulture that she wasn't sure how Oh dealt with the extra media attention because she doesn't necessarily crave that type of spotlight. Indeed, part of the trauma referenced by Oh may have included when TMZ covered her 2006 divorce from Alexander Payne.

Oh has had to learn to ignore the gossip and invasive reporting to help her live her best life. Specifically referring to the coverage of her divorce, she told Marie Claire, "I don't listen to this stuff. I don't see it. I tell my people I don't want to know about it because while rationally you might know it's ridiculous, it can hurt your feelings. It can knock me off from being my authentic self."