Penny Johnson Jerald & Mark Jackson Interview: The Orville Season


After two seasons on Fox, The Orville has made its way to Hulu for season 3. Subtitled New Horizons, the new season of Seth MacFarlane’s series finds the crew of the titular starship welcoming aboard new members as the war against the Kaylons wages on.

MacFarlane also leads the cast of The Orville alongside Adrianne Palicki, Penny Johnson Jerald, Scott Grimes, Mark Jackson, Peter Macon, J. Lee, Jessica Szohr, and Anne Winters.

Related: The Orville Season 3’s New Horizons Name Is Even Deeper Than You Realize


In honor of the recent finale of the show, Screen Rant spoke exclusively with stars Penny Johnson Jerald and Mark Jackson to discuss The Orville season 3, Claire and Isaac’s marriage, the potential future of the show, and more.

Warning: SPOILERS for The Orville season 3.


Screen Rant: Very excited to chat with you both again for this season, now that it’s wrapped, we gotta get into some spoilers. First, and foremost, you guys got married! It was a beautiful moment in the finale. Seth MacFarlane clearly has much of this show mapped out a lot, so how long have you known that you were eventually going to tie the knot and what was your first reaction when you heard that?

Penny Johnson Jerald: Okay, Mark, you are so wonderful in letting me go first, because you said ladies first, but I’m going to say husbands first.

Mark Jackson: Okay, well, I found out about all this, the whole arc of Isaac, including the Clisaac arc, before we started shooting from Seth. He does have it all mapped out, you’re absolutely right. That was great for me, because I just thought, “Wow, this is a perfect way for Isaac’s arc this season to end.” I was just kind of freaked out about how cool it would be to have a human/artificial intelligence marriage. That’s taking, that’s what The Orville does, isn’t it, it takes it just that little bit further that other shows wouldn’t do and I thought that was really fun. I did try to tell Penny all of this, but she wasn’t having any of it, part of her process is that she doesn’t want to know what’s going to be happening to her character in the future, because you can’t play that. It’s a very good point.

Penny Johnson Jerald: Like Mark said, I didn’t know because I didn’t want to know. And not just Mark, so many people tried to give me hints and I just wouldn’t listen. Wardrobe said, “We’re gonna have to have a lot of fittings.” I said, “Do I have a lot of changes? I’m not going to be in my uniform?” They go, “Oh,” and they looked at one another and I said, “Whatever it is, do not tell me, because I have not read the scripts and I don’t want to know.” Seth tried to tell me, because he’s really good at making sure you know what’s going on, and I said, “You know you don’t want to tell me, dude.” [Chuckles] So there you go. I didn’t know until we read it, and then when I read it, I went, “Oh my god. Really? Really? With Mark? Oh, my God, I love it. I’m very excited.”

Mark Jackson: I was slightly worried, because we’ve got some really heavy-hitting stuff this season, particularly in the episode before it, “Domino,” when Charly dies. I was slightly worried that it would feel a bit too light after all that, but it seems from looking at the reactions that it’s kind of what everyone needed in a way, which is lovely. It’s exactly the dessert everyone needed. after the 10-course meal of the seasons.


I would almost compare it to like going from Avengers: Infinity War to Ant-Man 2, where you have this dramatic ending and then you get a little palate cleanser before whatever comes next. Since you mentioned Charly’s death, that was something that I did not see coming at all this season, I really thought she was going to be a major player going forward. What were each of your reactions when you first learned that she would be dying?

Penny Johnson Jerald: Well, again, because I don’t read the episodes beforehand, I didn’t know, because I didn’t want to know. However, Anne kind of told everybody, “Well, I’m only here for 10 episodes,” so I’m thinking, “Who does that? Why? Oh, okay. Well, all right.” So I knew something was gonna happen, I didn’t know what it was, but I was telling her the other day that one of the saddest moments for me was the funeral and how each character, you’re really up close and personal through the lens. You got to see truly how that character effected the ship. When you’re doing a scene like that, at least with me, you cannot separate the personal feelings as the actor drawing from, “Oh, wow, so, okay, baby doll won’t be around.” So you have something to draw from, so it’s kind of sad.

