After playing the complicated, capable surgeon Dr. Cristina Yang over ten seasons of the hit television show Grey’s Anatomy, you might think that Sandra Oh could play just about any role, anywhere – particularly given the show’s international success.
But at a recent Television Critics Association panel for the show, Oh suggested that she would likely never be hired to work in Korea because she lacks one experience that many of that country’s stars have gone through: cosmetic surgery.
“I’ve not ever done anything to my face. You can at least record it from now, at this point,” Oh said with a laugh as she spoke in a press conference Friday. “I read this article recently on how [Korean] pop has really influenced so much teen plastic surgery. In Korea, a lot of their images of women are images of women who have altered their face – just watch Korean dramas.
“I would never be able to get a job there.”
Oh explained that the colorblind approach showrunner Shonda Rimes applied to casting Grey’s Anatomy not only challenged industry standards, but cultural ones as well. “It’s hard to think about ten years ago, what casting was like – but it was not this show,” she observed. “Having been an actor for a long time, I and I think many of the other ‘people of color’ actors were acutely aware that these opportunities did not come up often for us.”
“That’s I think one of the greatest accomplishments of our show, and one of the things that I am most proud of being a part of,” she confessed. “To grow the ethnic diversity, not only in American television, because obviously, this show is worldwide. And then how other countries see faces and how that just in a very, very deep, subtle way opens up acceptance, opens up equality, opens up many positive things that I would I like to be a part of.”
Despite her lack of cosmetic enhancement, Oh said that she has received encouraging reactions from Koreans who watch her on the show. “One time a friend of my mom’s came up to me,” she remembered. “She’s a 70-year-old woman who lives in Seoul, and she goes, ‘you haven’t done anything to your face, have you?’ I said no, and she goes, ‘we can tell. Don’t change it’.”
“And so I felt, here I am in America, but this show being broadcast in Korea, just that can affect a population,” Oh said. “So things like that, those little things, you don’t really know where the direct line is, but sometimes something will pop out, and that will make a difference hopefully in someone’s life.”
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