Kerry Washington and Sandra Oh chatted about Little Fires Everywhere, Killing Eve, Shondaland, diversity, race and their art for Variety's Actors on Actors panel.
The one hour talk is wonderful and one of the best I've seen but in case you don't want to watch, here's a summary:
- Kerry and Sandra expressed love and appreciation for the behind the scenes crew who do their lighting and make up since they now have to do it themselves due to the pandemic. Sandra also wants Kerry's headband.
- Sandra expressed admiration for Kerry's performance in Little Fires Everywhere and how unapologetic Mia is. Kerry based the performance on her own mother.
- Sandra on the unbearable whiteness of the Killing Eve set: "Being the sole Asian person is a very familiar place for me. The UK, I’m not afraid to say, is behind...the development of people behind the camera is very slow in the UK ...sometimes it would be me and 75 white people and I have not come from that in my film career [working with women and women of color]." She considers it exciting when a non-white person joins the Killing Eve cast and crew.
- Sandra says as an Asian actress, she's used to being an outsider and interpreted Eve as such. She finds even her accent changes as Eve and being a sole "different" person in another country deeply affected Eve.
- Kerry applauds the writers of LFE because they really enforced diversity in their room for the different experiences and perspectives on the show, no matter how uncomfortable or unlikable it may be.
- They both loved each other's characters in their respective roles because both characters can be messy and unlikable and complex women.
- Kerry asks Sandra if she knew Eve and Villanelle would become queer icons and Sandra says "not at all" because they were so closed off while filming. They knew they were on the right track when the LGBTQ community embraced them.
- The two discuss their roles as executive producers. Kerry appears to have a more active role, focusing on making sure there's diversity in the writers room. Sandra focuses on the story and making sure there's an actual endpoint (since television is usually open ended). Sandra finds having a new showrunner every season find of frustrating because there's a lack of path of where they're going. They both agree television is about the actors relationship to the writers. Television is an writers medium.
- They talk about Shondaland a bit. Sandra mentions fighting Shonda and other writers regarding her character's development and plot and it was for the better and it made the show stronger. She says Phoebe Waller Bridge is luckily very open to push back on her own writing from her actors.
- They talk about Killing Eve being based on novellas. Sandra wasn't impressed by the books, Kerry doesn't seem impressed by the novellas focusing on Villanelle. They both discuss the Killing Eve and Little Fires Everywhere books and how they perceived their characters as white and/or playing characters whom were initially white.
- In early seasons of Grey's Anatomy, race was never brought up. Sandra said it kind of bugged her and now she focuses on including her culture in her roles. She wanted Eve to go to Cambodia to be anonymous and Suzanne Heathcote wrote Eve as retreating to the Asian community as comfort after season two which Sandra was very happy about. She pushed for Eve to speak Korean.
- Kerry's current work attitude is influenced by her work on Scandal. The weekly schedule led to heightened experiences and she compares it to gymnastics on an emotional level. She also notes it forced her to focus on her physical health. She found sisterhood with Sandra in that both had script notes at an award show for work the next morning and she looked to Sandra on Grey's for inspiration in depth of a performance.
- Sandra doesn't have a good bluffing face and cannot hide if she doesn't like something in a script. Kerry calls Sandra a "truth teller." Sandra says she knows she was difficult on Grey's and do ten rounds of filming a scene because it didn't feel right and she would clash with the directors. Those clashes made her a better communicator and actor.
- Kerry added on working on Little Fires Everywhere she was more outspoken in talking with the directors of what they want and she wanted and they would find the performance in that medium.
- Kerry moved to television because she wasn't satisfied with what she was getting offered in film and wasn't happy with the response to her work in film. She feels each role is there to teach her something about her self. She had no idea something starring her would last seven seasons.
- Sandra read the Scandal pilot on the set of Grey's and was blown away. She ran to Shonda asking how she could play Olivia Pope, which Kerry finds hilarious. Shonda told Sandra she had to play Cristina.
- Kerry notes writer Celeste Ng didn't make Mia and Pearl black in the LFE book because she didn't feel she had the right to write the black experience, but she knew Mia and Pearl were WOC. Kerry mentions you can feel Mia and Pearl's otherness in the book without even mentioning race but she still felt they were white in the book. She was happy to add an extra layer with racial identity for the show. The plot of Mia becoming Elena's maid in the book became more complicated for the show and Kerry was sure to remind the writers room of that.
- Kerry pays tribute to the force that was Lynn Shelton, LFE and indie film director who sadly passed away in May at age 54. She talks about how skilled Lynn was at creating a safe space for women to create the female experience on film. Kerry says Hollywood has to continue to create safe spaces for women's creativity in the future.
- Sandra says she hopes the momentum in creating female and non-white talent doesn't stall since as an Asian actress, though the last year she has wondered if the increase in diverse voices was going to stick. She wonders what is her place in this discussion, especially post-covid. Kerry agrees, mentioning she was trying to rush into projects post-Scandal because she was afraid she'd never work again but now she wants to create sustainable art.
- This panel should be archived for future actors, tyvm.
Source, my boredom