Sandra Oh makes Emmy history

The BBC America series Killing Eve stars Sandra Oh (far left) as an intelligence officer hunting down a hitwoman played by Jodie Comer.
The BBC America series Killing Eve stars Sandra Oh (left) as an intelligence officer hunting down a hitwoman played by Jodie Comer.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Up for best actress in a drama series for her role in Killing Eve, the actress is believed to be the first woman of Asian descent to be nominated in the category

ATLANTA • She plays a British intelligence officer who becomes obsessed with hunting down a merciless hitwoman.

Now, Sandra Oh has another prize catch in her sights - an Emmy for best actress.

Last Thursday, the team behind the BBC America series Killing Eve, which debuted earlier this year to glowing reviews, earned two Emmy nominations, with the other for Phoebe Waller-Bridge, for outstanding writing for a drama series.

For her role as Eve Polastri, Oh, 46, who was born in Canada to Korean parents, is believed to have made history as the first woman of Asian descent to be nominated for best actress in a drama series.

Last Thursday afternoon, she spoke about her groundbreaking nomination - the Emmys will be held in September - and her feelings about the possibilities for more diverse representation in Hollywood.

These are edited excerpts.

It is wild to imagine that, in 2018, we are announcing you as the first Asian woman nominated in your category.

We have to start somewhere. And I am happy to get that ball rolling because what I hope happens is that next year and the next year and the next year, we will have presence.

And the presence will grow not only to Asian-Americans, you know, from yellow to brown, but to all our other sisters and brothers... of different sizes and shapes.

Your role on Killing Eve seems like an example of the changing tide. Do you see other things happening behind the scenes in terms of that openness you are feeling?

What I am waiting... to see, in a much more significant way, is the difference between it being open and it actually growing.

Let us say, something for the Asian-American community: It is not that there are just suddenly jobs available, right?

We are talking from the beginning, where people are being trained - that people are able to let go of being a doctor and a lawyer and feel free to want to be an artist, you know what I mean?

It is not only in Hollywood, but it is also within our own community, to be able to see that there is a place for us and for us to step into that place.

So the opening of opportunity has to not only be there, but also be there in a much more muscular way.

And it is also moving into the places of complex storytelling. It is growing the depth of who we see ourselves to be and who we see ourselves as - and that it is not just one type of face or one gender.

You have been nominated five times before this for your performance on (medical drama series) Grey's Anatomy, but that was for best supporting actress. What has it been like for you to finally no longer be the best friend or side character?

I take it extremely seriously to do absolutely the best work and truest work possible, because I feel like that is what is going to resonate not only for myself, but hopefully also for an audience. And there are just not yet a lot of varieties of images that my community can pull from.

Do you have a favourite moment that resonated with you while exploring your character, something you discovered about her that really delighted and surprised you?

Yes. In Episode Five, which is my favourite episode, right before she meets Villanelle (the hitwoman played by Jodie Comer), you find Eve at a bus stop.

And, honestly, my favourite things to play are Eve's private moments because she is not so aware of herself and that is always so juicy to play as an actor.

And she is at this bus stop and she sees the window, there is a crack in the window and, for some reason, she just wants to smash it and she does. At one point, they pulled that scene out and I was like, "No, you have to put that scene back in, because she is about to come face to face with Villanelle".

She needs to break through something. That was one of my favourite scenes to play.

Season One ended on such a highly intense note. Where do you see the show, and your character, going from there in Season Two?

I want them to find each other again... I do have the sneaking suspicion Eve is going to continually be wrestling with her own soul as she explores darker parts of herself.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 16, 2018, with the headline 'Sandra Oh makes Emmy history'. Print Edition | Subscribe