Fans have an entire season of Grey’s Anatomy to watch before they have to say goodbye to Cristina Yang. And though some may be dreading the farewell, Sandra Oh, who announced yesterday that she intended to leave the ABC drama at the end of the tenth season, is simply grateful to know the show has enough time to prepare a proper exit for the beloved surgeon.
“It’s really difficult to write television when you don’t know an endpoint,” she tells EW, explaining why she thought it was important to give the show’s writers time to plan for her departure. “For the writers…to know there are multiple episodes to write a story — to write a conclusion — is a great gift. It’s also a great gift to be able to play because I usually don’t know what’s going to happen to the character. For me, it can just infuse her with a richness that you can’t necessarily have not knowing that information.”
It’s far too premature to discuss the details of Cristina’s exit — the show is just now filming its fourth episode of the season, which will also be its 200th overall. But as it stands there are a number of issues that should be resolved before Cristina walks out of Grey Sloan Memorial one last time, arguably the most important of which is her ongoing romantic saga with hospital chief Owen (Kevin McKidd). At the end of last season, the pair seemed to come to terms with the fact that their visions for the future were vastly different. (He wants a family; she does not.) But where that leaves them for the upcoming season, even Oh isn’t entirely sure yet. “They were really able to see each other as different people who want different things and [they approached] that difficulty with a tremendous amount of love and compassion for the other person,” she says. “They don’t want to be in the same place they have been. Where they are going, I just don’t know. It sort of breaks my heart to not be in the arms of Kevin McKidd now. But who knows? It’s a long season.”
And a long legacy for a character who was notorious for blazing her own path — inside and outside the hospital. For Oh, whose work on the program earned her five Emmy nominations over the course of the series, Cristina’s clear vision of a childless future — a stark contrast to that of best friend and now mother of two, Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) — has made her an important character. “I feel like Cristina — who does not represent a classic or traditional female character that we see on television — is really essential to the movement of where we are as women. A woman isn’t only defined by her career and a woman is not only defined by her role as a mother and a wife either,” she says. “It’s to try to see the person and the character as a whole individual. And I do like the differences between Cristina and Meredith because you get to see multiple facets of the choices that women can make.” (That said, adds Oh, she thinks Cristina is “ is so thrilled and happy for Meredith because this is really what Meredith wanted.”)
As for whether Cristina’s view of the future will influence the character’s conclusion on the show, Oh says such decisions are left in the hands of the show’s trusted writers. “I don’t know what they have planned. It can be anything,” she says. “She could, like — I mean, I don’t want them to off me. I know people have died on this show. They could send her to the moon. I have no idea.”