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Sandra Oh Says Decades of Hollywood Racism ‘Brainwashed’ Her

When she first read the script for her new show, "Killing Eve," the actress said she did not realize she was being offered the lead role.

Killing Eve Season 1 Sandra Oh

Nick Briggs

For an actress as accomplished Sandra Oh, who followed up a scene-stealing turn in “Sideways” by bringing unexpected depth to “Grey’s Anatomy,” she sure has taken her time in between gigs. Theatrically trained and blessed with impeccable timing, Oh is finally getting the lead role she deserves in “Killing Eve.” Created by Phoebe Waller-Bridge (“Fleabag”) for BBC America, “Killing Eve” stars Oh as an MI5 agent hunting a female assassin. Hailed by critics as a breath of fresh air amidst a glut of male-heavy crime thrillers, “Killing Eve” can safely be considered a triumphant return for Oh.

Why it took such an accomplished actress so long to get here is a more a delicate question, and one Oh is careful when discussing. In a candid interview with Vulture’s E. Alex Jung, Oh said that while she has certainly experienced racism in Hollywood, she has also had the luxury of being choosy with her roles.

“Racism exists. Let’s start there. I felt it, and I have felt it deeply. And I’m extremely fortunate,” said Oh, who is Canadian of Korean descent. “And I have so much opportunity because I can say no, and I choose to say no. I took a lot of time to find the right project.” Oh does share one anecdote related to “Killing Eve,” however, that illustrated to her just how much she had internalized Hollywood’s racism.

“One thing I will share with you — when I got the script for ‘Killing Eve,’ I remember I was walking around in Brooklyn and I was on my phone with my agent, Nancy. I was quickly scrolling down the script, and I can’t really tell you what I was looking for. So I’m like, ‘So Nancy, I don’t understand, what’s the part?’ And Nancy goes ‘Sweetheart, it’s Eve, it’s Eve.’ In that moment, I did not assume the offer was for Eve. I think about that moment a lot. Of just going, how deep have I internalized this? [So] many years of being seen [a certain way], it deeply, deeply, deeply affects us. It’s like, how does racism define your work? Oh my goodness, I didn’t even assume when being offered something that I would be one of the central storytellers. Why? And this is me talking, right? After being told to see things a certain way for decades, you realize, ‘Oh my god! They brainwashed me!’ I was brainwashed! So that was a revelation to me.”

Read Sandra Oh’s full interview with Vulture here.

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