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Sandra Oh stars in new Netflix series inspired by real life college campus events

In this six-episode dramedy, Oh plays the first woman of color to chair a failing English department at a prestigious university. #k5evening

Netflix’s new series “The Chair” offers a rare glimpse into a trend playing out in real life. 

It follows a struggling college English department trying to stay relevant in the tech world. 

Low enrollment and budgets cuts are just some of the challenges facing the departments' new chair, Dr. Ji-Yoon Kim, played by Sandra Oh. 

She is the first woman of color to become chair. 

“I was looking for a comedy and I was looking to kind of like work in joy. Now we shot this during the pandemic.  Yes, it was very stressful, but I gotta tell you there were so many pockets of joy. Just trying to connect with fellow actors and with the character herself,” explained Oh.  

In addition to the job challenges, Oh’s character is a single mom, who also has a complicated love interest.  

Jay Duplass portrays Professor Bill Dobson, who finds himself in a campus controversy. 

He digs the biggest hole he can dig for himself in the midst of the largest life crisis that he's having. He digs a professional hole and then he spends the rest of the series trying to dig himself out,” said Duplass. 

If the Duplass name sounds familiar, it’s because he and his brother, Mark have strong ties to Seattle. 

They’ve both worked with the late Seattle filmmaker Lynn Shelton on a variety of projects. 

“We have long runs of doing movies in Seattle and we just love it.  We love the crew there.  And we love the fact that it rains the whole time and people just say ‘whatever’ and they go out and they stand in the rain and they make movies and it just warms my heart and freezes my body,” joked Duplass.  

RELATED: 'Of a Certain Age' grant honors legacy of Seattle filmmaker Lynn Shelton

The Chair is a 6-episode comedy, that also manages to artfully tackle some drama. Veteran actress Holland Taylor, portrays Professor Joan Hambling, a woman dealing with age bias. 

“Getting to be a certain age is very challenging because everyone who’s over 70 who might be listening to this will understand, you think thoughts and you have fears, and you have reactions that you are incapable of feeling at 50, or at 60. I think there's something really in us that lets us experience things at certain times. So, it's a very challenging time to be at the last part of the last chapter. So, the fact that she's being diminished and pushed aside in the story of this, which is all very much to do with American culture. And how elders are treated is a very key part of this plot,” shared Taylor.  

It's a series that beautifully explores it all:  From cancel culture to love after 40. But it’s also a rallying cry for a classic subject with modern-day relevance.

“I think it's important that people know what's going on everywhere at every university in college,” explained Bob Balaban, who plays a tenured professor in the series.  

“It's so special to remind ourselves that communication matters, the written word matters. It’s the foundation of almost everything. I hope that's a message people can take away from the show,” shared Nana Mensah, who represents the ‘new guard” as a developing professor at the university.  

The Chair debuts Friday, August 20th.

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