In Season 2 of the Fox series The Orville, set 400 years in the future, the human and alien crew of The U.S.S. Orville, a mid-level exploratory spaceship, must continue to find a balance between facing the wonders and dangers of outer space while also dealing with everyday life. They’ll make first contact with a new civilization and meet never-before-seen aliens, and they’ll also learn to deal with the typical relationship dynamics that can make things complicated when you also have to confront your adversaries together.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Scott Grimes (who plays Lt. Gordon Malloy) talked about the demands of working with show creator/co-star Seth MacFarlane, the fun of getting to live a childhood dream of pretending to be in space, the incredible sets and uniforms, balancing the show’s tone, the differences in making a second season, what most surprises him about the series, how often they crack up on set, and why he wouldn’t want to direct an episode of The Orville.
Collider: This show is both delightful and thought-provoking, and is such an odd, fun, quirky mix of things that make it very entertaining to watch. Is this show as much fun to make as it seems like it would be?
SCOTT GRIMES: It’s so funny, it’s a blast to make, getting the opportunity to live a child’s dream of pretending that you’re in space with creatures, and being on a spaceship, in general, but it’s the toughest job that I’ve had to do, as far as working with Seth [MacFarlane]. You try to raise yourself to what he expects and wants and sees in the project, which is not easy, all the time. It’s tough, on that level, to try to make him happy. I’m not saying that he’s a tyrant. He’s terrific to work for, but he’s also a comedic genius. He’s trying to make a specific show and be taken seriously, at the same time, so that’s a fine line that we ride. But yes, it’s an absolute blast, on the fantasy side of when you were a kid who was pretending to be a spaceman.
And you get to wear a really uniform and work on sets that are just beautiful.
GRIMES: Every time I walk on that bridge, it’s this two-story ship that was built, so when you walk onto it, there’s no pretending. You just feel like you’re on the ship. It’s pretty cool.
Does it ever become just another day at work, or are you always like, “I can’t believe I’m sitting here”?
GRIMES: It’s always, “I can’t believe I’m sitting here,” because every day is something new, with a new stunt, or a new hanging on wires in space. Every time I walk on the bridge, it’s just so rare, as an actor, to get to be on something that is built. It’s usually a little fake. That thing is solid. We shake it and we do explosions. Every day, I am so lucky to be doing the show.
At the same time, I would imagine that you’re also very grateful that you don’t have to spend all of the hours in make-up that some of your co-stars do.
GRIMES: No, shit. Last season, Seth and I did an episode where we were undercover as Krill. That was tough. I only had to do it for two weeks, but three hours of make-up and being in that prosthetic all day made me truly realize what Peter Macon, who plays Bortus, has to deal with, every day. He is such a trooper, so I can’t really complain. I’m really lucky that I don’t have to go through that like he does.
This is one of those shows that’s hard to describe to people. When this was originally presented to you, how much did you actually know about what it would be and what the tone would be?
GRIMES: I’ve worked with Seth and we’ve been friends, long before we worked together, for 20 years now, so I knew what the tone was going to be because he can’t not have that Seth MacFarlane tone with his writing. I knew it would be quirky. But when we were going to do the pilot, Jon Favreau, who directed our pilot, said, “We’re either gonna knock this out of the park, or fail miserably,” because we just didn’t know how it was gonna come across in live-action. With cartoons, it’s one thing. You can rewrite and redraw. Here, we were trying something new. But the great thing is, he cast a bunch of his friends, so we knew what we were getting into, and then there’s a part of it that’s just pure luck that people enjoyed it. If we weren’t confident in it, then I think that would show, and we were really confident in what we were doing. If we failed doing it, we didn’t care. We were just throwing caution to the wind. So, I knew what we were getting into, but that didn’t mean that we knew the outcome.
Were there any ways that Season 2 felt significantly different from or bigger than Season 1?
GRIMES: Season 2 is completely bigger. Even though the first couple of episodes didn’t really show that, it gets gargantuan soon. The great thing about doing Season 2 was our confidence. We knew that we had an audience, we knew we could get a little more dramatic and serious, and we knew that we could get a little tiny bit less goofy ‘cause we didn’t have to sell that anymore. We just knew what we were. It’s like being a veteran on a sports team. You’ve been doing it awhile, so you have that confidence to try something new. Confidence is big in any vocation, but as an actor, if you can go in front of that camera with more confidence, it’s gonna show, and it makes you feel better.
As you’ve gotten deeper into the series and done more and more episodes, what has most surprised you about what this show has evolved into and what you’ve been able to do with it?
GRIMES: What surprises me is that we can have an episode about porn addiction in a simulator. I watched that episode and wondered how the people were gonna take it. This show surprises me, every week, with the social and political commentary that is underlying and sometimes not underlying. I like that Seth is using it to make some statements. We have this backdrop of it being a fantasy that’s in the future, but we’re still dealing with things that we’re dealing with now. I do love that we get that opportunity to have a message and not just be childish. I like that we’ve used the platform for that. I’m really happy about that, and that’s just gonna keep going, as we do more and more seasons.
This show always seems to maintain such an earnest optimism, which is a sci-fi that we don’t get to see much of these days. Is that hopeful side of sci-fi ever a challenge to maintain? When you watch the world going a bit insane, does it make it difficult to actually stay so hopeful and optimistic?
GRIMES: No. I love it. I wouldn’t be on the show, if it was this dystopian, stark world ‘cause I wouldn’t have the brains for that. I read this article many, many, many years ago – and I’m not comparing our show to Schindler’s List or anything – but they were giving Steven Spielberg crap for making a positive movie about a horrible event. What’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with changing something to show people that you can look forward and have a bright future? I love that because it would have been really easy to do the dark Star Trek kind of world, but that’s been done. As difficult as this is, we’re loving it. We’ve got uniforms that are bright. We look like Crayola crayons, and that, in itself, is fun.
What really struck me, in the first episode, was the scene where you guys were all sitting around and discussing what it was going to be like to have to stop the ship’s journey, so that one of your fellow shipmates could take his yearly pee. How do you guys keep a straight face, in those moments when you’re sitting around having such a serious conversation about something like that?