Sandra Oh was filled with ‘shame’ as an Asian actress despite her success

Sandra Oh was still “filled with shame” when she found success as an Asian actress in the West.

The Korean-Canadian star is best known for her performance as Cristina Yang on the ABC medical drama series Grey’s Anatomy, before landing the career-changing leading role in the hit BBC spy thriller series Killing Eve.

But despite that, she has now admitted that she is still a work in progress when it comes to figuring out is what it means to be Asian in the West.


“It’s not just, ‘dominant culture, let us in’. It’s about our self-identity as Asians in the diaspora, and what and how we want to be,” she explained in a chat with Porter magazine.

And addressing her casting for the hit spy show, Sandra confessed she was confused when she received the script for the series, as she didn’t believe that she, as an Asian actress, had been tapped to front the series.

“That was one of those moments when you believe you are on a journey, making progress, and then you realise, inside you are back here.

“I was filled with shame, anger, humiliation, heartbreak,” the 48-year-old said of her self-doubt. “And that was only three years ago.”

She has since gone on to score a number of breakthroughs, as the first Asian-American woman to be nominated for a Lead Actress Emmy, to host the Golden Globes, and to win multiple Golden Globes (after her Best Supporting Actress gong for Grey’s Anatomy in 2006).

However, Sandra insisted she’s proud of her achievements, and even took her parents to see the billboards for Killing Eve in 2018.

“This is what I really love about my parents,” she explained. “Not only is it, this is my daughter on this billboard, it’s absolutely an Asian face too, and that has a profound meaning for them, which we don’t need to talk about, but I know they carry it.

“I know they carry it for everyone in their generation.”