Oh’s portrayal of Dr. Cristina Yang on the ABC medical drama instantly gained her critical acclaim, winning the 2005 Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Series and the 2006 Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series. She remained in the role for 10 seasons, confirming her departure in August 2013.
“Creatively, I really feel like I gave it my all, and I feel ready to let her go,” she told The Hollywood Reporter at the time. “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.”
Cristina was written out after the show’s 10th season, leaving Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) and more beloved characters behind for a new job in Switzerland. After learning that Oh would be saying goodbye, creator and showrunner Shonda Rhimes wanted to give her character the perfect ending.
“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,” Rhimes told THR in August 2013. “Over the past 10 seasons, I have been made better by Sandra’s trust, faith and friendship, and I can’t quantify how grateful I am for her collaboration on a character we both love so deeply. … When Sandra walks out of my door, Grey’s Anatomy will once again be forever changed.”
As a whole, Grey’s Anatomy is far from over. The series was renewed for an 18th season in May 2021 after several fan-favorite alums — including Patrick Dempsey and Chyler Leigh — made cameos during season 17. Though she’s grateful for all the memories she made with her former costars over the years, Oh doesn’t see herself putting on her doctor’s coat again.
“It’s very rare, I would say, to be able to see in such a way the impact of a character,” she told The Los Angeles Times’ “Asian Enough” podcast in May 2021. “In some ways, you do your work as a bubble and you let it go. I left that show, my God, seven years ago, almost. So in my mind, it’s gone. But for a lot of people, it’s still very much alive. And while I understand and I love it, I have moved on.”
Following her nine-year run on Grey’s Anatomy, the actress dabbled in live theater and nabbed a supporting role in 2014’s Tammy. She returned to television for season 3 of American Crime in 2017 and has starred on Killing Eve since its 2018 premiere. The role earned her the 2018 SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series and the 2019 Golden Globe for Best Actress – Television Series Drama.
“I think it’s very different than Cristina. There’s certain [similar] aspects, for sure, like both of those characters are determined,” she told Entertainment Weekly in March 2018 of her work on the two series. “But what they want and the circumstances, and the style and the genre, it’s like apples and oranges.”
Scroll down to see more of what Oh has said about life after Grey’s Anatomy — and about possibly returning to the show: