Sandra Oh landed the lead in 'Killing Eve' after 30 years of playing supporting roles, but these actors did not have to wait that long
Sandra Oh's casting finally restores faith for a lot of us, who would love to see incredibly talented actors take over the small screen.
In her own words, it took Sandra Oh, better registered in fan memories as Dr. Cristina Yang from Shondaland-hit Grey's Anatomy, 30 years to get where she is now. The actress, who bid adieu to the ABC series some four years ago recently traced her way back to the headlines, having scored a lead role in Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s drama Killing Eve.
Oh plays a desk-bound MI5 officer Eve Porowski in the BBC America series, whose acumen is probably collecting rust and who is most likely is bored to death, until she crosses paths with an extremely-skilled female assassin called Villanelle (Jodie Comer). And thus begins a coming-of-age drama rooted in the nuances of the female adversary.
"Eve and Villanelle are adversaries," says Oh, dishing about her stint as the British agent to Vulture, "but it’s more complicated than that. It’s not only adversarial energy, it’s mixed equally with almost a twin-like nature. Like a persona. And there’s this kind of indescribable attraction. Obsession. How can it possibly end well? You barrel toward it anyway."
Almost everything that the Korean-Canadian actress says about her new show sounds alluring and refreshingly honest, but it also raises an unavoidable question with regards to the turn of events - what took the industry 30 years to finally offer Oh, an actress with multiple Emmy nominations, a People's Choice award, an honor from the Screen Actors Guild, and one Golden Globe; a role more suited to her caliber?
Well, a basic recapitulation of the past patterns hints that it's a mix of factors - the usual stereotypes like racism, gender bias and so on and the fact that it takes one ballsy producer/casting director to spot, identify, and give due recognition to the talent. Oh's casting finally restores faith for a lot of us, who would love to see incredibly talented actors take over the small screen.
While it might be some time before history repeats itself, let's keep the spirits positive and take a look at other gifted TV actors who charted their way from the supporting to the lead role.
Gina Torres - Suits spinoff
If the name Gina Torres doesn't ring a bell, perhaps Jessica Pearson will! For seven-long seasons on the legal drama 'Suits', the 48-year-old American actress turned heads as the indomitable managing partner at Pearson Specter Litt. Her presence was a driving force and despite being one of the sides in the ensemble show, there were many moments when the plot pivoted around her character.
Seven years since signing on to star as Pearson, however, Torres is finally getting her own show, a spinoff of the original mothership. Once again, the Torres-starring new show will be based on the legal premises, following Pearson as the powerhouse attorney navigates through the politics and the drama in Chicago.
"I am sincerely grateful to USA and UCP for giving Dan Arkin, my producing partners at Hypnotic and me the opportunity to continue Jessica Pearson's journey in this new series that will encapsulate all that our fans love about her and Suits," Suits writer Aaron Korsh dished about the new series, adding, "but with its own distinct story that will be unique to the franchise."
Jaina Lee Ortiz - Grey's Anatomy spinoff Station 19
It seems to be a great year for those associated with the Shonda Rhimes sisterhood. While second-generation Puerto Rican actress Jaina Lee Ortiz only makes a short appearance on Grey's Anatomy, just for the sake of her character's introduction, she happens to be at the center of all action in the newest series, Station 19, a spinoff of the hit medical drama.
A quick succession to the ranks of lead, however, doesn't mean that Ortiz hasn't been through her days of struggle. After her appearance on Scream Queens, Rosewood (a rather prominent role), and USA Network's Shooter, it wasn't most recently that the 31-year-old actress found herself playing Andy Herrera, the firefighter at the nearest fire department near the Seattle Grace hospital (of Grey's Anatomy).
"It was fascinating that all my roles have been a rookie cop, homicide detective, marine and now a firefighter. So I feel like a natural superhero. I’m playing these strong, tough women on TV, and that’s very rare," shared Ortiz with Variety, and we say more power to her!
Serinda Swan - Marvel's Inhumans
For Canadian beauty Serinda Swan, acting happened quite early on in her life. She was cast in her first movie, 'Cousins' when she was just three or four years old and what followed next is history.
