Many know her face, but few know that she is an actress who built her career from the ground up. Sandra Oh is mostly known for playing Cristina Yang on the hit series, Grey’s Anatomy. Although she is now a famed and respected actress, she’s faced hardships along the way that may have marked a different destiny for her.
Bright Side wants to share this actress’s story and how she didn’t let anything stop her from fulfilling her dreams.
1. The start of her journey
Sandra Oh was born in Canada after her parents decided to move from Korea when they were younger. She started taking ballet classes at a very young age, which was her first experience in the arts and what would make her discover at an early age that she liked show business. Although her parents didn’t approve, with the help of her sister, she participated in plays.
She then began to build her career as an actress at the age of 15 with small parts in commercials. She continued with this dream in mind, and was so determined to pursue acting that she even turned down a scholarship to study journalism.
2. Her parents were her biggest driving force.
At first, Sandra Oh’s parents weren’t really supportive of her acting career. For them, there was no good that could come from acting, and they constantly asked her to give it up. Their attitude of constant resistance to Oh’s wishes somehow made her a little stronger in the face of the criticism that would come later.
In an interview, she said, “When you have 2 of the most important people in your life telling you that you can’t do something, and you do it anyway, then it really doesn’t matter what anyone else says.” Still, Oh stayed the course, and they, despite their beliefs, watched her act and cement roles, enjoying what she did, and they became her biggest supporters and most loyal followers.
3. Dealing with stereotypes
Being of Korean descent and living in Canada and then in Hollywood, Sandra Oh admitted that she felt different from others because of her looks. Within the acting world, it was not easy for her to deal with the ethnic and beauty stereotypes, which were not diverse enough and, in which, she felt she didn’t fit.
When she was in her twenties, an agent told her she didn’t have the features to have a leading role, and she began to strongly consider plastic surgery to change her appearance. “I remember a plastic surgeon telling me that the lower half of my face was proper for a woman, but the upper half was not gender-specific.”
But the surgery never happened. One day, talking to her younger brother, he told her he didn’t think she needed to modify anything. He reminded her that she had recently landed a role in the movie, The Diary of Evelyn Lau, which was her first leading role that she landed thanks to a daring audition. She got the producers’ attention when, at the audition, she asked for a moment to concentrate and got down on the floor for a few minutes. Her confidence charmed the film’s director, and she got the part.
It was her brother’s words that made her take a step back from the cosmetic operations on her face. He reminded her of what she was accomplishing by simply being herself, and that she was capable of playing strong and important roles without the need to fit into stereotypes.
4. She said no to Grey’s Anatomy.
Dr. Cristina Yang in the series, Grey’s Anatomy, is one of Oh’s most iconic roles and one that made her popular around the world. That’s why few could imagine that the actress initially auditioned for another role in the series, even that of Dr. Miranda Bailey. She inquired about other available roles and found out she wanted to play Cristina Yang.
But before auditioning for the role, her agent advised her to leave, as they were not going to accept the financial deal she was looking for, so she dropped out of the auditions. Despite that, producers were so interested in her that they kept looking for her to offer her the role she wanted to play.
For almost 10 years, we enjoyed the many facets of the character that Sandra Oh played on the show that she herself helped to develop throughout the series. When she decided to leave, she said that she felt she had given everything she had to give to the character and that she felt extremely creative and at a point in her career where she could say “no” to more projects and wait for the right challenge; she now had the power to choose her next jobs.
5. Overwhelmed by fame
After spending several years away from Grey’s Anatomy, the impact of her character continued to have traction with fans. “When you lose anonymity, you have to find tools to stay real.” Sandra Oh has stated that her experience with fame, at some points, was too overwhelming, and it was only with the help of a therapist that she was able to deal with her emotions. She has learned to manage the excess attention and the expectation that others put on her, and to keep her feet on the ground.
6. Staying true to herself in her roles
Oh decided not to pigeonhole herself into one type of character, so she’s tried out different projects. She said that what she looks for is to play dynamic and inspiring roles. And that is something we can definitely appreciate from her work.
Whether it’s comedic or dramatic projects, even before fame, she has developed strong, character roles. With memorable performances, she has managed to grow and capture a bit of herself, demonstrating her conviction and that there is still much to discover about the talent that this great artist possesses.
Do you know anyone else who started with nothing, but managed to fulfill their lifelong dream?