- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Sandra Oh uses an entirely different method when voice acting versus being on stage or screen. While typically the co-stars of an animated film do not record their lines in the same place — sometimes not even in the same country — Miss Oh made it a priority to record some of her performance for “Window Horses” beside her co-stars.

“We did a voice recording in Toronto, in Vancouver and in L.A., and I traveled to each one, and I read with each of the characters,” Miss Oh told The Washington Times of her work on the film that premieres at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival Thursday evening. “It made a world of difference.

“That’s how I would prefer to do it, but of course you can’t always.”

“Window Horses,” based on a long-running character by writer-director Ann Marie Fleming, follows Rosie Ming (Miss Oh), a Canadian poet who is invited to travel to a poetry festival in Shiraz, Iran. In Iran she makes the acquaintance of other poets and learns about her long-lost Iranian father. The film also features the voices of Oscar nominees Shohreh Aghdashloo and Ellen Page.

“I read the whole graphic novel in one go and I was so moved by … the story of a daughter longing for her father and a father longing for his daughter,” Miss Oh said of the material, adding that it was her connection to the story and her friendship with Ms. Fleming that made her also sign on as an executive producer.

Acting not for a camera or a theater full of patrons altered the way Miss Oh approached “Window Horses.” She said she was able to “overact with my body.”

“I can’t see [the animated character], but then I kind of really project it … as if a different experience on how to draw emotion,” she said. “And one thing that you really do need that helps that animators out is if you have a really good sense of timing. You understand how to do adjust your voice.”

Miss Oh, who had a long stint on the medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy,” previously spent some time in the Santa Barbara wine country for the making of the comedy “Sideways,” which she starred in alongside Paul Giamatti, Virginia Madsen and Thomas Haden Church.

“It was great direction, great cast, great script,” Miss Oh said of the Oscar-winning film directed by her onetime husband, Alexander Payne. “And we had a beautiful setting. That kind of confluence of … factors [doesn’t] happen often in your life, but that was one of them.”

In the film, Miss Oh’s character, Stephanie, not only pours samples at a winery but has a substantial home bottle collection. The actress freely states she didn’t know “anything about wine” when she got the part, but that the experience of making the film gave her confidence to ask for specific flavors when dining out.

“I’m not afraid to be curious,” she said. “My favorite thing to do is if I’m ever at a restaurant where there happens to be a sommelier, I will … give three good adjectives” about how’s she feeling, and then allow the wine expert to select the right bottle for the occasion.

“Wine is a living thing,” she said, echoing a line used in “Sideways.” “You can make it about your experience talking with your dinner partner.

“That’s the thing that I got the most out of the film is how wine can just be … not a hoity–toity thing; it’s just a way to connect.”

Miss Oh said that “Sideways” represented a different time in filmmaking — one when every film wasn’t a hyperbudget project dependent upon a superhero property or one made on the slimmest of budgets, as was the the case for “Water Horses.”

“The midrange films that have to do with travel, character and slow development aren’t as common or [are] much more difficult to make,” she said of the current film climate.

Miss Oh won’t have much time to revisit many of her “Sideways” haunts after “Window Horses” premieres Thursday. The actress will immediately hop a plane and head to the far north of her native Canada for the Available Light Film Festival, where the animated film will also be playing.

“When do you ever get up to the Yukon?” she said with a laugh.

“Window Horses” premieres Thursday at Lobero at 2 p.m., with Miss Oh and the filmmakers in attendance. The film will play again at Metro 1 Saturday at 8 a.m.

• Eric Althoff can be reached at twt@washingtontimes.com.

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