Sandra Oh graduated from Montreal's National Theatre School in 1993, but the Grey's Anatomy star had never stepped on its venerable Monument National stage until a week and a half ago. (It was under renovations the three years she studied there.)
The Ottawa-born actor finally got to tread its boards in order to accept the Gascon-Thomas Award, given each year by the NTS to those who "have made an exceptional contribution to the growth of theatre in Canada and whose examples serve as an inspiration for the students of the school." Previous winners include actor Christopher Plummer and playwright George F. Walker.
Oh, a Golden Globe and Genie winner, talked to The Globe and Mail from Los Angeles.
How did it feel to receive this award from your alma mater?
It was really moving for me, mostly to speak with the students. You look back on your life and where you come from and you're not in the same place.
At NTS, you were studying for the stage. Did you think you'd end up with most of your career in film and television?
No, uh-uh. But you can't live as an actor and just do theatre. You have to be able to do everything: radio, film, television, animation. I haven't done a play in three years. The last was Diana Son's Satellites at the Public Theatre in New York.
When your Hollywood career cools down - not that anyone wants it to cool down - would you come back up to Canada to do a play, maybe at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival?
Stratford's quite a commitment. I'm actually trying to go back to work with director Peter Hinton at the National Arts Centre. We've been in contact about maybe putting a play up together. Peter was one of the first directors I worked with after I moved to Toronto; I was in his production of the Jacobean play The Witch of Edmonton . Peter's doing some great stuff at the NAC, building a company. I would love to come back.
What plays did your class cut their teeth on at NTS?
For our third year, we did Chekhov's Three Sisters (I was the youngest, Irina); we did Wycherley's The Country Wife , the Restoration comedy. Then it was Mad Forest by Caryl Churchill. The fourth project I missed - I went to Vancouver to shoot The Diary of Evelyn Lau . I left early, but I still graduated.
Did you reunite with any of your classmates or teachers while receiving the Gascon-Thomas Award?
I have wonderful friends who came to see me. Kristen Thomson was a classmate of mine. She was doing a show in rep at Soulpepper, The Guardsman . She did a show in Toronto on Thursday, flew out Friday, hung out with me all Friday, and Saturday she returned and closed the show. And that was like a vacation for her.
And how was it reconnecting with Montreal?
What a fantastic city. It's changed a lot, it feels much more alive. I used to live between the two best bagel joints in Montreal: Fairmount and St-Viateur. When I was living there, we had no money. This time I went and I got six bagels from Fairmount and six from St-Viateur and I brought them back to Los Angeles.
And which bagel wins out?
Sentimentally, I would say Fairmount - because I lived slightly closer to Fairmount. But it's - they're different, slightly different. St-Viateur is slightly crispier. They're both good.