Sunday, June 8, 2008

Sandra Oh Captivates Magnetic North Audience

She came, she saw, she charmed our socks off.

Sandra Oh visited the Magnetic North Theatre Festival on the weekend and, in a warm-hearted and all-too-brief hour spent on Saturday afternoon with a couple of hundred fans at Performance Works, proved why this beautiful Korean-Canadian actress is so popular.

Wit and wisdom were balanced by a hard-nosed practicality as she spoke about a career that's less than 20 years old and yet already filled with a lifetime's worth of achievement.

Marcus Youssef was an appropriate choice to host the chat, as he's an old friend who had graduated from the National Theatre School in Montreal a year before Oh. He started by telling us of the legend of her graduation from the NTS, which almost didn't happen.

Before she'd even finished school in 1993, Sandra landed the coveted title role in the CBC TV film The Diary of Evelyn Lau; stern NTS director Perry Schneiderman had a hard and fast rule that students who landed work could take it, sure - but you couldn't return to the school.

"I had to leave and I missed the last production," Oh told her audience. "My classmates were so supportive, and since I was too young to know you couldn't ask for stuff, I asked the CBC to rearrange the shooting schedule so I could fly back for grad."

The Diary of Evelyn Lau (and a Gemini nomination) was quickly followed by Mina Shum's film Double Happiness (and a Genie award) and the title role in the CBC bio-pic Adrienne Clarkson Presents. Filled with confidence, Oh made the leap to Hollywood - and landed what would prove to be a seven-year gig on the HBO comedy Arli$$.

"It was kind of like HBO's bastard child," she said. "They didn't give a s--t about it, but it had a coveted spot between Sex and the City and The Sopranos. After the first year of Arli$$ it was back to acting class, because I thought I was dying. In a series, let's face it, you're selling soap, and you must figure out how to stay true to yourself. The business of it is challenging to the creative spirit."

Featured in such indie hit films as Sideways and now headed for her fifth season as Cristina Yang on the popular ABC series Grey's Anatomy, Oh was asked about racism in Hollywood.

"I'm proud of Grey's Anatomy," she proclaimed, "with its multi-ethnicity, and co-lead characters that are not all white, and it's run by a 37-year-old African-American [creator and producer Shonda Rhimes]. But who we see on screens speaks to who is in power, and when I was judging American dramatic films at Sundance this year, I saw that the gay community has made big strides, which was noticeable and awesome, but there were not enough women and minorities."

Youssef asked Oh if she has seen more Asian-Americans hired in film and television.

"There are a handful of us," she replied, "and there you go."

"How do you feel about being a poster-person?" Youssef continued.

"I feel a definite responsibility," Oh said. "I think people need that."

Oh cited a string of auditions for films in which she would be the star's best buddy, but no more than that.

"It seems to be that no one's telling Sam Jackson that he can't play a cop," she said, and the crowd roared.

Since Magnetic North is a theatre festival, the audience was also appreciative of Oh's dedication to working on stage as often as she can. She starred in the premieres of Jessica Hagedorn's Dogeaters at the La Jolla Playhouse and Stop Kiss at the Public Theatre in New York (and has further work planned with Stop Kiss playwright Diana Son), and made it clear to budding thespians that their film and TV work must be grounded in stage experience.

To quote: "Essential, essential, essential, essential. You gotta do plays, you gotta do plays, you gotta do plays. Theatre will constantly and always feed me."

Brava, Ms. Oh!

Source: The Vancouver Sun
sandra oh news