In a new profile, Sandra Oh talked about her Emmy-nominated role in Killing Eve, her decades-long journey to leading actress status, and how she tried and sometimes failed to control her image in an industry that didn’t always want to see her.
Speaking to Vulture staff writer E. Alex Jung, Oh described meeting with an agent in 1995 shortly after relocating from Canada to Los Angeles. The agent told her that, despite winning the Genie Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role the year prior, she wasn’t leading lady material:
“[My agent] said, ‘Listen: I’m not going to lie to you. A lot of people are going to lie to you. But I’ve got nothing for you here. I have Suzy Kim’—I’m just making up names—‘she has an audition in like six months. There’s nothing for a year… My best advice for you is to go back home and get famous…’ I had already done all I could do to get to that A level, which is star in theater, TV, film, and somehow, that wasn’t enough for someone to say, ‘I believe I can get you an audition…’ There’s like a dark needle or a nail that lives at the back of all of our heads, and that’s your fear… That’s like, ‘It is true. There’s nothing there.”
Oh also described grappling with the media spotlight she was put under after her breakout role on Grey’s Anatomy and the challenge of representing women of Asian descent. She cited her negative experience with her first and only cover shoot with a mainstream U.S. magazine (presumably this 2007 Marie Claire cover):
“It hurt me to not see ourselves… I don’t know what it is, but I put a lot of that into this one [unnamed] magazine cover because I wanted to look good. Like, I’m not a fucking model, but I wanted to look like those actresses that look great on magazines. And I was so profoundly disappointed with the cover they chose… Because I didn’t feel like it was representing me, and it wasn’t a good shot… It was all about trying to control an image. Me. I was trying to control this image that I would look great and beautiful on this American cover and it had a wide publication. I was chasing after something, and I did not get it. It was almost like I was trying—especially at that time, the majority of all images on magazine covers were attractive white women—I was trying to be accepted that way… I stopped caring about images of myself. I was plagued with it, honestly, for a long time.”
Read the rest of the profile here.