During San Diego Comic Con 2022, we joined a roundtable conversation, along with other journalists, to talk with the cast of The Orville: New Horizons. In this interview, we talked with Penny Johnson Jerald, who plays Dr. Claire Finn, Mark Jackson who plays Isaac, and Anne Winters, who plays Charly Burke. Below they discuss the Charly/Isaac relationship, working with Seth MacFarlane, what it means to be a woman on board The Orville, and more!
First question, Penny, you’re 100% pretty much good on The Orville, but I remember you from 24 and you were 100% bad and every time I watch I’m like where’s the reversal where you turn bad and like kill everybody so how does that preparation for that role where you are just such a juicy villain change for this one where you are just a really awesome person?
Penny Johnson Jerald: It all starts from the same place and that is just playing the reality. What’s real what’s there. And I’ve been so fortunate that on both shows. The writing has just been incredible, and everything is on the page. When it’s on the page and you can beat it out as an actor and plot it, you could always speak truth. So, [while on] 24, Penny in real life, I was raising a teenager and so that’s what you got colored into 24! And on The Orville, I now have a woman and I have a grandbaby, so it’s like loving, I think life catches up. But truly it’s in the writing.
Anne Winters: She’s gonna watch this and be like, she wanted to kill me as a kid!
Penny: I did! [laughs]
There has been some friction between Isaac and Charly, how was it to explore that relationship?
Anne: That’s definitely kind of Charly’s first [challenge] going into this show, into this world, and working with a Kaylon, that’s something she’s never had to do before. She definitely is going into it with a very hard heart and I think that her journey is very much tied in with Isaac. The Orville in general, seeing how everyone is very accepting, the Topa storyline, everybody on this ship. [The way] Ed runs his crew is very accepting and there’s a lot of things that she learns along the way that I think kind of turn her head make her think a second about how she accepts Isaac.
Mark Jackson: Yeah, definitely exploring the relationship more in the last couple of episodes. I feel like, actually, their dynamic is at the heart of this season. It’s about trust, it’s about making up for some mistakes in the past, healing wounds.
When you’re playing Isaac are you in the costume or is it something that you voice over?
Mark: I am in the costume.
Anne: These lines that this guy says are in insanity, just by the way! I think it’s just crazy.
Mark: A lot of sci-fi jargon.
Can you see in there?
Mark: No, no, I can see.
Anne: Sometimes it malfunctions though, and you can’t see, can’t hear, there’s some difficulties with the costume.
Mark: That always works, the lights often go off, that’s the problem.
When you think of Seth Macfarlane, you think of comedy, and this shows works well with comedy and drama, so what do you guys do emotionally to prepare for that?
Mark: I think, again, it’s playing the truth in the script because you can’t play comedy, you just have to play the truth of the situation and if the script is funny, it’ll come out.
Penny: I think “genius” actually when I think Seth MacFarlane, I’ve never think “funny.” If I think “funny,” I’m going to think of something that he did before and, he knows, there’s something they did before that I went, oh you should never have done that! [laughs] So I do think “genius” because he has the ability to really put it out there. Life stories, human stories, and in our human stories in our humanity there are some funny moments and then there are some raw moments that some people don’t wanna touch. He’s brave enough to at least touch them in script and then give that over to us to be able to show that. In preparation for that, again it comes from the same place it comes from the truth of the material.
For the ladies, you are representing the new face of sci-fi, it’s become known as “boy” content, but you guys are part of such a wealth of women on the show, how does that feel for you guys?
Penny: I love it because coming from the Trek world, anytime you saw a woman she was either very bossy or she had to be the sex symbol. On The Orville, we are people who just happen to be female, and you see us in a three-dimensional way. So I think, finally, you were seeing women as people, we just happen to be the female face.
Anne: This is my first time in a genre like this, to be honest. It’s really fun. Also, having a storyline where I found out a little bit later in filming that I was in love with Amanda and having that back story in my head was really fun to play. So, I was very challenged in this whole realm and I’m glad to represent something that maybe we haven’t seen before.
Check out our other The Orville interview with show producers Brannon Braga and Tom Costantino