Jay Duplass (‘The Chair’) on his character’s search for a family and working with Sandra Oh [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW] – Gold Derby

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“I think Bill is just a guy looking for a family,” declares Emmy winner Jay Duplass about his character on the Netflix series “The Chair.” He plays Bill Dobson, an embattled English professor reeling from the recent death of his wife while facing a career crisis after making a mocking Nazi salute in front of his class. An acclaimed producer, writer and director, Duplass earned acclaim and a Critics Choice and SAG Award nominations for his work on Amazon’s Emmy-winning comedy “Transparent.” Check out our exclusive video interview above.
Duplass’ role on “The Chair” is a role reversal in a sense. The series was co-created by actress Amanda Peet, who starred on HBO’s “Togetherness,” which was co-created and co-written by Duplass. “We both knew that when ‘Togetherness’ ended that we still had unfinished business together,” says Duplass. “Amanda and I are kind of obsessed with each other.”

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In playing Bill, Duplass latched onto his character’s sense of loneliness and his longing for family. “He’s a lover and he’s a good family guy,” he explains. “He’s an orphan in a way.” The character’s untethered personality — Duplass refers to him as a “giant mess” — led many moments of physical comedy. However, he says that it was Peet and the writers who made sure that the humor of the show stayed grounded in reality. “We all fully understood what we were there to do,” he says. “[Peet] wrote it so well that all we had to do was fully commit. I didn’t feel like I needed to try to be funny. I just needed to be desperately in love and desperate for these things that I wanted…and sometimes fall down a lot.”
Much of the show’s success hinges on the chemistry between Duplass and co-star Sandra Oh, who plays Bill’s longtime friend, colleague and potential love interest. Duplass says that he learned more from Oh than from any actor he has ever worked with. “She’s the sharpest knife in the drawer,” he exclaims. “She’s really fun and funny and smart and adorable and fun to be around. Everybody should be jealous of me getting to make a show with her.”
The series takes a nuanced look at the issue of cancel culture. Duplass describes the pains that Peet and director Daniel Gray Longino took to make sure that the show felt balanced. “We wanted to ride a fine line,” he explains. “It obviously takes a lot more time and effort to do that. But she and Dan, our director, put a lot of extra time into really trying to make this show as honest as possible.”

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