Sandra Oh has had quite a week! Following Sunday’s finale of “Killing Eve” and her appearance at the Screen Actors Guild Awards as a nominee for “The Chair,” Oh walked the red carpet in Hollywood on Tuesday for the premiere of Disney-“Turning Pixar’s Red.”
“Look at this; it’s incredible,” Oh told Variety, pointing to the dazzling “Turning Red” marquee atop the El Capitan Theatre.
Oh stood outside the Hollywood Blvd. venue with co-star Rosalie Chiang and Grammy-winning singer Billie Eilish, who co-wrote the film’s original songs with her brother Finneas.
In the film, Oh portrays Ming, the mother of Meilin Lee (Chiang), a 13-year-old whose life is turned upside down when she begins to transform into a gigantic red panda whenever she expresses any strong emotion.
“What drew me in was that the film is entirely focused on the inner life of a 13-year-old girl, and that viewpoint — directed from that perspective, written from that perspective — was something I desired to be a part of,” she stated.
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She noted that portraying Ming allowed her to “explore the extremely emotional, painful, and tense moment that we all have with our moms, and to try to infuse Ming with as much empathy and comedy as possible.”
“Turning Red” is directed by Academy Award nominee Domee Shi, the first woman of color to direct a Pixar film.
Following the success of her Oscar-winning animated short “Bao,” Shi pitched this semi-autobiographical story about a Chinese Canadian girl growing up in Toronto in the early aughts and eventually assembled an all-female leadership team to shepherd the project, including producer Lindsey Collins and screenwriter Julia Cho.
With the voices of women — particularly Asian women — guiding “Turning Red,” the authenticity of both groups is unmistakable.
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“I’m so appreciative that Asian audiences and journalists who have spoken about [the film] have demonstrated such empathy,” Oh said, noting that “if you come from an immigrant or Asian background — but not exclusively — or have a parent who loves you or has been, as I like to say, ‘hyper-vigilant,’ there is a place for that.”
“However, I believe that this video will hopefully spark a dialogue and provide some vocabulary around the emotions and expectations that I believe parents place on their children, as well as expectations that children place on themselves,” she concluded.
This sort of ground-breaking representation was also on show at Sunday’s SAG awards when Lee Jung-Jae and Jung Ho-Yeon were recognized for their performances in Netflix’s popular Korean drama “Squid Game.” Oh made a beeline towards Barker Hangar following their victories to congratulate them.
“At the SAG Awards, I couldn’t believe the number of Korean individuals in attendance,” she reflected on the occasion. “Having been in this business for a lengthy period, it was not always the case. Thus, to be able to be here and watch [it] is incredibly fulfilling.”
Oh, a three-time SAG Award winner discussed what she believes those historic wins mean.
“Being acknowledged by your peers, like the SAG Awards are, is critical for actor acceptability on a worldwide scale,” she noted. “For those of us who work as actors, we are a large family. “This is a tribe.”
With “Turning Red,” “Killing Eve,” and her next horror picture, “Umma” (about a dangerously different mother-daughter relationship, for which the teaser was published immediately before the red carpet event), Oh is definitely on a roll. When asked what ties this current spate of projects together, she said, “All women.”
“Which is how I prefer to work today — with all women leading and writing,” Oh stated. “It’s fantastic for me. It’s who I’ve spent the bulk of my career working with, and I’m looking forward to continuing to do so.”