During her 10 seasons in “Grey’s Anatomy,” Sandra Oh was so deeply involved in playing Dr. Cristina Yang that she often entered into heated discussions with writers about her character.
In an interview with Variety Actors on the subject of actors, Oh spoke to Kerry Washington, who starred in “Scandal,” about what it was like to go “face to face” with Shonda Rhimes, who created both shows.
“I spent a lot of time with writers, and television is about your relationship with the writer,” said Oh. “What I could get from ‘Grey’s’ is having the responsibility and the relationship with the writer to be able to direct where she is going. If something like ‘That’s completely wrong’ came up, I’d go toe-to-toe with Shonda and many of the writers, which has been a challenge. But I think ultimately for the whole product and our relationship, if you’re fighting for the show, if you’re fighting for your character, people can say that. “
Oh, who now stars in “Killing Eve,” recalled a story in season 3 of “Grey’s” when Cristina was going to marry Preston Burke (Isaiah Washington).
“Most of the shows I’ve done have not been specific to Asia on purpose,” Oh said. “When we did ‘Grey’s’, at least for the first 10 seasons we didn’t talk about race. We didn’t go to the race, and that had a purpose. And, whatever, it was the right thing to do when it was. In season 3, Burke and Cristina were going to get married and there were the two mothers, the Asian mother and the black mother, and I said to them: ‘Come on, there are many stories we can do here!’ But they didn’t want to touch it, for whatever reason. Now my interest is much more in bringing that story. “
Washington said that when reading the “Scandal” scripts, it always starts with positive comments before suggesting notes.
“Any of the writers I worked with, I’m sure they know my face,” said Oh. “What can I say? I have a Korean mother, and she has a hard face to put on. She has a tough face!
“It is the truth,” Washington said. “You are a fortune teller, which is a beautiful thing.”
“I feel like when I look back, because it’s been six years since I left ‘Grey’s,’ I feel like one of my biggest successes, for me, is that I don’t feel like I gave up,” Oh said. “We did 22 episodes, but in the first years, there were 24. It was crazy. Then you have to choose the times when you can leave the accelerator pedal, because it is heavy work. There would be scenes I would go to, I don’t know, 10 rounds and I know it was difficult. And I really respect all the writers who accompanied me. “
“What does that mean, would you go 10 rounds?” Washington asked.
“I would go 10 rounds saying, ‘It’s not okay,'” Oh said. “You have to do different levels with the writer, and then you upload it and eventually you get to [Shonda]. You have to disturb her. When it looked like a dead end, we were both digging our heels enormously. But only the friction itself, many times
A third thing would come out, and it would not be in sight of my conscience at all; it would take that push against someone equally strong. I started to learn to trust that. “
For more information on Variety’s conversation with Oh and Washington, read our full story here.