Watch Sandra Oh Tell Kerry Washington That She Desperately Wanted to Play Olivia Pope
Sandra Oh and Kerry Washington had a lot to talk about when they recently participated in Variety's annual Actors on Actors conversation series. In addition to discussing their latest projects, Oh and Washington looked back at their time working with the legendary Shonda Rhimes on Grey's Anatomy and Scandal, respectively. "We both went through a lot on our shows," Oh said.
Washington said she learned a lot from portraying political fixer Olivia Pope on Rhimes's Scandal from 2012 to 2018. "When you do that many seasons of television, I don't feel like there's anything that I haven't been asked to make real. I feel empowered," she said. "If you ask me to do something as an actor, it might take me a minute to figure out where it is in my toolbox, but over the course of those seven seasons, I bought that tool."
"That kind of resilience is part of what I learned in Shondaland."
Washington went on to share a memory of once seeing Oh memorizing her lines at an award show. "I was like, 'She's my people. That's me!' I'd go to every award show with a monologue in my purse because I didn't have time to not be doing that. I didn't have the luxury of not working," Washington said. She added, "That kind of resilience is part of what I learned in Shondaland."
Oh, who portrayed Dr. Cristina Yang for a decade on Grey's Anatomy, could relate. "I feel like one of my biggest successes for me was, in 10 years, I don't feel like I gave up. You don't give up on your work, your process, the character," Oh said. "You gotta time it out regarding resilience . . . You have to kind of pick your moments of where you can lay off the gas pedal, because it is such a slog."
In a hilarious twist, Oh went on to reveal that she had her eye on the role of Olivia Pope. "I've got to tell you: I remember exactly where I was when I read that damn pilot . . . We were on stage five. I was on Grey's. Someone snuck it to me. I don't know who it was, but I got my hands on that pilot. I read it and I was like, 'How can I play Olivia Pope?'" At the time, Rhimes apparently replied, "No, you've got to play Cristina Yang!" Oh added, "It's so wonderful and rare when you get in your hands something that you know is electric."
Watch the enlightening exchange above, and skip ahead to 38:09 to hear the two discuss working with Rhimes.