Sandra Miju Oh[2] (born July 20, 1971) is a Canadian actress known for her role as Dr. Cristina Yang on ABC's medical drama Grey's Anatomy, a role that earned her a Golden Globe, two Screen Actors Guild awards, as well as five nominations for Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.

She has also played notable roles in the feature films The Princess Diaries, Under the Tuscan Sun, Last Night, Sideways, and had a supporting role on the HBO original series Arli$$. Other films she has appeared in include The Night Listener, Sorry, Haters, Blindness, Bean, Wilby Wonderful, Hard Candy, and Rabbit Hole.

She starred in the acclaimed Asian Canadian films Double Happiness, The Diary of Evelyn Lau, and Long Life, Happiness & Prosperity the formers of which won her the Genie Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role and the Gemini Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Dramatic Program or Mini-Series respectively.

She currently stars in the Refinery29 web series Shitty Boyfriends.

Early life

Oh was born on July 20, 1971 in the Ottawa suburb of Nepean, to middle-class Korean immigrant parents Oh Junsu (John) and Oh Young-nam, who had moved to Canada in the early 1960s.[3] Her father is a businessman and her mother a biochemist.[4] Oh has a brother, Ray, and a sister, Grace. She grew up in a devout Christian household, living on Camwood Crescent in Nepean, where she began acting and ballet at an early age.[6] Growing up, Oh was one of the few youths of Asian descent in Nepean.[7][8] At the age of 10, she played The Wizard of Woe in a class musical, The Canada Goose.[9][10]

Later, at Sir Robert Borden High School, she founded the Environmental club BASE (Borden Active Students for the Environment), leading a campaign against the use of styrofoam cups. While at Sir Robert Borden High School she was Student Council President. She also played the flute and continued both her ballet training and acting studies; however, she knew that she "was not good enough to be a professional dancer"[6] and eventually focused solely on acting. This interest led her to take drama classes, act in school plays, and join the drama club where she took part in the Canadian Improv Games and Skit Row High, a comedy group. Against her parents' advice, she rejected a four-year journalism scholarship to Carleton University to study drama at the prestigious National Theatre School of Canada in Montreal, paying her own way. She told her parents that she would try acting for a few years, and if that failed, return to school.[9] Reflecting on forgoing university, Oh said: "I’m the only person in my family who doesn’t have a master’s in something."[11]

Soon after graduating from the National Theatre School in 1993, she starred in a London, Ontario stage production of David Mamet's Oleanna. Around the same time, she won roles in biographical TV films of two significant female Chinese-Canadians: as Vancouver author Evelyn Lau in The Diary of Evelyn Lau (Oh won the role over more than 1,000 others who auditioned); and as Adrienne Clarkson in a CBC biopic of Clarkson's life.

Career

1994–2004: Early work

Oh came to prominence in Canada for her lead performance in the Canadian film Double Happiness (1996), playing Jade Li, a twenty-something Chinese Canadian woman negotiating her wishes and those of her parents. The film received critical acclaim, with Roger Ebert praising Oh's "warm performance."[2] Janet Maslin of The New York Times also praised her performance, saying: "Ms. Oh's performance makes Jade a smart, spiky heroine you won't soon forget."[2] Oh won the Genie Award for Best Actress for the role.

She then went on to star in the 1997 international feature hit film Bean playing the supporting role of Bernice, the art gallery P.R. manager. Her other Canadian films include Long Life, Happiness & Prosperity and Last Night, for which she again won a Best Actress Genie. Oh was cast in the drama Dancing at the Blue Iguana (2000), playing a stripper at an adult dance club opposite Daryl Hannah. The film received middling reviews from critics,[2] though Oh was praised for her performance, with The New York Times saying "Oh make[s] the most of [her] opportunity to explore the vulnerability below [her] characters' hard-edged surface."[2] The same year, she appeared in the drama Waking the Dead. In 2002, Oh appeared in the family comedy Big Fat Liar, followed by a minor role in Steven Soderbergh's Full Frontal (2002).

Oh received critical acclaim for her six seasons as Rita Wu, the assistant to the president of a major sports agency, on the HBO series Arli$$. She received an NAACP Image Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series and a Cable Ace award for Best Actress in a Comedy for her work on Arli$$. In theatre, Oh has also starred in the world premieres of Jessica Hagedorn's Dogeaters at the La Jolla Playhouse and Diana Son's Stop Kiss at Joseph Papp's Public Theater in New York City. She made several guest appearances on the series Popular (1999) playing a humanities teacher. She also guest starred in the television series Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, Judging Amy, Six Feet Under, and Odd Job Jack.

