Meredith Grey is losing her best friend — a.k.a. her "person." Sandra Oh, who plays Mer's BFF Cristina Yang on ABC's Grey's Anatomy, is set to leave the medical drama after the upcoming 10th season, she tells The Hollywood Reporter.
"Creatively, I really feel like I gave it my all, and I feel ready to let her go," Oh tells THR of her onscreen alter ego. "It's such an interesting thing to play a character for so long and to actually get the sense that she wants to be let go as well. [Cristina] wants to be let go, and I am ready to let her go. We have to start the process, story-wise, for the Grey's writers to think of why she's going to go."
Oh, who has been with the series since it premiered in 2005 and earned five supporting actress Emmy nominations because of it, tells THR that she first started thinking about leaving when she and the other remaining "original six" cast members — Patrick Dempsey, Ellen Pompeo, Justin Chambers, James Pickens Jr., and Chandra Wilson — signed their two-year contracts in May 2012.
"I've gone through a lot of therapy over this," she says tearfully. "I started thinking about it because I had to prepare myself. I gave myself two years to emotionally let go. At the end of last season, [show creator] Shonda [Rhimes] took me aside and said, 'What are your thoughts?' I said, 'I'm ready.'"
Rhimes, for her part, is sad to see Oh go. "One of the best days of my life as a writer happened the day Sandra Oh walked in my door to audition and forever changed the course of Grey's Anatomy with her brilliant, nuanced portrayal of Cristina Yang," the famed showrunner tells THR. "Over the past 10 seasons, I have been made better by Sandra's trust, faith, and friendship…When Sandra walks out of my door, Grey's Anatomy will once again be forever changed."
Oh's costar Kevin McKidd, who plays Cristina's husband, Owen Hunt, feels the same way. "I feel so blessed and grateful to have been given the chance to work with her," he tells THR of Oh. "Getting to act with her every day has made me a better actor, and getting to know her has made me a better person."
Rhimes is still planning the upcoming season, but she promises to give Cristina Yang "the exit she deserves." And Oh hopes it will be a happy one.
"I want this to be a celebration," she tells THR. "I want us to get to that point where we see this character ride off into the sunset…Grey's has been the most important role of my life. Playing Cristina and growing her and growing myself in her, I want to usher her into the next section of her life in the best way possible. It's got to be Cristina Yang's happily ever after."
Season 10 of Grey's Anatomy premieres on ABC on Sept. 26. Tell Us: Are you sad to see Sandra Oh leave the show?