Hope for the Future – The Orville’s Mark Jackson (The VH Interview)

From the creative mind of Seth MacFarlane, space-age comedy-drama The Orville has captured the hearts of sci-fi fans new and old.

As the show begins its voyage into its second season, we were lucky enough to catch up with the ship’s resident emotionless robot, Mark Jackson to discuss hidden treasure, giant aliens, and the hopeful future of sci-fi…

How does it feel going into the second season of the show?

Well, great! We wrapped in October, and then you just move on and do other stuff. In my case, leave the country and get on with life! And then it’s nice to come back to talking about it! Gives me a nice cosy feeling to be able to chat about it!

The Orville was kind of your first big break on TV. How did it feel to be taking part in a Seth MacFarlane gig?

Like everyone else, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the show! I’ve followed Seth’s work for over a decade… I’ve watched American Dad and Family Guy pretty much every day since they came on… it’s my bedtime treat! It’s storytime with a few laughs… characters which you know really well… That’s the appeal of those shows. So I think Seth has really recreated that with The Orville. Okay, the stories are a bit longer, but you have characters and adventure. It’ s live-action, which is different from those shows, but of course he’d already done live-action with A Million Ways to Die in the West, which I really enjoyed. He’s so prolific in everything that he does. He throws all he has at it, so I knew it was going to be special. So working with Seth, I already felt like I knew the way his mind works from watching all these amazing shows. He’s an incredibly funny, generous, kind, smart man, and someone that I am privileged to call a friend.

What do you think it is about his humour that makes him so prolific, and such a giant in modern culture?

He’s one of the world’s greatest satirists. He’s not afraid to say what he thinks. You only have to follow him on social media to know that, and I really admire him for that. Lots of people in this industry shy away from saying what they think because of their fear of how the industry will view them. But Seth has actually made his career on doing just that, which is such an admirable thing. I take my hat off to him, and long may he continue doing it!

With Isaac, how has it been playing an essentially emotionless robot?

(laughs) Well, being such an emotional man… You just work with what you have in the script really! The nice thing about playing Isaac is the suit. That’s ninety percent of the way towards playing Isaac. Then it’s the voice, which is very measured. Keeping that measure takes you the other ten percent. He’s an oddball, and keeping that consistency keeps me on track. He doesn’t have emotional content, which is usually the easiest thing for actors to get involved with, but I have a real responsibility to keep Isaac true to his own form. It’s a meaty challenge for me to get my teeth into.

Having spent 700 years away, what can we expect from Isaac and his development in the second season?

I’m very pleased that someone pointed out that I should have 700 years of back-pay! I like to think he’s got that stowed away somewhere, just a huge chest of whatever coinage they have in the future. Though I suspect actually we’ve done away with currency… I’ll have to check on that! My Orville knowledge is slipping through my fingers! The thing is, he’s consistent; in 700 years he’s collected a lot of data, but it’s not on humans. In fact, it’s not on any kind of species that’s on-board the ship, so I’m not sure it’s particularly helpful! He continues to collect data on what he sees around him, and reacts accordingly to that knowledge. I think he’s always subtly transforming. To be able to bring that side is quite a fun thing to do.

Speaking of the species on the ship, you’ve met some bizarre creatures during the first season, and I imagine even moreso in season two. What has been your weirdest experience on the show so far?

You can get on set early in the morning, you’re barely awake, clutching a coffee, and there’s someone putting some sort of battery-operated thing in your back and making sure you’re all sorted, and then from round the corner unexpectedly, some seven-foot, thick-skinned alien that you never thought could even exist comes crawling at you. And the weirdest thing is that you don’t even bat an eyelid nowadays! It’s bizarre how familiar it’s become. I think that’s pretty cool; to be able to say that’s part of your daily routine. It’s pretty special!

Last year when we spoke to Scott (Grimes), we discussed how the show was getting a lot of comparisons to Galaxy Quest and, obviously, Star Trek. How do you feel it has evolved beyond that?

What I’ve always said about The Orville is that it stands upon the shoulders of all these giants. We owe a lot to all these shows. But we have formed something new for the fans. Because, let’s face it, we’re popular because all these other shows have been popular before. We’re very lucky to have the Trekkies on our side. It’s a bit concerning; they’re very intelligent viewers! But they love quality entertainment, and I feel that with The Orville, we’ve been able to deliver that. I think the writing team are very brave in the way that they artfully mash together comedy and very touching drama that manages to deliver powerful opinions and powerful discussions on really important themes of today. It’s really quite remarkable that they manage to do it all in what is essentially forty-five minutes of television.

With all of the giants proceeding you, why do you think we as an audience are so obsessed with a space-based future?

What I think is great about the human condition is that we always have the ability to look ahead of ourselves. We always have the ability to question “what will come, and how can we make it better? How can we shape our futures?” Obviously, if we go far enough into the future with any show, we’re going to get space travel in there. And the wonderful thing about that is that we get to explore our horizons in ways we can’t right now. I often read science-fiction books and think “gosh! We’re so far behind!” And it’s not going to happen in my lifetime, and godammit, it’s so frustrating! I think what The Orville does so nicely is to offer a hopeful view of our future. We’ve had all of the dystopia in our sci-fi of late, and that’s fine. But it’s nice to bring a bit of hope back into our science fiction!

The Orville, Thursdays at 9pm, only on FOX

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