Many actors have come and gone since Grey's Anatomy premiered in 2005, and while I do miss Mark Sloan, there will never be a more iconic departed character than the one and only Cristina Yang. With a razor sharp wit, apathetic humor, and fierce intellect, Dr. Yang consistently put the other characters to shame with her talent and tough love mentality. I was seriously sad when Sandra Oh made the decision to leave the show in 2014, as were most fans of the long-running series.
In an interview for Variety‘s Actors on Actors video series, Oh revealed that, just like the rest of us, she was deeply invested in Cristina's character, and that devotion often led to heated debates with the show's writing staff.
“I spent a lot of time with writers, and television is all about your relationship with the writer,” Oh said. “What I was able to get from ‘Grey’s’ is to have the responsibility and the relationship with the writer to be able to direct where she’s going. If something kind of came up which was like, ‘That is completely wrong,’ I would go toe-to-toe with Shonda and a lot of the writers, which has been challenging. But 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.”
“I feel like, when I look back, because it’s been six years now since I left ‘Grey’s,’ I feel like one of my biggest successes, for me, was I don’t feel I gave up,” Oh continued. “We did 22 episodes, but in the early years, it was 24. It was crazy. Then you have to kind of pick your moments of where you can lay off the gas pedal, because it is such a slog. There would be scenes that I would just go, I don’t know, 10 rounds on, and I know I was difficult. And I really respect all the writers there who rode it out with me. I would go 10 rounds in saying, ‘It’s not right.'”
When giving a specific example on when she disagreed with writers, Oh explained, “When we did ‘Grey’s,’ for at least the first 10 seasons we would not talk about race. 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. Now my interest is much more in bringing that story in.”
It's so interesting to hear Oh's thoughts on Grey's Anatomy now that her career is in such a different place. Cristina is still a groundbreaking character, and I'm impressed that the actress who brought her to life stood up for herself when she wanted something changed.