EW can confirm that five-time Emmy nominee Sandra Oh – and onetime Golden Globe winner – Sandra Oh will depart ABC’s venerable medical drama in 2014, after 10 years of playing prickly, brilliant surgeon Cristina Yang.
“It’s been a great privilege to play the character of Cristina Yang on GA and I am both sad and excited to see where this, her final season will take her,” Oh said in a statement. “It was an emotional and deeply creative decision for me and I feel fully supported by Shonda and the writers. It’s so rare in an actor’s life to be able to explore and grow a character so fully, so completely. I am profoundly grateful to everyone at GA for the opportunity.”
“One of the best days of my life as a writer happened the day Sandra Oh walked in my door to audition and forever changed the course of Grey’s Anatomy with her brilliant, nuanced portrayal of Cristina Yang,” series creator Shonda Rhimes added. “Over the past ten seasons, I have been made better by Sandra’s trust, faith and friendship and I can’t quantify how grateful I am for her collaboration on a character we both love so deeply. This year is going to be bittersweet for us – we’re both going to savor every moment of Cristina Yang and then we’re going to give her the exit she deserves. And when Sandra walks out of my door, Grey’s Anatomy will be once again be forever changed.”
Clearly, the decision didn’t come easily for Oh. “Creatively, I really feel like I gave it my all, and I feel ready to let her go,” Oh told The Hollywood Reporter, which first announced the news. “It’s such an interesting thing to play a character for so long and to actually get the sense that she wants to be let go as well. [Cristina] wants to be let go, and I am ready to let her go. We have to start the process, story-wise, for the Grey’s writers to think of why she’s going to go.”
Grey’s has lost a boatload of series regulars over the past decade, including original cast members Katherine Heigl, T.R. Knight, and Isaiah Washington. Oh’s departure could indicate a coming sea change for the hospital soap; the two-year contracts for original cast members Patrick Dempsey, Ellen Pompeo, Justin Chambers, Chandra Wilson, and James Pickens Jr. – whose Dr. Webber may or may not have perished in last year’s finale – are up at the end of the series’ coming 10th season.
But don’t think this means the end of Grey’s altogether: “It’s our intention to have Grey’s on the air for many years to come, with as many of the original cast as possible,” a rep for ABC said in a statement.