From smaller side roles on TV series, like 'Smallville' and 'Supernatural', a more notable stint in A&E's 'Breakout Kings', to a recurring appearance as Brittany Baker in Chicago Fire; the actress has come a long way since her first break. In fact, last year, Swan tapped her most prominent show, as the female lead of Medusa opposite Anson Mount's Black Bolt in 'Marvel's Inhumans'.
Other than her striking eyes, the brunette beauty absolutely spells magic in her raw avatar, with a shaved head and all, playing the fierce warrior whose locks reek of the legends.
Matt LeBlanc - Episodes
Stepping out of the iconic skin of Joey Tribbiani, was undoubtedly, a challenge, something that actor Matt LeBlanc saw through with not one but two subsequent shows - the Joey spinoff and Showtime's satirical series 'Episodes'.
Following the decade-long stint (and read extremely successful appearance on the classic sitcom Friends) an aging and somewhat typecast LeBlanc ended up playing himself, or rather a satirical version of himself. In the show, he is stuck with a BAFTA-winning couple, and it's no news that LeBlanc starring as LeBlanc was a difficult choice that the actor somewhat overcame to portray the lead role.
“I did have a reservation in the beginning. I wasn’t comfortable playing myself,” the actor had previously explained. “But they said, ‘Well, we’re not making a documentary. If there’s anything you’re uncomfortable with, we’ll change it. We’ll get through it together.’ And it was because of my history with them that I really felt comfortable."
Jared Padalecki - Supernatural
For fans, it has been an emotional experience as far as Jared Padalecki's television career is concerned. Beginning his journey as the dreamy-eyed, messy-haired Dean Forester, the ever-faithful boyfriend of Rory Gilmore; Padalecki continued to hold the rank of the best boyfriend for a long time, as Rory went from one dramatic relationship to another during the entire course of the show titled 'Gilmore Girls' (2000 - 2005).
As much as we loved seeing Padalecki as the mild-tempered, sometimes eccentric Dean; our admiration for the talented actor grew by leaps and bounds when he scored the lead role in WB's Supernatural.
It's been quite a journey for the actor, from playing mellow, romantic roles to starring in a fantasy show, where he is mostly hunting down paranormal predators, and dealing with demons and angels. And with that rugged Sam Winchester look, Padalecki surely scored few brownie points.
Milo Ventimiglia - This Is Us
Another Gilmore Girls favorite (read Rory's soulmate), Milo Ventimiglia, literally is TV's dad at present, thanks to his super emotional and extremely relatable portrayal of Jack Pearson, aka the father of Big Three aka Rebecca's sun.
But long before becoming this charming of a personality, for his legions of fans, Ventimiglia was better known as the ever-brooding and rebellious Jess Mariano. The same Jess who wrecked havoc when he first arrived at Stars Hollow or when he literally swept a young Rory off her feet with his knowledge and penchant for books.
Between Jess and Jack, indeed Ventimiglia has made numerous other appearances on TV including 2006's 'The Bedford Diaries', 'American Dreams', 2006's more prominent role in 'Heroes', and 2015's The Whispers as Sean Bennigan. But his true calling has to be the now-hit NBC drama, where without fail, each Tuesday, Ventimiglia moves the fans of the show to tears.
Cobie Smulders - Friends from College
If anyone has had an eventful television journey, it is Canadian actress Cobie Smulders.
The part-Dutch, part-English actress rose to fame with her memorable portrayal of the cigar-smoking, gun-wielding character, Robin Scherbatsky, in TV's second-favorite sitcom, 'How I Met Your Mother'. Although featuring an ensemble cast, the series that aired through the mid to late 2000s was more focussed on Ted's character, in the process throwing light on the lives of his four most important friends - one of them being Scherbatsky played by Smulders.
After the CBS sitcom 'How I Met Your Mother' wrapped in 2014, though, Smulders gained instant recognition, landing major movie and TV roles - something that none of the other cast members can boast of. Ultimately, in 2017, the 36-year-old actress landed the lead role in Netflix comedy series 'Friends From College'.
However, if we are to truly describe her acting graph, a mention of her being a part of the multi-million dollar Marvel Cinematic Universe is inevitable. Smulders stars as Maria Hill, and all eyes will soon be on her, in the upcoming Infinity Wars saga.