In 2003, she was cast in a supporting role opposite Diane Lane in Under the Tuscan Sun, followed by a supporting role in Alexander Payne's critically acclaimed drama Sideways (2004). She considers Sideways to be one of the two best movies she has made, along with Evelyn Lau.[9]

2005–2014: Grey's Anatomy

In 2005, Oh appeared in several films, including David Slade's controversial thriller Hard Candy, and the independent anthology drama 3 Needles (2005), opposite Chloë Sevigny and Olympia Dukakis, in which she plays a Catholic nun in an AIDS-stricken African village. The same year, Oh was cast on the hit ABC medical series Grey's Anatomy as Dr. Cristina Yang. Oh's long-running role on the show earned her both a 2005 Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Series and a 2006 Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series. In July 2009, she received her fifth consecutive Emmy nomination for her work on the series. In August 2013, Oh announced that the program's tenth season would be her final season.[16]

Aside from her work on Grey's Anatomy, Oh continued to appear in films. She costarred in the thriller The Night Listener (2006), alongside Robin Williams and Toni Collette; in the superhero comedy Defendor (2009); Ramona and Beezus (2010); and the critically acclaimed drama Rabbit Hole (2010), opposite Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart. In her only audiobook, she played Brigid O'Shaughnessy in a Grammy-nominated dramatization of The Maltese Falcon (2008), which also featured Michael Madsen and Edward Herrmann. She also has done a few voice roles in animation, including a few guest appearances in American Dragon: Jake Long, the voice of Princess Ting-Ting in Mulan II and the voice of Doofah in The Land Before Time XIII: The Wisdom of Friends.

Oh was host of the 28th Genie Awards on March 3, 2008.[2] In 2009, Oh performed in The People Speak, a documentary feature film that uses dramatic and musical performances of the letters, diaries, and speeches of everyday Americans, based on historian Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States.[2] During the off season hiatus from filming Grey's Anatomy in 2010, Sandra Oh took the part of Sarah Chen in the British crime drama Thorne. She took intensive dialect coaching in order to play her British character.[2]

On June 28, 2011 it was announced that Oh would receive a star on Canada's Walk of Fame; she was inducted on October 1 at Elgin Theatre in Toronto.[2] In 2013, Oh formally announced that she would be leaving Grey's Anatomy.[16][2] Oh made her last appearance as Cristina Yang, exiting the series, with the season 10 finale.[23]

2013–present: Further film projects

In October 2014, Oh announced that she would be teaming up with Canadian director Ann Marie Fleming to collaborate on an animated feature film titled Window Horses.[24] She also appeared in a supporting role in the comedy film Tammy (2014), playing the wife of Kathy Bates.

In 2015, she starred on the comedy web series Shitty Boyfriends. Oh began filming an upcoming comedy film, Catfight (2016), in New York City in December 2015.[25]

Personal life

Oh and filmmaker Alexander Payne were in a relationship for five years. They married on January 1, 2003, separated in early 2005, and divorced in late 2006.[26] On July 8, 2013 Sandra Oh received the key to the City of Ottawa, Ontario, from Mayor Jim Watson.[10][27]

