Former Grey’s Anatomy star Sandra Oh reveals she struggled with health issues while rising to prominence on the long-running ABC drama. Former Grey’s Anatomy actor Sandra Oh reveals the health issues she experienced while starring on the show. Oh is part of the original Grey’s Anatomy cast that helped kick things off back in 2005. Her character Cristina Yang played a huge role in establishing the show’s tone early on, and her friendship with Ellen Pompeo’s Meredith remains Grey’s Anatomy’s most important and beloved relationship. Likewise, Oh’s work on the show was universally acclaimed; she won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress soon after the series debuted, and she was nominated for an Emmy an impressive five times in a row.
Oh stayed with Grey’s Anatomy through season 10, when she opted to exit the show. On-screen, Cristina decided to move to Switzerland to head up a research hospital. In the years since, Meredith and other characters have periodically referenced her and implied she’s doing well. Though Oh hasn’t returned to Grey’s Anatomy since her initial departure in 2014, a stand-in for her was used in the season 11 episode “She’s Leaving Home,” where Cristina comforts Meredith at Derek’s funeral. Since leaving the show, Oh has arguably become even more well-known, starring in the critical darling Killing Eve and other high-profile projects. However, she does occasionally still discuss her time on Grey’s Anatomy.
As part of Variety’s Actors on Actors series, Oh sat down for a conversation with Jung Ho-yeon. After asking the Squid Game star how she’s handling the show’s success, Oh reflected on her experience when Grey’s Anatomy first became popular: The thing that I think that is the closest is when Grey’s Anatomy came — my life changed very much. And it’s tricky to imagine, because this is almost 20 years ago, so the context is very different, but the stress is the same — or the confusion is the same. And I think that’s why my question to you is, how are you taking care of yourself? Because I feel like, honestly, I got sick. I think my whole body was very, very sick. Even though you keep on working, right? It’s just like, ‘Oh, I can’t sleep. Oh, my back hurts. I don’t know what’s wrong with my skin.’ I learned that I had to take care of my health first. But that’s not only your body, right? That is your soul. That is definitely your mind. You know what I mean? Because you can’t ultimately depend on anyone else. You have to somehow find it within yourself.
Cristina in hospital room with Meredith Alex and April on Grey’s Anatomy
Unfortunately, it’s not all that surprising to hear the star of an incredibly popular show say that she struggled with both her physical and emotional well-being during the series’ heyday. With many conversations about Grey’s Anatomy centering on its longevity in recent years, it’s easy to forget that it was once an even bigger part of the pop culture conversation. The first few seasons especially were fraught with tension behind-the-scenes as everyone involved in the show adjusted to their newfound fame. It makes sense this pressure had a negative effect on Oh’s health.
Luckily, in the years since Grey’s Anatomy premiered, there’s been more of a focus on prioritizing health and well-being above all things. It means a lot to see a performer of Oh’s stature so openly call for a better work-life balance in the industry. It’s an important issue that, hopefully, will continue to receive attention going forward.