Sandra Oh Claims ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Fame Was ‘Traumatic’

Sandra Oh played Dr. Cristina Yang on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy. When the medical drama first premiered in 2005, the show became a massive success. The series made breakout stars out of Oh, Ellen Pompeo, Patrick Dempsey, Katherine Heigl, and more. But, the quick rise to fame was challenging for the actor. After leaving the show, Oh admits the success of Grey’s Anatomy was a “traumatic” experience for her. 

Sandra Oh shines in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’

Sandra Oh wearing white scrubs in 'Grey's Anatomy.'
Sandra Oh | Michael Desmond/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

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Oh appeared in the first season of the ABC series Grey’s Anatomy. She was one of the original cast members, alongside Pompeo, Heigl, Justin Chambers, and T. R. Knight

Her portrayal of ambitious heart surgeon Cristina Yang received a large amount of praise. Oh earned 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. The actor starred in the series for 10 seasons. In August 2013, she announced her departure from Grey’s Anatomy.  

In a 2013 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Oh revealed that she wanted to leave to pursue other opportunities. “Creatively, I really feel like I gave it my all, and I feel ready to let her go,” Oh told the outlet at the time. “It’s such an interesting thing to play a character for so long and to actually get the sense that she wants to be let go as well. [Cristina] wants to be let go, and I am ready to let her go. We have to start the process, story-wise, for the Grey’s writers to think of why she’s going to go.”

Oh describes the rise to fame as ‘traumatic’ 

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Although Oh is grateful for her time on Grey’s Anatomy, grappling with the fame was not easy. The medical drama became a hit series on ABC, becoming one of the longest-running primetime shows on the network. But, the success that came with the series was difficult for the actor to endure. 

In August 2021, Oh made a special appearance on Sunday Today with Willie Geist. During the interview, she talked about losing her privacy when she rose to fame.

“To be perfectly honest, it was traumatic,” she explained. “The reason why I’m saying that is the circumstances you need to do your work is with a lot of privacy.”

She continued, “So when one loses one’s anonymity, you have to build skills to try still 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.”

Oh shared that talking to a therapist helped her stay centered. “I’m not joking. It’s very, very important,” she added. “You just have to work at finding your way to stay grounded. And a lot of times, that’s by saying no.”

Sandra Oh won’t return to ‘Grey’s Anatomy’

Although fans witnessed the return of Dempsey, Knight, Sarah Drew, Chyler Leigh, and Eric Dane in Grey’s Anatomy Season 17, Oh did not return to the series. After her departure, Oh has been adamant about not returning to the medical drama. 

In an episode of the “Los Angeles Times’ Asian Enoughpodcast, Oh shared that she doesn’t want to make a future appearance in the series. Even though she admires Cristina’s impact on viewers, Oh is not interested in returning to Grey’s Anatomy.

“It’s very rare, I would say, to be able to see in such a way the impact of a character,” she said. “In some ways, you do your work as a bubble, and you let it go. I left that show, my God, seven years ago almost. So in my mind, it’s gone. But for a lot of people, it’s still very much alive. And while I understand and I love it, I have moved on.”  

Oh currently stars in the Hulu crime series Killing Eve – she portrays Eve Polastri, an investigator tasked with apprehending the killer assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer). The fourth season is expected to return to the platform in 2022. 

In addition, she plays Professor Ji-Yoon Kim in the Netflix comedy series, The Chair. Her character is the newly appointed chair of the English department at Pembroke University. She is the first woman of color to be assigned to the position. The series received positive reviews, with an 86 percent on Rotten Tomatoes

Grey’s Anatomy has been renewed for season 18. The medical drama will premiere on ABC on Sept. 30 at 9 p.m. ET.