Filmography

Film

YearTitleRoleNotes
1989The Journey HomeShort film
1994Double HappinessJade Li
1995PreyIl BaeShort film
1996CowgirlSarah HwangShort film
1997BeanBernice Schimmel
1997Bad Day on the Block
1998Last NightSandra
1998The Red ViolinMadame Ming
1998Permanent MidnightFriend
1999GuinevereCindy
2000Waking the DeadKim
2000Dancing at the Blue IguanaJasmine
2000Three Lives of KateNarratorShort film
2001The Princess DiariesVice Principal Gupta
2001The Frank TruthHerselfDocumentary
2002Big Fat LiarMrs. Phyllis Caldwell
2002Full FrontalFourth Fired Employee
2002RickMichelle
2002Long Life, Happiness & ProsperityKin Ho Lum
2002Barrier DeviceAudreyShort film
2003Under the Tuscan SunPatti
2003Owning MahownyCraps PlayerUncredited
2004SidewaysStephanie
2004Wilby WonderfulCarol French
2004Mulan IITing TingVoice role
20048 Minutes to LoveJoyShort film
2005Hard CandyJudy Tokuda
2005Break a LegYoung Turk
2005CakeLulu
20053 NeedlesMary
2005Sorry, HatersPhyllis MacIntyre
2005Kind of a BlurJoe
2006The Night ListenerAnna
2006For Your ConsiderationMarketing Person
2007The Land Before Time XIII: The Wisdom of FriendsDoofahVoice role
2007FallingMelanieShort film
2008BlindnessMinister of Health
2009DefendorDr. Park
2009The People SpeakHerselfDocumentary
2009Quantum Quest: A Cassini Space OdysseyGal 2000
2010Ramona and BeezusMrs. Meacham
2010Rabbit HoleGabby
2015The ScarecrowEvelynShort film
2014TammySusanne
2016Window HorsesRosie MingVoice role
2016CatfightVeronica

Television

YearTitleRoleNotes
1989Denim BluesGwen
1992Degrassi High: School's OutWaitressUncredited
1993The Diary of Evelyn LauEvelyn Lau
1995If Not for You2 episodes
1995Lonesome Dove: The Outlaw YearsMing Li1 episode
1995Cagney & Lacey:The View Through the Glass CeilingOfficer Angela Lum
1996Kung Fu: The Legend ContinuesMai Chi1 episode
1996–2002Arli$$Rita Wu
1999Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every ChildBreadcrumb (voice)
2000PopularHumanities Teacher2 episodes
2001Date SquadAlpha Baby
2001Further Tales of the CityBambi Kanetaka
2001Six Feet UnderPorn StarletEpisode: "An Open Book"
2001Judging AmyDetective Shelly Tran
2001–2002The Proud FamilyMarsha Mitsubishi5 episodes
2005–2013American Dad!Katie/Hiko Yoshida5 episodes
2005–2014Grey's AnatomyDr. Cristina YangMain Cast (Season 1–10): 220 episodes
2006Odd Job JackVanessa2 episodes
2006–2007American Dragon: Jake LongSun Park
2008Phineas & FerbDr. Doofenshmirtz's Girlfriend2 episodes
2009Robot ChickenKate Winslet/Sarah Connor (voices)
2010ThorneDS Sarah Chen
2011Sesame StreetFairy Cookie Person
2014BetasSharronEpisode: "Steppin' Out"
2015Shitty BoyfriendsKathy6 episodes

Awards and nominations

YearNominated workAwardCategoryResult
1994Double HappinessGenie AwardsBest Performance by an Actress in a Leading RoleWon
1998Last NightGenie AwardsBest Performance by an Actress in a Leading RoleWon
2004SidewaysBoston Society of Film CriticsBest CastWon
2004SidewaysBroadcast Film Critics AssociationBest CastWon
2004SidewaysPhoenix Film Critics SocietyBest CastWon
2004SidewaysScreen Actors Guild AwardsOutstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion PictureWon
2005Grey's AnatomyGolden Globe AwardsBest Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television FilmWon
2005Grey's AnatomyScreen Actors Guild AwardsScreen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama SeriesWon
2005Grey's AnatomyPrimetime Emmy AwardsOutstanding Supporting Actress – Drama SeriesNominated
2005Grey's AnatomySatellite AwardsBest Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television FilmNominated
2006Grey's AnatomyPrimetime Emmy AwardsOutstanding Supporting Actress – Drama SeriesNominated
2006Grey's AnatomyScreen Actors Guild AwardsOutstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama SeriesNominated
2007Grey's AnatomyPrimetime Emmy AwardsOutstanding Supporting Actress – Drama SeriesNominated
2007Grey's AnatomyScreen Actors Guild AwardsOutstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama SeriesWon
2008Grey's AnatomyScreen Actors Guild AwardsOutstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama SeriesNominated
2008Grey's AnatomyPrimetime Emmy AwardsOutstanding Supporting Actress – Drama SeriesNominated
2009Grey's AnatomyPrimetime Emmy AwardsOutstanding Supporting Actress – Drama SeriesNominated
2015Grey's AnatomyPeople's Choice AwardsPeople's Choice Awards for Favorite TV Character We Miss MostWon