Fox’s The Orville cast and executive producers made their first voyage to the San Diego Comic Con on July 22, 2017 to promote the new sci-fi comedy set 400 years in the future. The series was created by and stars Seth MacFarlane as a first-time commander who discovers that his cheating ex-wife (played by Adrianne Palicki) has been assigned to his ship. In addition to introducing the series to potential viewers at the Con, the cast took part in roundtable interviews and provided a little insight into what’s in store for those who tune in and check The Orville out when it premieres on September 10, 2017.
Writer/director/executive producer Seth MacFarlane said he’s never had an easier or more enjoyable time writing a series than he has with The Orville. Although it’s his first sci-fi series, he felt immediately comfortable in the genre. Asked how he’d describe its tone and humor, MacFarlane explained, “The thing I like that makes me feel good about this show is that it’s hard to compare it…take the Star Trek element aside…tonally it’s hard for me to compare it to anything that’s been on the air. I don’t think a science fiction show of this type that walks this line has been attempted before. I mean, shows like M.A.S.H. have walked that line between comedy and drama beautifully. If we can have that kind of balance, that would be a major victory for us. But, it’s hard. I think we come pretty damn close, but that is for the audience to decide.”
Asked about creating a new universe for the series, MacFarlane replied, “We’ve shot 11 episodes so far and I think within those 11 there’s a lot of fun stuff. There’s a lot of really cool species. There’s a lot of awesome-looking ships. Look, I’m trying to do the show that I would want to watch. I like a lot of artistry in sci-fi. Our production design, our make-up artist Howard Berger, our costume designer Joseph Porro, there’s a team that has done work that to me, and I watch a lot of sci-fi, is unprecedented in television. You haven’t seen anything this extensive in TV in a sci-fi show of this type. They’re creating worlds every week and at the core of it, it is about these people. You never want to get into the quandary where you have amazing-looking visuals and there’s nothing at the core. It is about the people. We can do a show that takes place in a room with two characters and it should work because we have a phenomenal cast. But, yeah, for fans of exotic-looking creatures and fun worlds, there will be a lot of that.”
During the roundtable interviews at Comic Con, MacFarlane was teamed up with Adrianne Palicki who plays his ex-wife on the series. MacFarlane and Palicki were asked about the relationship between their characters and Palicki replied, “They had an out. They had a divorce ultimately before Ed gets his first ship and finds out that his First Officer happens to be his ex-wife who he despises at this point. It makes for a lot of fun drama and comedy, definitely in the pilot especially – and throughout. It’s the story of will they or won’t they.”
MacFarlane’s co-stars Halston Sage and Penny Johnson Jerald also answered questions about the new series during roundtable interviews. Halston Sage plays Alara Kitan, the Chief Security Officer on the Orville. Alara is inexperienced but since her planet’s gravitational pull is higher than Earth’s, she has super strength. “I get to kind of fit into the group and protect everyone, and hopefully kick some ass,” explained Sage.
Penny Johnson Jerald is Dr. Claire Finn, a medical doctor and psychiatrist. Johnson Jerald’s character is a human which means she doesn’t have the long make-up sessions some of her fellow cast members go through. Johnson Jerald also revealed her character has a very “watchful eye” and that unlike other crew members, Dr. Finn chose to be assigned to the Orville.
Although the series’ pilot is more comedic, Johnson Jerald describes The Orville as a dramedy. “What you should understand is that some episodes may be heavy on the comedy, and some are heavy on the drama but you will always find at least a sprinkle or two of funny,” said Johnson Jerald. “Because we’re dealing with so many different issues that are real, I think that dramedy would be the best way to really define what it is.”
Halston Sage said what she appreciated about the series is nothing was played for comedic laughs. “It’s my favorite kind of comedy in the sense that when things are funny, it’s because they’re really rooted in reality,” said Sage. “It’s kind of funny when you see this 5’5” girl running against a door and knocking it down, but I’m doing that so we can get the crew through the portal. So, it’s all rooted in purpose which I’m grateful to Seth for. It makes it a little easier. You don’t have to think about it as much.”
Penny Johnson Jerald describes her co-star and series creator Seth MacFarlane as both generous and a perfectionist. “But he’s not an irritant perfectionist,” said Johnson Jerald, laughing. “He loves fine tuning and the intricacies that come together to make something extraordinarily well thought out. That’s the brilliance in working with him.”
Since Johnson Jerald’s character is both a medical doctor and a psychiatrist, she was asked if it’s fair to call Dr. Finn the voice of reason in the series. “I think she is definitely the voice of reason. Seth even told me that,” said Johnson Jerald. “She’s the voice of reason but what I do enjoy about what he’s written with her is she truly is a total woman in every sense of the word.”