In an interview with Kerry Washington in Variety magazineâs Actors on Actors series, Sandra Oh expressed her experience with a lack of diversity in British television.
Oh described being on set for Killing Eve in which she plays the lead role, saying “being the sole Asian person is a very familiar place for me”.
“The UK, Iâm not afraid to say, is behind. [Itâs] very exciting when someone comes on set.”
Oh says the development of people behind the camera is very slow in the UK. âSometimes it would be me and 75 white people and I have not come from that,” she said.
She explained that filming for Killing Eve in the UK made her more aware of the differences and revealed why she wants to talk about it publicly now.
âIâve got to tell you. Even more than that, I think being the only American on that set [for Killing Eve], in Europe, informed me more than the physicality. Iâve not even really talked about this, but there is something about constantly feeling like the observer or the outsider.â
Oh talked about her experience playing Cristina Yang on Greyâs Anatomy in the role that propelled her into stardom. She says race was not talked about and was never incorporated into the story, which is what makes her so passionate to focus on diversity today.
âWhen we did Greyâs, for at least the first 10 seasons we would not talk about race. We would not go into race, and that was purposeful. And, whatever, it was the right thing to do when it was. In Season 3, Burke and Cristina were getting married and there were the two mothers, the Asian mother and the Black mother, and Iâm like, âCome on, there is a lot of story that we can do here!â But they didnât want to touch it, for whatever reason. Now my interest is much more in bringing that story in.â
She explained that there is a stark difference between diversity in the US and the UK.
âI have not come from that in my film career, which has been much more independent, mostly working with women and women of colour. And my relationship with television â and in the United States â hasnât necessarily been all white,â she said.
Ohâs comments reiterate those made by director Steve McQueen who recently expressed his own thoughts about diversity in British television, saying âUK TV and film industries need to challenge their own blatant racismâ.
He explained being on set in the UK was hard, describing it as âshamefulâ.
âLast year, I visited a TV-film set in London, and it felt like I had walked out of one environment, the London I was surrounded by, into another, a place that was alien to meâŠ The UK is so far behind in terms of representation, itâs shameful,â he said.
âThe stark reality is that there is no infrastructure to support and hire BAME crew. And there is no infrastructure because there hasnât been enough will or urgency to put it in place.â
It is not the first time the lack of diversity in Killing Eve has been addressed.Â
Questions were raised by the public after one of the series’ writers, Kayleigh Llewellyn recently posted a picture of the team who wrote the latest series in a Zoom meeting on Twitter.Â
Killing Eve has an Asian lead, but the writersâ room doesnât have a single Asian writer? đ€ pic.twitter.com/biHVOXCs9L
— jes vĆ© (@jesthevu) June 12, 2020
The photo shows nine writers, all of which were white. This went viral as viewers questioned why there was no diversity in the writing team.
âWith Sandra Oh literally making history as the first woman of Asian descent to win multiple Golden Globes and they canât hire one non-white person to help pen the story behind the scenes?” one person asked.
imagine how much better killing eve would be if they had a person of color in the writers' room
— sara clements @ fantasia fest (@mildredsfierce) June 12, 2020
The backlash caused Llewellyn to delete the post and we are seeing actions being taken towards better established diversity in the UK.
According to The Independent, the BBC has pledged to spend ÂŁ100m on diversity and inclusiveness over the next few years.