Sandra Oh Opens Up About the Depression and Anxiety She Experienced as a Child (Exclusive)

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Sandra Oh has made a career out of her big feelings! 

In Disney and Pixar’s Turning Red, Oh plays Ming Lee, the mother of 13-year-old Mei, a girl who is going through a big family change that turns her into a giant Red Panda, when her emotions are triggered. “Honestly, I relate to Mei quite deeply because I feel like I've spent my entire life trying to manage my inner panda,” the 50-year-old actress told ET's Matt Cohen at the premiere of the film in Los Angeles. “My big, giant, inner panda.” 

Although Oh is playing the mother, her character helped her see that those emotions were always inside of her, and she had to find a way to let them out.  

“I think what the movie touches on is like extreme highs and lows of emotion,” she said. “I think as an adult when I realize, ‘Oh, I had a lot of depression, I had a lot of anxiety.’ I don't think that necessarily I had that type of language. At that point, I would say I was a very emotional kid and obviously I made a career out of it.” 

She continued, “It was really tough to try and figure that out. This film also touches obviously on a Chinese Canadian family and to have that cultural element and to have your parents not necessarily understand why you're having such huge emotions and messiness, was also a great thing to explore in this film.”  

Rosalie Chiang, Billie Eilish, and Sandra Oh

Rosalie Chiang, Billie Eilish, and Sandra Oh attend the Los Angeles premiere of Disney's 'Turning Red' at El Capitan Theatre on March 1, 2022.

Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Just like Oh, Rosalie Chiang, who plays Mei, can really relate to her character’s story. “I would say first off, our drive and passion is something I definitely relate to,” Chiang told ET. “When Mei set her mind to something, she goes for it 100 percent, like nothing can stop her. I am very stubborn.”  

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, who plays Mei’s best friend, Priya, can also relate to the main character. “I think the thing that I see in Mei that I see in myself is the fact that we both make mistakes but we're trying to always do the good thing or we're trying to do the right thing,” she told ET. “Lead with kindness but sometimes that makes us have trip-ups and fall on our face. But we learn from them, and I think that's really awesome and what makes Mei such a rootable character. We're always rooting for that girl, she's so good.”  

One of the biggest and more fun emotions in the film are the ones that come with the first crush -- something Oh says she felt earlier than Mei and her friends.  

“I started my crushes very early. I had crushes in, like, kindergarten,” the Killing Eve star told ET. “Yeah, every year it was a new boy. That's another thing that's so great about the film is that it centers around music, and it's so much about the burgeoning sense of sexuality.”  

Oh has to panda her emotions as she celebrates the final season of Killing Eve, which premiered Saturday, and realizes what she’s going to miss the most.  

“I would say the cast and the crew,” she shared. “We got very, very close over the past four years.  And honestly, the characters as well. They were a challenge to play but a joy as well.” 

Turning Red starts streaming March 11 on Disney+. 

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