Sandra Oh was rejected by Shonda Rhimes for Olivia Pope lead in 'Scandal'

Sandra Oh poses backstage during the 33rd Annual Tibet House U.S. Benefit Concert & Gala in New York City, Feb. 26, 2020. Noam Galai / Getty Images for Tibet House

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Actress Sandra Oh desperately wanted to play Olivia Pope in “Scandal”, but she was rejected for the part by Shonda Rhimes.

The Golden Globe winner portrayed Dr. Cristina Yang on creator and writer Rhimes’ show “Grey’s Anatomy” for nine years until she left the TV program in 2014.

During her stint on the medical drama, Oh managed to get her hands on a top-secret early “Scandal” script and fell in love with lead character Olivia Pope, who was eventually portrayed by Kerry Washington.

“I remember exactly where I was when I read that damn pilot,” Oh told Washington in a joint interview as part of Variety’s Actors on Actors series. “I was on Grey’s (Anatomy). We were on stage five. Someone snuck it to me, I don’t know who it was, but I got my hands on that pilot and I read it and I was just like, ‘How could I play Olivia Pope?’

“I remember going to Shonda, and it’s like, ‘How could I do this? What is this script? Could I do this too?’ She goes, ‘No, you’ve got to play Cristina Yang!’”

However, Oh insists she’s “so glad” the role went to Washington.

“It’s so wonderful and rare when you get in your hands something that you know is electric, that you can feel,” she gushed.

Washington was nominated for two Golden Globe and two primetime Emmy Awards for Best Actress for her work as crisis management expert Olivia Pope on “Scandal”, which went off the air in 2018 after seven seasons.

Oh, who won a Golden Globe and other awards for her role as Yang on “Grey’s Anatomy”, went on to win Golden Globe and SAG Awards, among others, for her role as Eve Polastri in acclaimed series Killing Eve.