10 Things You Didn’t Know About Grey’s Anatomy Star Sandra Oh
Sandra Oh’s full name is Sandra Miju Oh — her middle name is very fitting as it means “pretty pearl” in Korean. Sandra is most widely recognized for her time on the popular Shonda Rhimes series Grey’s Anatomy as the cutthroat, cold and focused surgeon otherwise known as Christina Yang. Back in 2014, fans were devastated to learn that Sandra Oh would be leaving Grey’s after 10 consecutive seasons on the show. She played such a big role and was great at it! Her role as Christina Yang earned her a Golden Globe award, two Screen Actor’s Guild awards and five Emmy nominations. In addition to playing the beloved bestie of Meredith Grey, Sandra has been in the films The Princess Diaries, Under the Tuscan Sun, Last Night, Sideways and held a supporting role in the HBO series, Arli$$. Despite her huge success, this Canadian actress prefers to stay out of the limelight, but we can’t help it, we want to know more! Here’s 10 things you might not have known about Sandra Oh:
10. Auditioning for Grey’s Anatomy
Sandra Oh originally auditioned for the role of Bailey because that was what her manager suggested she try for, but once she learned about the character of Christina Yang, she asked if she could read her part and of course, that’s the role she got! She wanted to play the antagonist. In an interview she said, “At that time I was practicing asking for what I wanted in my life,” she joked. “I saw the part of Christina and I wanted to do that part, and so, even though Shonda and Peter and Betsy wanted me to come in for the part of Bailey, I said ‘no I want to come in on Christina.’…What I like the best about Christina is I think the thing that could possibly make her a great surgeon is a hindrance for her in her personal life. I think her ability to be focused and to not be emotionally engaged might give her an edge on the difficulties to be a surgeon, but when it comes to connecting with people which is again, both layers of our show, partially medical and mostly emotionally and character driven, it lends itself to an interesting blend of opposites which is something I really like playing about her.”
9. Her Parents Emigrated to Canada
Her parents are immigrants who emigrated to Canada from South Korea in the early ’60s when they were in their twenties. Her father is Joon-Soo (John) and her mother Young-Nan both came to Canada to study, economics and biochemistry. She grew up with her siblings in Ottawa.
8. She Never Went to College
She is the only person in her family who doesn’t have a college degree or a masters. Despite this, she turned down an academic school against her parents’ wishes and paid her own way through the National Theatre School of Canada, a prestigious acting school. In an interview with Marie Claire, Oh said, “My sister is a lawyer, and my brother is finishing his Ph.D. in medical genetics. The fact that now I play a doctor on TV? Nothing could be better!” During high school she was apart of the National Champion Canadian Improv Team and competed during The Canadian Improv Games.
7. Working on the Set of Grey’s
Years before she left Grey’s Anatomy, Sandra had said in an interview that there were a bunch of props from the set that she had her eye on taking, like the dress she had to be cut out of for her almost wedding to Preston Burke. She also said wanted to take her lab coat, scrubs and stethoscope when she left, but ABC warned her she was only allowed to take one thing. We wonder what she ended up taking! During an interview with George Stroumboulopoulos, she said she formed very close relationships with not only the other actors on the show, but the writers because they played such a big role in developing her character. She liked to share ideas with them about Christina and that she liked to know what would be coming up in the storyline. It was her idea for Christina to have an emotional breakdown, so Rhimes then wrote the scene where Christina loses her baby and can’t stop crying. Also, her and Kate Walsh worked together before Grey’s on the film Under the Tuscan Sun. The two were lovers in the 2003 film.
6. She Doesn’t Consider Herself a Celebrity
Sandra Oh doesn’t consider herself to be a celebrity and she thinks the more famous you get, the more it takes away from being an artist. This is why we don’t see in the press unless it strictly pertains to her work. In the interview with Stroumboulopoulos she said, “I stepped out of doing press because it’s too big a price for me, because I 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.”
5. She’s Multilingual
Sandra can speak fluent English, Korean, Spanish and French!
4. Her Family is Very Religious
She grew up in a very religious household and went to two different churches growing up, English and Korean. Her family was very active in the Korean community. “Wherever Koreans are, they set up a church. There weren’t many of us, maybe 10 families, so [ours] was like a church in the basement of a church,” she said. When she moved to L.A., she moved away from the church and her religion, but she still has a deep connection to her past, “In the past few years I feel like through the grace of acting and my art, I have come much closer together with my spirituality and when my own spirituality deepened so did the closeness that I felt about it to be able to speak about it with my parents. They are extremely devoted Christians.” She doesn’t necessarily go to church anymore, but she still considers herself to be spiritual, but instead of praying she meditates.
3. Sandra vs. Christina
She is very similar to her character of Christina in the way that she sets extremely high standards for herself and is very driven. When she was in theatre school she was nicknamed “The Quote Child” because she was among the few Asians in the school. She told the Los Angeles Times in an interview, “I just didn’t let it get to me. I decided very early that I was going to be an actor. Period. The best actor possible.” She also told Stroumboulopoulos that because of the hardship she had to go through by going against her parents, she became immune to any other negativity, “Because I was able to overcome them, that just gave me a tremendous amount of fortitude because I love my parents. And when you have the two most important people in your life telling you that you can’t do something and you do it anyways, then it just doesn’t matter what anyone else is really going to say because I’ve already been hurt.” Also, the idea of making Christina Yang a messy person was Sandra’s idea because she told Shonda that she was messy in real life and it would make for a great character contrast when she was dating Preston Burke.
2. She’s Used to do Ballet
She is a ballet dancer. Sandra’s parents unintentionally sparked her interest in performing when they enlisted her in ballet at the young age of four. Their intention was to correct her natural pigeon-toed gait, but instead it lead to her widely successful career. At the age of 10 she was performing in front of audiences for her first play, The Canada Goose, and at 15 she was booking professional gigs.
1. Her Parents Didn’t Support her Career Path
Her parents still disapproved when she first became an actress because they didn’t think it would be a secure job. Sandra said they were the typical immigrant families, or Asian immigrant families, who put a lot of emphasis on education and pursuing a well respected career. She told Ellen Degeneres in an interview, “My parents at that time looked down on the arts, it was hard. They go, ‘What’s the purpose of it? What is the social purpose of what you’re doing?’ Because they really, really instilled in all of us that whatever you do has to be good for society.” Her relationship with her parents is now great, and they fully support her. When she was nominated for an Emmy after season one and two of Grey’s Anatomy she brought her parents to the ceremony.