From creator/executive producer Seth MacFarlane (who also plays Captain Ed Mercer), the Fox space adventure series The Orville follows the U.S.S. Orville exploratory spaceship and the missions that it goes on, 400 years in the future. As its human and alien crew face the mysteries of outer space, they realize that they’re never too far away from their own everyday problems and issues.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Adrianne Palicki (who plays the captain’s ex-wife and First Officer Kelly Grayson) talked about how she got involved with The Orville, how cool it is to get to work with so many close friends, the incredible sets, the balance of dark and light on the series, exploring the hopeful side of sci-fi, whether she’s a Star Trek fan, what pilot director Jon Favreau was like to work with, having Charlize Theron guest star, and why there are so many possibilities for future seasons.
Collider: Is this show as much fun to make as it seems like it would be?
ADRIANNE PALICKI: Not to be cheesy, but it’s magical!
What’s it like to get to work on a spaceship?
PALICKI: That thing is huge! It’s built into the ground and it’s two stories. That bridge is huge! It’s fun. It’s playtime.
How did you get involved with The Orville?
PALICKI: I’ve known Seth [MacFarlane] for almost a decade. We’ve been really, really dear friends. I read the script and I was immediately in love with it. Seth was like, “How would you feel about doing this? Are you interested in the role of Kelly?” I was like, “Yes!” I went through the process, but there was so much support and love from him, wanting me to have this part. I have to tell you, the first five minutes into reading the script, I was like, “I’m in! I have to play this character!”
Were there any mishaps during the scene that we first meet Kelly in, in the pilot?
PALICKI: It was horrifying because they didn’t know exactly how much. There was a prosthetic and the first time, there was so much that it completely covered me and completely covered the bed. I lost my mind, I laughed so hard. It was hard to come back from that. I was like, “I can’t laugh in every take. I’m going to ruin the whole thing!”
Is this a situation where, the more serious things get, the harder it is to maintain your composure?
PALICKI: Absolutely! And we’re all friends. I’ve known Seth for a long time. I’ve known J. Lee for a long time. Scott [Grimes] is one of my dearest friends. We just have the best time on sest together. We all love each other. It’s one of the first casts I’ve ever been with, where we wrap on Friday and all go to dinner on Saturday together.
What most appeals to you about this character?
PALICKI: I love her so much because she is funny, she is smart, she is strong, and she’s usually right. I love that there is so much there for Kelly. As an actor, I get to play the comedy, the drama and the tears, and have action sequences. I get to do everything in this one character, and it’s so cool. It’s a dream.
As you got deeper into the season, what was it that most surprised you about what this show has evolved into, and what do you think will most surprise viewers?
PALICKI: I had read the majority of the scripts before we started shooting, so I had an idea of what it was going to be. It deals with a lot of social issues. It deals with a lot of what’s happening now, in a very interesting way. But the throughline is that the heart of the show is the relationships between these characters. It’s gonna be something that’s shocking because it’s not a broad comedy. It is a dramedy. The comedy comes out of the drama and the stakes. You need those moments of levity when sometimes the stakes are higher than others. Some episodes are going to be a little bit darker, and some are going to be a lot lighter. That’s the fun balance of it. All of the episodes could almost be stand-alones, except for the fact that you have these characters that are evolving.
Is Episode 3 the darkest that this series will get, or will there be other episodes that are on that level of heaviness?
PALICKI: There will be some that could possibly be heavier than that. Not every episode is gonna have a happy ending, and that’s what I love about this show. It’s going to be constantly shocking for viewers.