Mark Jackson: Well, yeah, I mean, you need the drama and it was such a brilliant stroke of drama, having her sacrifice herself for everybody, really, but specifically for Kaylons and for Isaac. It was such a clever way to tie up Isaac and her’s relationship, but also it projects Isaac into the decision, in a way I feel, to propose to Claire.

Penny Johnson Jerald: Absolutely.

Mark Jackson: I think he’s very much aware of how little time Claire has compared to him and I think it motivates him to sort of get on with things a bit. I did know early on with everybody else, apart from Penny. [Laughs] I thought, actually, she’s the first sort of identifying as queer in some way character on the show, which was good. I think we could have pushed it a little bit further. When she’s talking about the love of her life that dies, that was really important to have that on the show. I think her arc is really cool this season and tied in so beautifully with everybody else’s.

Penny Johnson Jerald: Mark, I don’t know if you will agree with this, but that particular episode, 10, after going out and supporting the LGBTQ+ community and meeting those fabulous people, I wanted to go and just watch the show again, because it meant so much more to me after that. Charly being, as you say, queer or, what’s the appropriate identification, lesbian was what she was or?

Mark Jackson: I’m using queer as an umbrella term here, but yes, effectively, she could be lesbian.

Penny Johnson Jerald: But it definitely effected a whole community of people who don’t feel like their voice is heard and that’s one incredible thing about The Orville, a lot of voices are being heard finally. Even with Claire, the single parent voice is being heard, the older woman’s voice is being heard. With our Topa story, the LGBTQ+ community is being heard. The different aliens, the different nations in the universe, that’s like all the countries in the world on Earth right now are being heard, because everyone has a voice and everyone should be heard. That, I have to say, is the beauty and the genius behind The Orville. I don’t know if that was even your question, Grant, sorry. [Laughs]


No, I love it, because that actually does kind of go into my next question. Mark and I were talking about how The Orville is on right when we’re seeing Star Trek enjoy a big resurgence, and Star Trek has been known since the original series for exploring many of these socio-political themes. What is that like for both of you getting to explore these very timely, very heavy, but also important themes, through the lens of The Orville as Star Trek is also coming back?

Penny Johnson Jerald: I think it’s a responsibility if you have a platform that, without pushing it or beating people over the head, I think it’s our responsibility to present it. It’s definitely not your job to answer the questions or to judge people in any way, but the presentation is very important and to be a part of that platform that’s just so timely, especially for me right now. Politically, we can’t shy away from what’s really happening and what’s effecting people, because after all, people only watch television to either go into some world so they can just have some peace, because everything is just too chaotic for them, or they want to watch something so that they can get an understanding and get closer to this wonderful thing called real humanity. I’m really proud to be part of that, to be talent, to lend myself in any way. But what I refuse to do is to make fun of any group of people and I just want to be real and honest, so I’m really blessed to be part of The Orville.

Mark Jackson: I disagree with all of that. [Chuckles] No, of course, I agree with everything, it all makes sense. Penny and I were lucky enough to be in New York a couple of weeks ago working with Gays in Space, a nonprofit organization who promote queer representation in science-fiction and in the world, of science, like at NASA and stuff, it’s so cool, it’s very underrepresented in the world of science. Science fiction is getting better, Star Trek had been doing it and we owe a lot to Star Trek, but also some respect to them as well, because they have been waving the queer flag this year, or these last few seasons of Discovery, I haven’t watched the other ones yet, so I’m not sure.

But yeah, it’s a great responsibility to, if you can create worlds out of nothing, create worlds that are going to be helpful to us going forward that we can learn from and we can aspire to be like, I think that’s really important. But also, as Penny said, not clubbing people around the head with it. I think Seth is a genius in this respect and The Orville really works in the sense that you’ve got to create stories with enough room within the storylines for people to make up their own minds. For them not to feel like they’re being preached or dictated to.

