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PaleyFest 2018: The Orville cast talks social commentary, Science Fiction, and The Muppets

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By Aiyonna White, Contributor

 

       When asked about the various social issues the show addressed in the first season, Seth MacFarlane – creator of the Star Trek inspired television show The Orville – stated that “good science fiction should be topical.” 

HOLLYWOOD, CA – MARCH 17: Cast of The Orville attend PaleyFest LA 2018 honoring The Orville, presented by The Paley Center for Media, at the DOLBY THEATRE on March 17, 2018 in Hollywood, California. © Michael Bulbenko for the Paley Center

        “The reaction to that episode [Season 1 Episode 3 “About A Girl”] initially was… a lot of weird hostility about it. ‘Who do you think you are writing about this stuff?’ The reaction 

from the fans was the opposite.”

        The Paley Center for Media hosts PaleyFest once a year to honor exceptional television series. Held on March 17, The Orville panel is the second event of the festival, second to Barbra Streisand herself. The panels begin with an episode screening and are followed by a Q&A between the moderator, creators and cast, and the audience.

        It’s true that the fan favorite series does not shy away from difficult conversations, having covered religion, xenophobia, sexism, and other touchy topics in the first season. It’s also true that science fiction as a genre was created to entertain intellectually and leave the viewer with questions about societal norms (Shoutout to the Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy class I’m taking this semester!) “In this genre there really should be nothing off-limits,” MacFarlane concludes, citing The Twilight Zone, which is known for it’s social commentary. My personal favorite of the cast, actress Penny Johnson added that “fans are smarter than people think,” and could, therefore, handle discussion on tough topics. J.Lee, 

who plays Lt. John LaMarr said, “I like the fact that we throw a lot of stuff at the wall…we talk about stuff with a camera on that we all talk about anyway.”

        The Orville is an endearing series, and the panel was a delightful insight into the casts’ personalities ties and dedication to the series. Here are some key moments:

“More tongue!”

While filming episode 9 “Cupid’s Dagger,” Johnson was told by MacFarlane to do “more tongue,” MacFarlane ended the story with, ”Needless to say, my time was up.”

Chad wanted to sit on the egg

Chad L. Coleman, who plays Bortus’ partner Klyden, asked MacFarlane why Bortus sat on the egg to hatch their child when Klyden was the more traditionally domestic of the pair. MacFarlane

responded, “You’ve thought more about that than I have.”

The Ant Story

Scott Grimes aka Lt. Gordon Malloy told a story about the time when 40-50 ants crawled into Peter Macon’s prosthetic face during a nap, which resulted in a chorus of disgusted groans from the audience. “It was 5 or 6,” Macon corrected, who plays Lt. Cmdr. Bortus on the show. “…and if I rip this [makeup] off I’m ripping my skin off with it, so I had to beat myself in the face to kill the ants.”

HOLLYWOOD, CA – MARCH 17: Cast of The Orville attends PaleyFest LA 2018 honoring The Orville, presented by The Paley Center for Media, at the DOLBY THEATRE on March 17, 2018 in Hollywood, California. © Brian To for the Paley Center

Gross.

 

Ed and Kelly’s relationship  

The season finale ended with a harsh but necessary breakup for the couple. When asked about the future of the relationship, MacFarlane responded, “Watch. You gotta watch. I’m not gonna tell you,” to boos from the audience.

Sealing the Deal

A fan asked MacFarlane how he was able to bring the show to fruition. MacFarlane said, “I tend to do things that I want to watch and space sci-fi has been kind of neglected for a long time. Everything was serialized and everything was really dark, and I missed the optimistic, hopeful sci-fi that is not necessarily a cautionary tale…it just went from there.”

A Light in the Room

“On behalf of the Catholic church, I’m pissed.” A fan opened his question with this joke about the season finale, resulting in a lot of laughs. He then asked the cast to speak on their power to shape culture. Johnson revealed that as a Christian she’s been judged by her peers for appearing on the show. “What you want to do is present the issues and be generous and loving about them to allow people to make their own decisions…If you’re not a part of being the light in the room, you’re just allowing anything to be talked about. My thing is to always be a light in the room.” On playing Claire, Johnson says, “I find it extraordinary. Seth and the rest of the writers have allowed me to be three-dimensional, and not this one dimension that we get stuck on. I get to do everything, and my God I am so excited because if you don’t see me on television it’s going to be somebody else so I’ll be missing my calling which is sinful anyway.” Do you see why she’s my favorite?  

Peter Macon wore a KISS mask for at least a few months

Peter Macon revealed that after the made-for-TV Kiss movie came out in the 1970s, he wanted to be Gene Simmons for Halloween and also all the time. He wore the KISS mask 24/7, including one particular June day on the City Bus with his mom. “I feel for her now being a parent,” Macon says. “I needed to wear that mask. A little black kid in Chicago wearing a KISS mask…I imagine myself as a little kid watching [The Orville] like I watched Battlestar Galactica, and being a part of something that can go into someone’s young consciousness, I see that kid walking around in a KISS mask in June…I wasn’t told that I can’t wear the mask at all. It helped blossom my consciousness and I hope that with this kind of work I can do the same thing for some little kid.”

The Hardest Script for Seth MacFarlane to Write

“Nothing that I’ve found. I’ve been in comedy for years and I’ve never had an easier, smoother time writing than on this show. I was probably in the wrong business.” We can leave it at that.

HOLLYWOOD, CA – MARCH 17: Cast and creatives of The Orville attend PaleyFest LA 2018 honoring The Orville, presented by The Paley Center for Media, at the DOLBY THEATRE on March 17, 2018 in Hollywood, California. © Emily Kneeter for the Paley Center

Season 2 Spoilers?

MacFarlane reveals that there is an episode in season 2 that doesn’t have a sci-fi plot. “It’s all character pieces and that to me is the essence of what a good sci-fi show should be able to do. The character should be so strong that if you want to do a story that is pure drama or pure comedy you should be able to do that.”

What’s the deal with Kermit the Frog?

Viewers of the show know that MacFarlane’s character Capt. Ed Mercer has a Kermit doll on his desk that he idolizes. When asked if his obsession “extends to all muppets,” MacFarlane said, “I love The Muppets. The Great Muppet Caper is one of the best musicals ever made. I’m a big Henson fan. I was always astonished by what he pulled off. Kermit is basically a sock puppet with eyes. There’s so much personality in him and I feel that he never got his due as an actor. There’s so much soul in that character.” I adore Jim Henson praise as -fun fact- he graduated from the University of Maryland-College Park, not far from my hometown. Naturally, the panel ended with MacFarlane’s Kermit impersonation.

One thought on “PaleyFest 2018: The Orville cast talks social commentary, Science Fiction, and The Muppets”

  1. Yes! This entire panel was such an unexpected surprise, in terms of the depth and honesty of the cast’s responses to these topics. I am so impressed.

    I’m the guy who opened with the “On behalf of the Catholic church, I’m pissed” line (thanks for mentioning me in here – I feel famous now!!). I put some real thought into my question, and was rewarded with an absolutely amazing reply from Penny Johnson Jerald. I am glad she used her platform to give such a personal and powerful response.

    However, Peter Macon’s reply also made a good impression on me too. Great point of view… and picturing little Peter running around on the L train in a Gene Simmons mask… too funny!

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