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Days after Sandra Oh made history as the first actress of Asian descent to earn an Emmy nomination for lead actress in a drama series for her role on Killing Eve, BBC America president and general manager Sarah Barnett
“When Sandra Oh was nominated, the screams were heard on the second floor [of the BBC America offices], for sure,” Barnett said Monday during an executive keynote conversation at the New York Television Festival. “We couldn’t contain our excitement.”
At the event, Barnett also reflected on Killing Eve‘s “unprecedented growth.” While she is grateful that critics embraced the drama early on, Barnett partly credits the series’ incremental surge in popularity to fans’ fervent social media praise.
“Generally, what happens is that you launch at one place and you go down from that. So with Killing Eve, what actually happened during its eight-episode span is that in the 18-49 and 25-54 demo, it grew every single week,” she explained. “So I think that was all from word of mouth from the fans.”
Barnett continued: “When you have a great show like that and you marry it with a really thoughtful, experienced approach to how you talk about that show — a combination of those things really was what turned into this unprecedented growth trajectory for Killing Eve.”
Killing Eve‘s first season concluded May 27, pulling in 1.25 million viewers for its finale — an 86 percent jump from its premiere episode. Aside from fan enthusiasm and a smart social media strategy, Barnett said Monday that Oh’s portrayal of the titular M15 spy is central to the show’s success.
“When Sandra’s name came up [during casting], we kind of all thought, ‘Oh, yeah. She’d be kind of bloody amazing,'” recalled Barnett. “And she’s the first actress of Asian descent to be nominated for an Emmy in this category. She just speaks so passionately and beautifully about that experience.”
The TV exec added, “Representation matters, and Sandra knows that. She’s an amazing woman and an extraordinary performer. She makes it look easy. She really does.”
Not long after the Emmy nominations were announced last week, Oh opened up about her reaction to the news in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
“I’m struggling to find the right words for it,” she said. “I feel quite serious about it. What’s a blend of the words ‘seriousness’ and ‘joyous’? I’m absolutely thrilled. I feel my community at all times; I am my community at all times. I have joy not only for the show and myself and family, but also for my community. Hopefully my community can feel like they have representation as well.”
Oh has been nominated for a Primetime Emmy five times before, although she has never won. The actress earned five consecutive nominations from 2005 to 2009 for her role as Cristina Yang on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, all in the supporting actress category. In 2010, The Good Wife‘s Archie Panjabi became the first actress of Asian descent to take home an Emmy for acting, winning in the supporting actress category.
Killing Eve scribe Phoebe Waller-Bridge also scored a nomination in the outstanding writing for a drama series category. The BBC America hit was picked up for a second season even before its premiere in April. A premiere date for season two has yet to be announced.
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