Sandra Oh on ‘Turning Red’ Representation

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What a week it’s been for Sandra Oh!

Following Sunday’s final season premiere of “Killing Eve,” which coincided with her appearance at the Screen Actors Guild Awards where she was a nominee for “The Chair,” Oh walked the red carpet on Tuesday in Hollywood for the debut of Disney-Pixar’s “Turning Red.”

“Look at this, it’s so amazing, I can’t stop looking at it and thinking that it’s real,” Oh told Reporter Door while pointing to the glittering “Turning Red” marquee atop the El Capitan Theatre.

Oh posed outside the Hollywood Blvd. venue with co-star Rosalie Chiang and Grammy-winning superstar Billie Eilish, who, alongside her brother Finneas, contributed original songs to the coming-of-age animated tale. In the movie, Oh voices Ming, mother to the 13-year-old Meilin Lee (Chiang), whose life is turned upside down when she begins to turn into a giant red panda when she displays any excited emotion.

“The thing that grabbed me was there’s an entire film focused on the inner life of a 13-year-old girl and that perspective — directed from that perspective, written from that perspective — [that] was something that I really wanted to be a part of,” she explained.

Portraying Ming, she added, afforded her the opportunity to “explore the very tender, and difficult, and fraught time that we all have with our mothers, and to kind of bring as much humanity and humor to Ming as possible.”

“Turning Red” is directed by Oscar winner Domee Shi, who becomes the first woman of color to direct a Pixar movie. Following her Oscar-winning animated short film “Bao,” Shi pitched this semi-autobiographical tale about a Chinese Canadian girl growing up in Toronto in the early aughts and ultimately assembled an all-female leadership team — including producer Lindsey Collins and screenwriter Julia Cho — to shepherd the project. With the voices of women — and Asian women in particular — informing “Turning Red,” the authentic representation of both communities is undeniable.

“I really appreciate that Asian audiences and the journalists who’ve spoken about [the movie], there’s so much understanding,” Oh said, noting that in particular, “if you come from an immigrant background or an Asian background — but it’s not limited to that — or have a parent who loves you or who has been, as I like to say, ‘hyper-vigilant’ — there’s a place for that.”

She continued: “But I also feel like this film, hopefully opens up a discussion and has some language around emotion and expectations that I do feel like parents put on their children, and also kids have put on themselves.”

That type of groundbreaking representation was also on display at Sunday’s SAG awards, when Lee Jung-jae and Jung Ho-yeon earned acting honors for Netflix’s hit Korean drama “Squid Game.” After their wins, Oh made a beeline through Barker Hangar to congratulate them.

“Being at the SAG Awards, I couldn’t believe how many Korean people were there,” she said, reflecting on the event. “Being at this game for a long time, that wasn’t the case for a long time. So to be able to still be here while it’s happening and witnessing [it], is extremely satisfying.”

A three-time SAG Award winner herself, Oh shared what she feels those historic wins signify.

“Being recognized by your peers, such as the SAG Awards are, is very important to a global acceptance of actors,” she explained. “Those of us who are actors, it’s a big family. It’s a tribe.”

Between “Turning Red,” “Killing Eve” and her upcoming horror film “Umma” (a story about a dangerously different mother-daughter relationship, the trailer for which was released shortly before the red carpet event), Oh is clearly on a roll. Asked what thread connects this recent string of projects, she said: “All women.”

“Which is how I like working now — all women helming, all women writing,” Oh explained. “It’s great for me. It’s who I’ve worked with the majority of my career, and I really enjoy continuing doing so.”

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Rosalie Chiang, Billie Eilish and Sandra Oh at the premiere of Disney’s ‘Turning Red’ held at El Capitan Theatre on March 1st, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.
Michael Buckner for Reporter Door

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