So far in June, we’ve seen Issa Rae cover Cosmopolitan, Dame Judi Dench cover British Vogue, and now it’s Sandra Oh on the cover of ELLE Canada. All excellent decisions.
Having interviewed her myself a year ago, I can tell you that Sandra Oh is a thoughtful, considerate conversationalist. And this is a thoughtful, considered conversation that she has with Vanessa Craft which is why I don’t want to excerpt too much because the way it flows, the way Sandra reflects on her career and her choices, and getting commentary on Sandra from Shonda Rhimes – all of this is too good, too insightful, to spoil with pull quotes that don’t necessarily capture the entire piece.
A quick word on Shonda though, because if you’ve read her book, Year of Yes, you probably already know how she feels about Sandra and Cristina Yang. If there’s a character who Shonda put herself into, it’s Cristina Yang. And then that character became part of Sandra too. So Cristina kinda is the amalgamation of these two complicated, talented, industrious women. Maybe that’s why she’s one of the best ever characters in television history, even though she doesn’t get the credit. In my mind, Cristina Yang is right up there with Tony Soprano, Don Draper, and Walter White.
And you have to be at the level of Sandra Oh to be able to create that fictional person and get her to that point where she means that much to people in real life. As Sandra tells Vanessa Craft:
“I’ve always had a large set of eggs.”
That’s her way of saying she’s got balls.
You know what you need the eggs for? Especially for women? Declining things, saying “I’ll pass”. Even after you’ve been successful. Perhaps especially after you’ve been successful. Because we’re programmed to think that it might go away, that if you don’t take all the opportunities and be as accommodating as you were before.
We’ve mentioned this before but we really don’t talk enough about how Sandra, after Grey’s Anatomy, took her time and waited, waited for the thing that she wanted to do, a project that met her standards for the kind of project she wanted to be a part of, the kind work she wanted to put out there. This is not easy for celebrities – if you doubt that, just take a look at how hard it is for them to stay off social media. But as Sandra explains:
“I decided that I’m only going to play characters that are essential to the plot, that conduct the narrative and therefore can’t be cut out,” she explains. Of course, the crucial step, she adds, “is that you have to get to a place [in your career] where you can say no.”
That’s it, right? She made the decision about what she wanted to play…but there are three parts to this equation. It’s making the decision, it’s getting yourself into the position, and then, once that’s set, it’s being ready, emotionally, to say no. To say it and not be afraid. To trust that no is the right answer. So that when it’s time to say yes, the thing you’re saying yes to is The One.
Like Killing Eve. Like hosting the Golden Globes.
Anyway, like I said, the whole article is full of wisdom and also not wisdom. Because Sandra doesn’t have to know it all. She doesn’t have to have all the answers. She doesn’t have to be the one answering all the questions. When you speak to her, she’s asking just as many questions which can be rare in celebrity because a lot of the time, they’re not interested in having an actual discussion. This is not Sandra Oh. And that’s also why this piece is such a great read. And a good look.
I love this cover. I love that she looks like she stepped out from another era. But also this shot of her serving drama while showing off the volume of the dress…
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â€œSandra is intense when she is playing a role, and I mean that in the best way,â€ says @shondarhimes, the powerful showrunner for #GreysAnatomy, explaining that Oh (who played the unforgettable Dr. Cristina Yang) would come charging into her office every week, script filled with notes, asking countless questions about word choice and character motivation. â€œIt drove me crazy and made me so happy at the same time,â€ says Rhimes. â€œSandra wanted to get it as right as she possibly could. She could elevate anything you wroteâ€”she dives in and cares deeply. You cannot have a superficial conversation with Sandra.â€ #KillingEve #ShondaRhimes #SandraOh Writer & EIC, @vanessacraft Photographer, @gregswalesart Creative director & stylist, @anniehorth Stylist, @patrickvimbor Art director, @jedtallo Makeup, @karayoshimotobua Hair, @jennychohair Nails, @christinaviles
And crushing it in orange:
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"Iâ€™m in a place in my career now where I am specifically interested in roles that explore a characterâ€™s race,â€ says #KillingEve star #SandraOh. â€œBecause I canâ€”and because I want our conversations to eventually move to a place that recognizes that itâ€™s important. Letâ€™s say itâ€™s a show about a fashion magazine and the editorâ€™s Black. You canâ€™t just write this character without having the background of who she is. But that has been the primary storytelling for as long as weâ€™ve been around.â€ Link in stories to read the full cover story from our June 2020 issue. Writer and EIC, @vanessacraft Photographer, @gregswalesart Creative director & stylist, @anniehorth Stylist, @patrickvimbor Art director, @jedtallo Makeup, @karayoshimotobua Hair, @jennychohair Nails, @christinaviles
Check out the full article more photos at ELLE Canada.