Know the Cast: ‘The Chair’

The Chair Cast on Netflix

The Chair cast includes Sandra Oh, Jay Duplass and David Duchovny. This info article contains minor spoilers for the August 2021 Netflix release. Visit the Know the Cast section for more Vague Visages streaming guides.

Created by Amanda Peet and Annie Wyman, The Chair explores the professional dynamics at the fictional Pembroke University. Ji-Yoon Kim heads the struggling English Department, and tries to appease the old guard while supporting people of color within the institution. The new department chair shows tremendous potential, but her close friendship with a peer causes major problems. Here’s a cast and character guide for The Chair, a six-episode Netflix production featuring a Grey’s Anatomy star.

The Chair Cast: Sandra Oh as Ji-Yoon Kim

The Chair Cast - Sandra Oh as Ji-Yoon Kim

Character Profile: The first female to head the English department at Pembroke University. She was engaged in the past and later adopted a Mexican child. Ji-Yoon values her career opportunities but places more importance on genuine human connections.

Oh’s Resume: Patti in Under the Tuscan Sun (2003), Stephanie in Sideways (2004), Dr. Cristina Yang in Grey’s Anatomy (2005-), Eve Polastri in Killing Eve (2018-), Debbie Grayson in Invincible (2021-)

The Chair Cast: Holland Taylor as Joan Hambling

The Chair Cast - Holland Taylor as Joan Hambling

Character Profile: A 32-year Pembroke veteran who gets moved to the basement. She’s a Geoffrey Chaucer expert who wrote the first feminist reading on “The Wife of Bath’s Tale.” Joan forms an alliance with older colleagues to ensure her future at Pembroke.

Taylor’s Resume: Judge Roberta Kittleson in The Practice (1998-2003), Professor Stromwell in Legally Blonde (2001), Evelyn Harper in Two and a Half Men (2003-15), Bunny in The Wedding Date (2005), Ellen Kincaid in Hollywood (2020)

The Chair Cast: Jay Duplass as Bill Dobson

The Chair Cast - Jay Duplass as Bill Dobson

Character Profile: A popular Pembroke professor who fits all the cliches of a white, middle-aged educator. He’s aloof and shows up late for work, but there’s a good reason why, as he’s still grieving the death of his late wife. Bill pursues a romance with Ji-Yoon and gets in trouble because of a controversial video that’s spread amongst students.

Duplass’ Resume: Duncan Deslaurier in The Mindy Project (2012-17), Josh Pfefferman in Transparent (2014-19), English Teacher in Paper Towns (2015), Alex in Beatriz at Dinner (2017), Elijah in Search Party (2017-20)

The Chair Cast: Bob Balaban as Elliot Rentz

The Chair Cast - Bob Balaban as Elliot Rentz

Character Profile: An American literature professor. He’s a Herman Melville scholar who doesn’t embrace social media. Elliot wants to support a Black colleague but lacks self-awareness and thus chooses to bond with older colleagues.

Balaban’s Resume: David Laughlin in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Morris Weissman in Gosford Park (2001), William Shawn in Capote (2005), Judge Leonard B. Sand in Show Me a Hero (2015), King in Isle of Dogs (2018)

The Chair Cast: Nana Mensah as Yaz McKay

The Chair Cast Guide - Every Actor in the Netflix Series

Character Profile: A 32-year-old Pembroke professor who seeks tenure. She’s popular amongst students and has 8,000 Twitter followers. Yaz seeks other opportunities because she doesn’t like the good-ol-boy dynamics at Pembroke.

Mensah’s Resume: Sade in An African City (2014), Sally Palermo in Madam Secretary (2017-18), Camila Candelario in New Amsterdam (2019), Amara Josephine Achola in 13 Reasons Why (2019-20), Mistress Mira in Bonding (2021)

The Chair Cast: David Morse as Paul Larson

The Chair Cast - David Morse as Paul Larson

Character Profile: The Dean at Pembroke. He pressures Ji-Yoon to identify three professors who should be forced into retirement. Paul is an opportunist who values the institutional system more than personal relationships.

Morse’s Resume: Dr. Peters in 12 Monkeys (1995), Ted Arroway in Contact (1997), Brutus Howell in The Green Mile (1999), Colonel Reed in The Hurt Locker (2008), Gene Palmer in Escape at Dannemora (2018)

The Chair Cast: Ella Rubin as Dafna Eisenstadt

The Chair Cast Guide - Every Actor in the Netflix Series

Character Profile: A student whose parents are Pembroke benefactors. She pursues a connection with Bill, who worries about a potential sexual scandal. As it turns out, Dafna just wants someone with solid credentials to read her debut novel… or so it seems.

Rubin’s Resume: Etta Carpenter in The Rewrite (2014), Shoshanna in Difficult People (2017), Gilbert’s Daughter in Billions (2018), Bianca Breer in Gossip Girl (2021)

The Chair Cast: David Duchovny as Himself

The Chair Cast Guide - Every Actor in the Netflix Series

Character Profile: He’s selected to be a lecturer at Pembroke, which creates conflict for Yaz. Ji-Yoon meets with the popular actor to learn more about his academic credentials and discovers that he did indeed study English literature at both Princeton University and Yale University. Duchovny only wants to only teach students about the Irish novelist Samuel Beckett, and eventually decides to pass on the opportunity.

Duchovny’s Resume: DEA Agent Dennis/Denise Bryson in Twin Peaks (1990-91), Jake Winters in Red Shoe Diaries (1992-96), Fox Mulder in The X-Files (1993-2018), J.P. Prewitt in Zoolander (2001), Hank Moody in Californication (2007-14), Adam in The Craft: Legacy (2020)


The Chair cast also includes Everly Carganilla (The Haunted Man, Yes Day), Bob Stephenson (Fight Club, Lady Bird), Mallory Low (How to Get Away with Murder, Ad Astra), Marcia DeBonis (13 Going on 30, Orange Is the New Black) and Ron Crawford (Blood Ties, Dickinson).

Q.V. Hough (@QVHough) is Vague Visages’ founding editor.

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