Sandra Oh (“Killing Eve”) is gradually ascending our Best Drama Actress Emmy predictions, rising four spots to eighth place in just a week. If she snags a nomination next month, she’d make history as the first person of Asian descent to be nominated in the category.
As shocking as that may sound, it’s sadly not surprising at all — remember, the category didn’t have a black winner until three years ago with Viola Davis (“How to Get Away with Murder”). But more so than with black performers, Asians are woefully underrepresented in Hollywood, especially as leads. Oh, conditioned after years of supporting and best friend roles, spoke of her own internalized racism earlier this year, recounting to Vulture what she said to her agent when she first read the “Killing Eve” script.
“I was quickly scrolling down the script, and I can’t really tell you what I was looking for. So I’m like, ‘So Nancy, I don’t understand, what’s the part?’” she said. “And Nancy goes ‘Sweetheart, it’s Eve, it’s Eve.’ In that moment, I did not assume the offer was for Eve. I think about that moment a lot. Of just going, how deep have I internalized this? [So] many years of being seen [a certain way], it deeply, deeply, deeply affects us. It’s like, how does racism define your work? Oh, my goodness, I didn’t even assume when being offered something that I would be one of the central storytellers. Why? And this is me talking, right? After being told to see things a certain way for decades, you realize, ‘Oh my god! They brainwashed me!’ I was brainwashed! So that was a revelation to me.”
The part of Eve Polastri — a bored MI-5 security officer Oh plays with frazzled brilliance who gets entangled in a cat-and-mouse game with psychopathic assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer) — is the first lead role of the actress’ career. Of course, Oh, who’s Korean-Canadian, is best known for her 10 seasons on “Grey’s Anatomy” as Dr. Cristina Yang, a part she famously got thanks to Shonda Rhimes’ colorblind casting policy.
Oh received five supporting Emmy nominations for “Grey’s,” but never won. In 2010, the year after Oh’s final nomination, Archie Panjabi (“The Good Wife”) became the first actor of Asian descent to win an acting Emmy, for Best Drama Supporting Actress. For seven years, Panjabi, who’s British-Indian, was the only Asian performer to have won an Emmy. Riz Ahmed, who’s British-Pakistani, joined her last year when he took home Best Limited Series/TV Movie Actor honors for “The Night Of,” becoming the first Asian man to triumph and the first Asian winner in a lead category.
It’s still too early to think about Oh winning — getting the nomination is the harder part — but if she makes the cut, she will definitely be a dark horse. As Davis said in her Emmy speech, “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity.”
And now we move from film to television awards! Be sure to make your Emmy predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their TV shows and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before nominees are announced on July 12. And join in the fun debate over the 2018 Emmy taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our television forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.