Sandra Oh Embraces New Role as Producer in Post-‘Grey’s’ Project


Sandra Oh counts herself a pretty good cheerleader, as she puts it. It’s hard to disagree, as she emotes pure passion and enthusiasm while speaking at rapid pace about her latest post-Grey’s project, Window Horses, which has the acclaimed actress wearing a producer’s hat for the first time in her career.

The poignant story centering around a young female poet’s search for identity and family comes from award-winning Canadian filmmaker Ann Marie Fleming, and is based on the latter’s graphic novel. Fleming wanted to adapt it as an animated feature film and originally approached Oh to play the voice of protagonist Rosie Ming. The filmmaker got much more than that.

In September, when Oh sat down and read the graphic novel, she wept.

“Then I called [Fleming] and said, ‘Not only will I do it, but I have to help you make this,” recounts Oh, speaking by phone from her home in Los Angeles.

And that’s why, today, Oh, Window Horses’ executive producer, is respectfully asking for your money. She and Fleming have turned to the crowd-funding site Indiegogo to help raise $130,000, which will allow them to cast, record and get elements ready to animate the 90-minute film, according to their Indiegogo page. Kevin Langdale will serve as the film’s lead animator, and veteran actress Nancy Kwan (The World of Suzie Wong) has already come onboard to voice Rosie’s grandmother. The producers are also pursuing other types of funding sources, the Indiegogo page says.

Oh says she can talk about the project forever, and her reasons for being drawn to it are indeed numerous. “The graphic novel is so brilliant,” gushes the actress, who has known Fleming since the mid-1990s because all Canadians know each other, she jokes. “[Fleming] started writing this 10 years ago, when she was at a retreat in Germany. She’s a really, really wonderful filmmaker.”

Oh is also smitten with Rosie, a 20-something character of Chinese and Persian descent who journeys to Iran to participate in a poetry festival and makes some life-changing personal discoveries while there. “Rosie goes on an unwitting journey of forgiveness, reconciliation, and perhaps above all, understanding, through learning about her father’s past, her own complicated cultural identity, and her responsibility to it,” reads the description on the Indiegogo page. “It’s about building bridges across generations and cultures through the magic of poetry.”

Rosie is illustrated as a stick figure with a circle head and simple lines for her body, and in the Indiegogo trailer, she is often seen wearing a chador, the outer garment worn by many Iranian females in public spaces. This stick figure actually has a name: Stickgirl, Fleming’s muse-avatar who has appeared in her other projects, though usually voiced by Fleming herself. Oh is savoring this chance to be Stickgirl’s voice, as the latter portrays Rosie in what’s being billed as Stickgirl’s “first dramatic feature role.”

“I would say, when you see Stickgirl, she looks like she’s Chinese,” Oh says excitedly. “I feel like it’s an empowering thing because I personally still feel—and I’m one of the people whose job is to f-cking do it—like we [Asians] are not represented and that we do not see each other reflected enough. And the place I feel we are the least represented is in children’s and teen-ish popular culture. So what I love [about Window Horses] is you see—and this is in animation!—you see a Chinese face in a chador. And there’s something that is potentially more powerful the more representational an image is. … It’s much easier for me to see how this character potentially represents me.”

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Though the new roles Oh’s playing for this film may seem like quite the departure from her award-winning, decade-long turn on Grey’s Anatomy as the beloved Dr. Cristina Yang, she sees some similarities.

“I see it very much as a creative process. I am in service to the project,” she says. “I believe actors are in service of other things. I am in service of the playwright, of the director’s vision. I don’t mind that role—I think it’s very important. God, you cannot do it on your own. Homing in on different ideas on how we get the project out there, how we bring people onboard, and the whole world of social media—it’s new to me. But it’s a place to be creative.”

It’s also an incredible amount of work, she says, but she adds, “I really love it. I think you can only do this if you are madly in love with something.

“I believe in [Ann Marie Fleming] so much, and I believe in this project so much,” she continues. “And I think that’s why I feel really good in this producer role because I’m not selling anything. I feel my job is to do is to share my passion and enthusiasm with people, and I completely trust that people will get onboard. And this is not just to get onboard to invest and help raise the money so we can do this. One, absolutely! But, two, when I think about this project and when it comes out, I want to direct it to girls and direct the graphic novel to girls.”

Oh says she finds the story about a young woman’s search for a sense of self through poetry—the actress is a lover of poetry—”deeply empowering” for girls and women.

To learn more about the Indiegogo campaign, click here. The incentives for donating range from sharing a meal of dim sum or Persian food with Oh and Fleming, to a character of your likeness appearing in the film.

Click below to watch the charming Indiegogo video, in which Stickgirl and Oh dialogue about the project: