Prairie "The OA" Johnson (née Nina Azarova)
- Played by: Brit Marling
The series opens with Prairie jumping off of a crowded bridge. She survives the fall, and subsequent episodes explore her strange history.
- Broken Bird: At a very young age, she nearly died in the assassination attempt that took her eyesight. To protect her, her father sent her to a private school in the US. When he died, she ended up living with her neglectful aunt, before being adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Johnson. Then there's what happened at age 21...
- Daddy's Girl: She was extremely close to her biological father, to the point that she refused to believe he was dead and went off to find him. She's also quite close to her adopted father.
- Death Seeker: The OA is one at the beginning of the show, hoping to flatline to go to another dimension, where she can help her friends. She later decides that recruiting followers to perform the five movements is the only way to go.
- Disappeared Dad: Her biological father sent her to a school for the blind in America after she lost her sight. Some time later he passed away.
- Do Not Call Me "Paul": She emphatically rejects being called Prairie.
- Dreaming of Things to Come: The OA has prophetic dreams that give her nosebleeds.
- Elegant Classical Musician: She's an excellent violin player. This is what first draws Hap's attention.
- Happily Adopted: She loves her adopted parents, though she is fixated on finding her birth father. She does hold some resentment toward them because they didn't believe her about her premonitions and chose to have her medicated instead. However, when she ends up an alternate dimension where she never got adopted, she's deeply saddened that her former adoptive mother doesn't know who she is.
- Hates Being Touched: The OA reacts violently when she's touched, which stems from spending seven years without touching another human being.
- I Have Many Names: She has gone by Nina, Prairie and the OA.
- Meaningful Rename: Nancy changed her name from Nina to Prairie — because her eyes were blue like a prairie sky — to give her a fresh start. She later renamed herself the OA because it sounds like "away" and stands for "original angel".
- Missing Mom: Her biological mother died in childbirth.
- Psychic Powers: She discovers that she's a medium in the second season after learning that her alternate self from another dimension would regularly communicate with a telepathic octopus in front of crowds.
- The Ophelia: The OA refuses to be called by her previous name, is obsessed with the internet, waxes philosophically at inappropriate times, and is generally very awkward around people.
- Psychic Nosebleed: The OA experiences these when she has prophetic dreams.
- Unreliable Narrator: It's left ambiguous as to whether her story is partially or even totally made up.
- Subverted throughout season 2 as it's made clear her stories are true.
- Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: In season 1, she's reluctant to kill Hap despite having a few opportunities to.
Dr. Hunter Aloysius "Hap" Percy
- Played by: Jason Isaacs
A doctor very interested in researching Near Death Experiences.
- Affably Evil: He's initially very kind and charismatic when he first meets the OA.
- Can't Kill You, Still Need You: Invoked. When he takes one of his captives out of their cage, he reminds them that without him the others would starve.
- Crazy Jealous Guy: Becomes enraged after realizing that the OA is in love with Homer.
- Evil Genius: He's a brilliant scientist performing experiments on people he kidnapped and imprisoned in his basement.
- A Lighter Shade of Black: Compared to one of his peers. Said peer avoids becoming attached to his subjects by invoking a high turnover rate; he incinerates his test subjects.
- Lima Syndrome: Seems to develop feelings toward the OA, and when he notices she and Homer are developing a relationship, he tries several times to thwart that. He ultimately released the OA upon acquiring the fifth movement, seemingly unable to kill her or see her with Homer any longer.
- Manipulative Bastard: Hap captured all of his subjects by manipulating them.
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The OA dubs him "The Angel Hunter". Though, given his name, there's some interesting potential Ambiguous Syntax: "The Angel, Hunter"
- The Unfettered: Hap will do anything to further his research. Downplayed in that he does show remorse and even tries to compromise with OA when the guilt starts getting to him.
The Crestwood CrewA group comprised of four students from the local high school and one teacher, who meet with the OA on a nightly basis to hear her life's story and perhaps heal their own wounds as well.
- Played by: Patrick Gibson
The first person the OA befriends after coming home.
- The Bully: He's mistreated his classmates, prompting Betty to want him expelled. He gets better throughout season 1.
- Character Development: He gradually learns to gain control of his emotions and be a more understanding person.
- Determinator: Spends the entire second season staunchly trying to find a way to reunite with the OA in another dimension regardless of the others' doubts and hesitations.
- Fiery Redhead: After his development, Steve settles to being the most passionate member of the crew.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: He reacts violently to rejection in the first episode.
- I Just Want to Be Special: After gradually becoming kinder and more responsible, Steve has a bad case of wanting to prove himself. Angie calls him out of this a couple times in the season 2.Angie: It sucks to not be the chosen one, isn't it?
- I Will Find You: Steve's main goal in season 2, which is searching for the OA after she jumps to another dimension.
- Important Haircut: He shaves his head after failing to revive Jesse after his overdose.
- Jumped at the Call: Steven is the most willing to find the OA in season 2.
- Karma Houdini: Played straight, and lampshaded. The main characters intervene on his behalf whenever his violent actions lead to repercussions. In the first episode, hes nearly expelled for punching a kid in the throat hard enough to require medical attention. Prairie convinces Betty that Steve should get a second chance regardless and gets her to rescind the expulsion.
- His parents decided to send him to reform school for his behavior, but after Betty bribes the guards tasked with transporting him into letting him go, the matter is strangely dropped.
- Took a Level in Kindness: Does so over the course of season 1, thanks to the OA's influence.
- Undying Loyalty: Eventually develops this toward the OA, even after her supposed death.
Elizabeth "Betty" Broderick-Allen
- Played by: Phyllis Smith
A teacher at the local high school
- Angsty Surviving Twin: She's mourning her twin brother Theo and finds it hard to move on.
- Badass Teacher: Develops into one. She runs to find "her boys" instead of fleeing from a school shooter.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Betty mentions that she and brother had a tough home life and were only happy when visiting their uncle during summer vacations.
- In Series Nick Name: The other members often call her by her initials, BBA.
- Her deceased twin brother Theo used to call her 'Otter'.
- Mama Bear: She bribes the guards taking Steve to reform school with $50,000 to let him go. Later, she runs into the cafeteria where a shooter is rampaging to protect her students.
- Psychic Powers: She discovers that she's a medium in season 2, allowing her to sense the OA's presence across dimensions.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Subverted. While its clear that Betty cares about the kids, she doesn't always have the best judgement, something she herself acknowledges. She decides to let Steve stay at the school despite his tendency toward violence against other students, doesn't tell their parents where they keep going at night, takes them on a road trip across state lines without informing their parents, and fails to notice Jesse's substance abuse issues until its too late.
- Stepford Smiler: Betty references smiling until you feel happy.
- Team Mom: To the rest of the crew, since she's the only adult besides the OA.
- Played by: Brendan Meyer
- Character Death: In season 2, he overdoses on Fentanyl patches that were meant for Betty's dying uncle, and the other fail to revive him with movements.
- Hidden Depths: Jesse is shown to be quite attentive and observant, showing meticulous research on every person and location mentioned in the OA's story and found the clinic on Treasure Island.
- Parental Abandonment: His mother committed suicide and his father left the family. He lives with his older sister Ali.
- The Quiet One: Notably is the quietest member of the Crestwood crew. Deconstructed in season 2 where he is suffering PTSD from the school shooting, but nobody notices because he tends to fade into the background.
- The Stoner: He smokes weed with his sister. By season 2, he's moved on to harder drugs.
Alfonso "French" Sosa
- Played by Brandon Perea
- Academic Athlete: French is a star lacrosse player and has excellent grades. He's being courted for a full athletic scholarship.
- Arbitrary Skepticism: He loses faith in the OA after finding books under her bed about all the topics she mentions. Even after learning that her parents bought to those book after she finished telling the story, French is still reluctant to believe she was telling the truth.
- Mistaken Nationality: Implied. He's frequently pegged to be latino, but if his expression when asked about his 'abuela' is anything to go by, we can assume this is not the case. His mother, Claudelle, is Filipino but we don't know about his father.
- Made more confusing by the fact that the actor himself is Filipino and Puerto Rican.
- Promotion to Parent: He's the one mainly responsible for his younger siblings' care.
- Refusal of the Call: Despite him answering OA's call for help in the beginning, he's the most reluctant and responsible out of the crew, especially in season 2 saying he's afraid to he's giving up his future while they search for her. He slowly gets over this after the crew make contact with Rachel's ghost, though.
- The Smart Guy: The de-facto smartest and most educated member of the crew.
- Straight Gay: In season 2, he hooks up with another guy via a dating app and later comes out to Steve. He has no stereotypical gay traits, though.
- Took a Level in Kindness: Starts off somewhat aloof, but gradually warms up to the others.
- Wacky Parent, Serious Child: Deconstructed. His relationship with his mother is strained because all the pressure of taking care of the family is on his shoulders and he resents her for not being more responsible.
- Played by: Ian Alexander
The youngest of the crew.
- The Baby of the Bunch: Youngest of the bunch. The fact that all the teenagers are played by adults except for him helps quite a lot.
- Berserk Button: The closest Buck gets mad over is whenever people call him by his deadname.
- Shrinking Violet: Is shown to be quite shy and soft-spoken.
- Transgender: He was designated female at birth, but identifies as a boy.
- Undying Loyalty: Before Steve got his act together, Buck was and still is the most loyal to the OA.
- Played by: Chloë Levine
- Ascended Extra: She's a minor character in the first season, but becomes more prominent later on.
- Brutal Honesty: Angie is the most straightforward of the crew, easily cutting to the chase, whether tactless or not.
- The Sixth Ranger: She joins the crew in the second season. Because of this, they're still able to perform the movements after Jesse's death.
The NDE crewPrairie's fellow participants in Hap's experiments, all survivors of Near Death Experiences.
- Played by: Emory Cohen
A bright, determined young man who'll do anything to escape Hap's prison. He nearly died of a severe head injury while playing college football.
- Adult Fear: His ex-girlfriend was pregnant when he got captured. He only agreed to part of Hap's "study" because he thought he'd get money to take care of the baby. He's never met his son and fears he thinks he abandoned him.
- Amnesiac Lover: Homer didn't make it to the next dimension with the others, so the OA is stuck with an alternate version of him who barely knows her, let alone loves her. In second season finale, however, the original Homer merges with the alternate self, and he finally remembers who the OA is.
- Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You: Homer's son probably believes he walked on him, when in reality Homer was kidnapped and imprisoned by a madman.
- Determinator: He's adamant about finding out what Hap is doing to him and the others and escaping whatever facility he's keeping them trapped in, no matter how many years it takes.
- Honey Trap: Haps coerced him into seducing Renata so he could kidnap her.
- Love Interest: To the OA. He's the first of the group to bond with her and regularly provides her with emotional support.
- Mr. Fanservice: He has several scenes where he's shirtless or in his underwear. Though the scenes where he's being experimented on actually count as Fan Disservice.
- Papa Wolf: What he wants most in the world is to escape so he can be with his child.
- Played by: Sharon Van Etten
A young woman who ran away from home to become a famous singer. She has a younger brother whom she worries about. Her NDE was caused by a car accident she and her brother were in.
- Accidental Murder: In season 2, she attacked Hap after discovering one of his dark secret, and he accidentally killed her while acting in self-defense. Her ghost then sent a message to Buck through his mirror.
- Big Sister Instinct: Her brother's well-being is her top priority. She took him with her to get him out of their unhappy home and worries about how he's being cared for since the car accident left him disabled.
- Dysfunctional Family: She and her brother ran away to Nashville to escape theirs.
- Promotion to Parent: Self-imposed. She decided to leave home with her little brother and raise him herself.
- The Runaway: Prior to getting captured by Hap, she left home with her young brother in hopes of becoming a singer.
- The Voiceless: In season 2 she ends up traveling to a dimension where her car accident left her with aphasia, a neurological disorder that impairs someone's ability to understand or use language.
- Played by: Will Brill
Another of Hap's prisoners, Scott is an ill man who doesn't believe he'll last much longer in his situation.
- Back from the Dead: Hap messes up an experiment because of his anger toward the OA for deceiving him, seemingly resulting in Scott's final, permanent death. However Homer and the OA perform the movements over and over again, eventually resurrecting him.
- The Cynic: His outlook on their situation is rather grim and he doesn't have much faith that the OA can help them escape until she and Homer resurrect him with the movements.
- Deadpan Snarker: He's the most sarcastic of the group.
- Dirty Coward: He reveals the OA's plans and the fact that she regained her sight to Hap in hopes that Hap will stop experimenting on him. It doesn't work.
- Grew a Spine: By season 2, he no longer fears Hap and openly defies him.
- Ill Boy: This is why he fears that too many experiments will kill him for good.
- Sir Swears-a-Lot: Scott's mouth is the filthiest on the show.
- Skeptic No Longer: Being resurrected by the OA and Homer after seemingly being Killed Off for Real eliminates his cynicism. He's seen what's on the other side with his own eyes.
- Played by: Paz Vega
A Cuban woman who became a semi-famous guitar player after almost drowning.
- Gaslighting: A victim of this. While trapped in the mental facility in season 2, Hap manages to convince her that she's actually insane and that the events of season 1 were all in her head.
- The Sixth Ranger: She gets kidnapped by Hap halfway into the OA's story.
- Spicy Latina: Certainly hot-blooded and shown to have a lot of success with men back in her native Cuba.
Prairie's familyNina was sent abroad at a young age and adopted by an American family after her father's reported death.
- Played by: Nikolai Nikolaeff
The OA's biological father. He raised her as a single parent after her mother died in childbirth, until he was reported dead.
- Good Parents: He was a very affectionate and dedicated father to the OA for the short time they were together. After her accident, he sent her to a prestigious boarding school for blind children in America, in hopes that it would help her overcome her disability. While she was there, he called her on the phone as often as he could and made sure her aunt checked up on her regularly.
- The Mafiya: According to the OA, her father was in a deadly feud with the Russian mob.
- Nouveau Riche: He became wealthy very quickly because he owned a profitable mine, so the OA spent her early childhood in the lap of luxury.
- Posthumous Character: He was reported dead when the OA was a young girl, so she was sent to live with her aunt and eventually adopted by Nancy and Abel. As an adult, the OA became convinced that he was still alive and went off to find him, only to learn that he had really been dead the whole time.
- In season 2 the OA travels to alternate dimension where she grew up with him in Russia, but he was recently deceased by the time she got there.
- Played by: Svetlana Efremova
The OA's biological aunt. She lived with her for a short time before getting adopted.
- Nephewism: Subverted. She placed Nina for adoption not long after getting her.
- Played by: Alice Krige
The OA's adoptive mother.
- My Beloved Smother: She's eventually revealed to be this. The primary reason she wanted to adopt Prairie over the boy they were going to adopt was because she hoped a blind child would always need her.
- What the Hell, Hero?: The OA left a note when she ran away from home. Nancy decided to keep that a secret to spare Abel's feelings because the note mentions running away to find her real father. Abel naturally calls her out on it.
- Played by: Scott Wilson
The OA's adoptive father.
The Alternate UniverseIn season 2, the OA manages to transport herself to another dimension with its own occupants.
- Played by: Kingsley Ben-Adir
A private investigator whose search for a missing teenager gets him tangled in the OA's exploits.
- The Cynic: He doesn't like most other people, is skeptical about love, and is against bringing children into the world. He broke up with his girlfriend because she wanted to have a family with him.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Karim admits to Dr. Rhodes that he used to work for the FBI infiltrating Muslim communities and arresting radicalized young Muslim men. Now, he regrets not helping those young men toward a better path.
- Deuteragonist: In season 2, his search for a missing young girl is a major story arc, interconnected with the OA's conflict with Hap.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He's cynical and brusque, but does care about doing the right thing and develops some genuine fondness for the OA. She even remarks, "You're kinder than you seem."
- Mr. Fanservice: Karim strips to his underwear to retrieve Dr. Rhodes's drone, which fell into a river.
- Played by: Ian Alexander
The missing teenager Karim Washington is searching for, and an alternate version of Buck Vu.
- Ambiguous Gender: Michelle presents as female, but her alternate self is a transgender boy. In the finale, when Karim (possibly) finds her soul behind the Rose Window, Michelle has a more masculine appearance but still answers to the feminine name. Its possible that Michelle does identify as transgender, but is still in the closet, unlike Buck.
- Distressed Damsel: Karim spends the entire second season trying to find her after her grandmother reported her missing.
- Teen Genius: Michelle played an online puzzle that countless other teens struggle to understand, but she ended up making further in the game than anyone else.
- Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: Pierre Ruskin eventually reveals that he had Michelle the whole time, but she's completely comatose. Or, as her grandmother put it, "still in the house." It takes Karim returning the empty house and finding what was possibly Michelle's soul/mind/spirit behind the Rose Window to get her to wake up.
- Played by: Zendaya
A young girl who knew Michelle and helps Karim's investigation
- Descent into Addiction: She becomes more and more obsessed with the game and the empty house, to the point that she was desperate to get back in the house even as she lay in the hospital bed recovering from its's toxic fumes, which almost killed her.
- Ms. Exposition: She explains the mechanics of the puzzle game that Michelle plays to Karim.
Dr. Marlow Rhodes
- Played by: Liz Carr
A former employee of businessman Pierre Ruskin, whose role in a dream study connects her to Michelle Vu.
- Played by: Vincent Kartheiser
A wealthy businessman and Nina Azarova's (the OA's alternate self) boyfriend. He created an online puzzle that countless teens became addicted to, offering huge sums of money to whoever could figure it out.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: His puzzle was just a way to trick vulnerable kids into finding out the empty house's secret for him, because he knows studying the house himself would be too dangerous.
- The Sociopath: He was fully aware that the empty house is full of poisonous gases and knowingly tricked a bunch of kids into going inside to figure out the house's puzzles. He doesn't care how many lives have to be ruined or cut short for him to get to the other side of the Rose Window.
- Would Hurt a Child: His puzzle is mostly played by teenagers, many of whom have given up everything else in their lives in a compulsive quest to figure out the answers. Michelle Vu ended up comatose because of the game, Fola was almost poisoned by the house's toxic gases, and a boy named Liam went insane and threw himself out of a window. Ruskin is aware of all of this but doesn't care and has no intention of stopping.
- Played by: Riz Ahmed
A counselor from the FBI assigned to help the OA recover mentally after being missing.
- Mysterious Past: He knows about the other dimensions and that Betty is a medium. He claims to have been sent to help the OA, but doesn't say why or by whom.
- Nice Guy: Elias is always very patient and understand toward the OA, and is even one of the first people to call her by her chosen name. While the Crestwood crew is panicking over Jesse's death and Steve's desertion, French calls Elias and asks him to help them, and he travels across the country to do so.
- The Shrink: He's the OA's assigned therapist.