Sandra Oh revealed that she sometimes battled with ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ writers about Cristina Yang’s storylines, even going ‘toe-to-toe’ with creator Shonda Rimes when necessary.
As it turns out, Sandra Oh is just as much a perfectionist as Cristina Yang. Sandra, 48, confessed in a Variety Actors on Actors interview with fellow Shondaland alum Kerry Washington that she would sometimes be “difficult” on the Grey’s Anatomy set. “I would go 10 rounds in saying, ‘It’s not right,’” Sandra said about filming. “You’ve got to do different levels with the writer, and then you bump it up and you eventually get to [Shonda Rimes, the show’s creator].”
“You’ve got to bother her. When it felt like such an impasse, we would both be digging in our heels hugely. But just the friction itself, a lot of times a third thing would come out, and it would not be in my sight of consciousness at all; it would take that pushing against someone equally as strong. I started to learn how to trust that,” she said, adding, “I know I was difficult. And I really respect all the writers there who rode it out with me.”
Sandra played Cristina, the best friend of Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) and one of the most talented surgeons in the country, for 10 seasons on Grey’s Anatomy. She left the show in 2014, with her character moving to Switzerland to head a medical center with her ex-husband, surgeon Preston Burke (Isaiah Washington). It was a storyline with Preston that Sandra said particularly stood out as something she pushed back on with the writers and Shonda. She wasn’t able to change their minds, though.
“When we did Grey’s, for at least the first 10 seasons we would not talk about race,” she recalled. “We would not go into race, and that was purposeful. And, whatever, it was the right thing to do when it was. In Season 3, Burke and Cristina were getting married and there were the two mothers, the Asian mother and the Black mother, and I’m like, ‘Come on, there is a lot of story that we can do here!’ But they didn’t want to touch it, for whatever reason.”
While Sandra confessed that she would sometimes “go toe-to-toe” with Shonda about Grey’s, they had a good understanding about why Sandra continued to push back about her storylines. “I think ultimately, for the entire product and our relationship, if you’re fighting for the show, if you’re fighting for your character, people can tell that,” Sandra said.