For Sandra Oh, Grey’s Anatomy was a game changer.
The actress had been working for more than a decade — her credits included a TV movie based on the ’80s police show Cagney and Lacey and a couple of episodes of the Ryan Murphy-produced series Popular — but it was her role as Dr. Cristina Yang that made Oh a household name. As soon as the show premiered in March 2005, in a favorable time slot following Desperate Housewives, Grey’s was a hit. Behind-the-scenes controversies, such as former co-star Isaiah Washington’s use of a homophobic slur about another one of her co-stars, T.R. Knight, and, later, Katherine Heigl’s public complaints about “the material,” meant the show was extra buzzy.
“To be perfectly honest, it was traumatic. It was traumatic,” Oh said in an interview for the next episode of Sunday Today With Willie Geist. “And the reason why I’m saying that is the circumstances you need to do your work is with a lot of privacy. So when one loses one’s anonymity, you have to build skills to still try and be real. I went from not being able to go out, like hiding in restaurants, to then being able to manage attention, manage expectation, while not losing the sense of self.”
When Geist asked how Oh managed through what most have been a rough time, she was candid.
“Well, I have a good therapist,” she said. “I’m not joking.”
Oh, who left the show in 2014, stressed that she was serious about her answer.
“It’s very, very important,” Oh said. “You just have to work at finding your way to stay grounded. And a lot of times that’s by saying no.”
Still, all the attention isn’t what drove her from the Shonda Rhimes mainstay after 10 seasons. She described it then as a “deeply creative decision.”
Oh went on to co-star in the acclaimed AMC/BBC America drama series Killing Eve and, most recently, on Neflix’s The Chair.