Interview: Behind the Scenes of The Orville: New Horizons with Brannon Braga and Tom Costantino

We had the opportunity to interview some of the creative team behind The Orville: New Horizons while at San Diego Comic Con in July. In this interview, we speak with one of The Orville‘s writers and executive producers, Brannon Braga, and the show’s lead editor and co-producer, Tom Costantino.

The Orville | Hulu

Can you explain the “New Horizons” tagline?

Brannon Braga: The ship got a new look, we have a new place we’re airing, have a new, more expansive kind of storytelling, sometimes feature length. Everything about the show, Seth wanted to declare the show all of the things about it that make it new. It’s still The Orville, it’s the same character.

Tom Costantino: To add on to that, it’s sort of like with COVID, too, we took a little bit of a rebirth and a relaunch, this was a way to sort of differentiate it, kinda set it apart. We took advantage of using the Kaylon war to sort of like redo the ship but it’s also with the chance to sort of like bring about the new 2.0 version of The Orville. It wasn’t like the long-term plan, it sort of came about as we were doing it and it actually came from Dana Walden.

Branon: Yeah, it was Dana Walden’s idea. A head at Disney.

Tom: So, that’s how it worked.

How do you get Dolly Parton to guest star?

Brannon: That’s Seth. I mean we were using her songs and seeing her mentioned. I don’t think when we wrote the scene we knew for sure we were gonna get her and thankfully we did.

Tom: She was always favorable because of the music, but you know she actually did get to watch the episode before it aired. She’s a big fan of I believe both the Topa episode and the one she was in.

Brannon: And that story that she tells is a real story that happened to her as a kid.

This season has a new, more dramatic tone, different from previous seasons. Can you talk about the evolution of the show?

Brannon: So initially it was a lot more emphasis on comedy and we would have even punch-up rooms of comedy writers. There was a more striking balance between the two. But really Seth was always interested in dramatic storytelling with the humor is a kind of a frosting on the cake. And that’s where the show went and that’s where it very much is, the show is what it is, it’s the best version of itself this season.

Tom: I agree with you. It even continued to evolve. Obviously, it was put on the page by this great man over here. As we were shooting and as we were editing in the natural tone of it continue to move forward sometimes scenes would expand or, you know, we take the other way, you know we needed to make this more funny, we would like to punch it up, cut it that sort of way. So, it’s been an evolution over the past six years.

You guys are both become a voice to the fans as Seth tends to be really busy, you guys have kind of been a connection to people. How did that start and how does it feel to be kind of always in conversation with people?

Tom: Well you know it actually started one day I was working in the edit room and all of a sudden my phone started blowing up and it turned out that Seth tweeted to say, “hey if you wanna follow Tom…” I just started doing a little BTS and stuff. The next thing I know, 1200 followers just joined, I’m like what the hell is happening!  And it just sort of evolved over time. You know, I know it was spoilers, but obviously, Brannon is out there too, but like and you know, I’m just a fanboy! I got lucky! I am still, we’re friends now but still, look who I’m sitting next to! I’m sorry I’m going to do this publicly, I apologize. I think Seth knew that and he also trusts me as the editor. It just sort of became this thing and I got to know the fan base. And also Seth can’t always say something, so I can be the easy voice in brokering that stuff.  But, I also really enjoy it!

Has anyone from Star Trek ever said they have a problem with The Orville being so similar?

Brannon: No never. I think Orville at this point is its own thing. Obviously, it’s in the grand tradition of Forbidden Planet which predates Star Trek. It’s in the grand tradition of that kind of show. But I think we’ve found our own voice, and nobody’s ever given us any trouble at all.

Tom: I’d even go back to the original Buck Rodgers, too. Flash Gordon, there’s a little bit of DNA in there. And later on, Battlestar Galactica.

How did you end up shooting Dolly Parton considering COVID protocols?

Brannon: It was during COVID, they packed up her mountain cabin set and shipped it to Tennessee. They shot her side of the scene and Heveena’s side of the scene was shot in Los Angeles. they were never in the same room.

Tom: No, no. They were in the same room, Heveena came down.

Brannon: She went to Tennessee?

Tom: There were only four who went down, but they didn’t have a lot of time because of COVID. So basically they shot the wide shots and Dolly’s side, but that’s all we had time for. And then everything was taped out like literally to an inch of its life. Now we came back and shot Heveena’s close-up. There is that stupid Twitter thread which kind of explained it.  I’m waiting for the VFX they actually deal with the AI ’cause that’s even crazier, but I think eventually they’re gonna do a little thing about it. But, yeah, it’s hard doing this stuff during COVID.

How has the partnership been with your new network?

Brannon: There’s a certain continuity because of Dana Walden. Seth was working with Dana at Fox for so very long and she’s the boss of Hulu too, so it’s been very smooth.

Tom: And the Hulu team has been fantastic. There are some people here who have been with us since season one, so it’s like family and then family plus. The Hulu marketing team, I can’t say enough nice things to say about them. And I’m not saying that because we are on there. They’ve become friends and the posters and the trailers, all that stuff has really been amazing.

Do you have any involvement with the comic book or new novella episode?

Brannon: [The comic], that’s David Goodman, one of our other writers writes the comics. We don’t really get involved, at least I don’t.

Tom: No, no. And Seth did the adaptation of the one [episode] we couldn’t do, which I can say now, now that it’s out, we were gonna shoot in Prague, which is part of the reason [we didn’t make it], it got very complicated. If you’ve seen it, we were going to take advantage of the World War II setting there.

Brannon: It’s truly an unaired episode. Script was written and everything.

Tom: It was my favorite thing. I’m still bummed, but I hope maybe someday, you never know.

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