Sandra Oh

“Actually being able to exercise your own choice can bring about greater opportunity.”

Sandra Oh, Asian-Canadian-American actress, 1971-present. 

Sandra Oh is best known for her role as the brainy Dr. Cristina Yang on Grey’s Anatomy. In 2008 she made history becoming the first actor of Asian descent to receive an Emmy nomination in the Best Actress category for her role in Killing Eve, the first to win multiple Golden Globes in the Best Actress category, and the first to host that awards show. 

Born to Korean parents in Nepean, Ontario, her mother was a biochemist and father a businessman who both attended graduate school at the University of Toronto. Oh originally wanted to be a ballet dancer, starting lessons at age four. She began acting at age 10, and went on to study at the National Theatre School in Montreal. She watched The Carol Burnett Show, and was inspired by the spontaneity of the comedienne. Oh’s breakout role, while she was still a student, was starring as a teen in The Diary of Evelyn Lau, based on a memoir about a Vancouver runaway, which she won in an open audition of 1000 girls. On that set, she met the filmmaker Mina Shum, who cast her in Double Happiness. She recalls her start as a “big, fat fluke,” but her acting talent, especially as an ingénue, is undeniable. Her filmography is astounding; she has worked consistently on back-to-back projects since the beginning. Still, she believes America puts Asian actors “in very small boxes.”

Although she has never pursued academics, having turned down a journalism scholarship to go to theatre school (something her parents were disappointed by), she is an autodidact, fluent in English, French, Korean and Spanish. In 2003 she secretly married the writer-director Alexander Payne and their first project together was the Oscar-winning Sideways the following year. They tried couples therapy, but they divorced in 2007. Although she has never had children, Oh has said that she was perhaps meant to parent in a different, broader sense – playing a mother in films and television. She relishes her role as parent to younger, up and coming Asian-American actors to whom she has generously given her phone number.

Oh lives in Los Angeles, has been known to date rock stars and eschew wearing bras, and in 2018 became an American citizen. Her next project is playing the voice of Mistral in the Asian fantasy film The Tigers Apprentice, to be released in 2023.


No items found.


No items found.