'Killing Eve' Taught Sandra Oh About Her Own Internalized Racism

TV is certainly a source of entertainment, but it can also provide us with meaningful, engaging platforms for taking a look at some serious subjects. Many modern-day series have gained high praise for their ability to open up tough conversations about race and racial identity, and that doesn’t just extend to the viewers at home. Speaking about her role on Killing Eve, actor Sandra Oh admits the series taught her an important lesson about her own internalized racism. 

‘Killing Eve’ throws spy thriller tropes on their head 

Killing Eve premiered in 2018 and puts two strong female characters front and center. The show revolves around Eve, a spy with a desk job who has grown bored by her career and has a thirst for adventure, and Villanelle, a deadly assassin who doesn’t want to give up the life of luxury despite the amount of violence it takes to maintain it. These two women find their opposing lives and goals becoming blurrier and more intertwined as the series goes on. 

Oh stepped into the part of Eve just a few years after her departure from the long run she had on Grey’s Anatomy as Dr. Cristina Yang. She has been very open about the thoughtfulness that goes into the roles she takes and the goals she has for herself as an actor, and playing Eve has been a major part of that journey. From the very first read of the pilot episode, Oh was hooked on the character: “It was being able to read her voice so clearly on that page. It’s like a sense of knowing that you’re going to fall in love. It’s like a sense of somehow you know that you get the person.” 

Sandra Oh has learned a lot by playing Eve

The cat-and-mouse thriller Killing Eve has earned high praise and accolades. In fact, the series has garnered multiple Golden Globe nominations — many focused on Oh’s performance as Eve. Speaking with NPR, Oh revealed that she had a hard time imagining herself landing the part. 

Oh recalls getting the call about her successful audition: “When I was first offered the project of Killing Eve, I remember … asking [my agent], ‘I don’t get it, like, who am I playing?’ And my agent was saying, ‘Eve, you’re playing Eve.’”

It was at that moment that Oh realized she had internalized stereotypes about who she was able to portray on the screen that — despite years of her successful acting career — still limited her own perception of herself. “That was really a significant moment for me for understanding … how profound my internalized racism was.”

Asian actors still face limiting portrayals in Hollywood

Oh has been an open and vocal proponent of more powerful and diverse representation for Asian stars across the world of entertainment. She gave a powerful speech during a “Stop Asian Hate” rally when hate crimes against AAPI people saw an alarming increase. 

In addition to those specific instances of speaking out about the importance of racial diversity and Asian representation, Oh’s entire career has been a trailblazing path for Asian stars. In 2019, she became the first Asian actor to host the Golden Globes, and she also has the honor of being the first Asian actor to win two Golden Globes herself. 

She recognizes her responsibility to be a role model within the Asian American community and wants to use her platform to make a difference: “it was an important thing for me to do because I just felt like I needed to connect with the Asian American community. I felt I don’t really know what I had to offer other than to say like, let’s work through this fear that we have, because that’s what will destroy is if we bend to the fear.”

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