Pioneer Public: Joseph Cannon


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Written By Amanda Andrews, Editor-in-Chief

Not many at the university get to claim they have met Sandra Oh on a set or acted as a scene partner with Holland Taylor.

Making it big is relative for everyone but for Joseph Cannon, a senior acting major at Point Park, making it on the Netflix TV show “The Chair” with a speaking part is a big deal.

“This was a co-star character so it’s not like Holland Taylor or Sandra Oh, but every actor is like a small piece to a puzzle,” Cannon said. “And you can’t just walk in and be like, ‘oh hey I have a line or like whatever.’ You got to walk in there with a certain moxie or professional attitude because at the end day, you’re on a professional set. You’re blessed enough to be able to work on a professional set, especially during COVID.”

Netflix’s original series “The Chair” revolves around the character of Ji-Yoon Kim (Sandra Oh) ascending to the position as the chair of the highly problematic English department at Pembroke University. With Chatham University and Washington & Jefferson College acting as the academic backdrop for this tale of modern academia woes, plenty of extras and actors were needed to play students for this fictional campus setting.

Cannon said his agent first alerted him about the opportunity, and he submitted a virtual audition, as in-person auditions have gone by the wayside during the coronavirus pandemic. Two months passed by before he heard anything, but after hearing from his agent that the director was interested in him for a small part and auditioning again, he booked a role for “The Chair.” In February of this year, Cannon filmed the scenes that cleared the cutting room floor.

“This was actually my first costar role in a feature film or a television show,” he said. “But it was a great opportunity.”

Although his role is unnamed, Cannon stars as a student in two separate episodes in the series, with a particularly memorable line in the fourth episode. Avoiding any spoilers here, his character gets to directly respond to an action taken by Holland Taylor’s character, and though it took several takes to get just right, that wasn’t the only time he interacted with her on set.

“…we just start getting into a conversation regarding acting school and really just talking about where to go after school and getting into the right classes,” Cannon said. “And she runs the show, she knows what she’s doing. And she was a great person to talk to and be involved with.”

Seeing Sandra Oh was more of a fleeting encounter, but he said it was memorable all the same.

Throughout the production, all cast members were required to take part in multiple COVID-19 precaution measures, which ranged from quarantining before arriving to COVID-19 testing on set. However, the story of “The Chair” is clearly not set during the pandemic, which, Cannon said, allowed for a slight period of escapism from a reality of social isolation and virtual learning.

“We didn’t have in-person classes at all last year or very little if any, and I kind of was hoping for an opportunity for where I could actually do something in like a student film maybe or somewhere where I could like be normal…instead of being over a Zoom screen,” he said. “But it was a really cool and exciting experience just like being able to be a student again during COVID.”

While starring on a Netflix show before even graduating college is one for the books, Cannon has made appearances in other professional television and film projects, including another incoming Netflix show, Archive 81, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

Cannon stressed that film opportunities within the Pittsburgh area have created the path for his successes so far. He encouraged other students to take advantage of Point Park’s strategic location in the heart of downtown and job postings within the area, which can be found on a lot of local Facebook film pages. He added that many of his friends within the conservatory are also seeking out these chances to work professionally and have an interest in pursuing multiple avenues of performance.

“And I really hope that the university pushes more towards that film and TV route,” Cannon said. “I know that obviously a lot of kids come here because they want to do Broadway, but, like me, there are a lot of students that are interested in both, and they want to dabble with both and Point Park is in a great position right now being in Pittsburgh.”

For now, he is still deciding what he wants to do post-graduation but said he is definitely passionate about continuing to pursue TV and film options.