Yeah, that’s been one of the best things about The Orville throughout all three seasons. Have you talked with Seth at all about what the future may hold for Claire and Isaac?

Penny Johnson Jerald: I’ve talked to everybody that I can talk to. [Laughs] Mark just you, correct me if I’m wrong, I’ll just speak for myself, The Orville has so much more to be said, so much more to explore, so many stories to start a conversation. If we ended it how we ended it, it would be sad, disappointing, but I think we did accomplish an awful lot. But I don’t think I’m finished with The Orville, so The Orville can’t be finished with me, that’s how I feel. And I want to know what happens with Isaac. I mean, truly, come on, you’re gonna have him helping finish raising these kids, maybe they’re in college, maybe Claire, as she pointed out to Isaac, “One day this flesh, I’m going to be old and aging and you will just be the same.” Dealing with things that people deal, with real issues so I want to do more.

Mark Jackson: Yeah, I agree. I feel like we’ve only just started with this, I feel like the season really kind of ups the game and we’ve all stepped up to meet it. Whether it does happen or not is not up to us, but it’s down to the fans, it’s down to the viewers. It’s a very expensive show to make, which is pretty much, I think, why we haven’t been renewed yet. They have to really be sure that it’s money well spent, I guess. I want to do more, let’s do more and Clisaac, of course, like, what a minefield, there’s so much fun to be had with they’re married now, what does a human/artificial intelligence marriage look like?

Penny Johnson Jerald: I can imagine you having parties in our place and letting our kids do whatever they want to do, because you don’t see any harm, but then I see all the other stuff that humans see. [Laughs]

Mark Jackson: Oh, if we do more, I don’t think you’ve seen the last time that Isaac has been told off by Claire. I think he’s gonna get it in the neck a fair amount.


Well, that’s always the fun about Clisaac, right, it allows him the chance to learn and allows Claire to also learn from him. Since you do mention the viewership, we did get the exciting news at Comic-Con that this is also coming to Disney+, which should hopefully boost those numbers. What was that like for you both hearing that news that it was getting yet another platform for people to watch on?

Penny Johnson Jerald: Oh my gosh, I think Hulu is just incredible, but of course, you want to expose as many people as you can possibly expose to The Orville. Those who are watching already on Hulu, and who have followed us from Fox to when Disney took over, i’s been fabulous. Just reading the comments and being able to interact with the fans has just been yummy off the charts truly, so if the fans can invite others to watch it on a platform that’s easier for them to watch it on, why not? The more the merrier, bring it on, bring it on!

Mark Jackson: Bring it on. Well, it’s only in the States that it’s not been on Disney+, in the rest of the world, like here in the UK, it’s been on Disney+ for a year and a half now. And I noticed as soon as they went on there, my friends would say, “Oh, I started watching The Orville,” because people have Disney+ and, particularly, families have it for their kids. I think this is the genius of it, that you’re going to have parents picking up on The Orville.

I was in an elevator in San Diego and a guy was there with his family, his wife and two kids, and he said to me, “You play Isaac on The Orville?” and I said “Yeah,” and he said, “We watch it as a family.” These two little kids are looking up at me terrified, but I think that’s a winning formula. If you can get a whole family sitting down to watch a show, then jobs are good then. I think the move to Disney+ in the States is just very promising, I feel like it’s Disney showing that they believe in the show.

Penny Johnson Jerald: I think the whole sci-fi fandom is probably looking forward to introducing The Orville to their children, because that’s how Star Trek was handed down. Your parents watched it and then they were excited about it, so you were watching it with your parents and then you had conversations about it. What a wonderful way to break the ice on topics that you may not know how to start, but The Orville can start them for you.

I’m certainly looking forward to seeing that fanbase grow with its secondary home here in the States alongside Hulu. Now before I let you both go, did you have any particular moment or scene in this season that you would call your favorite?

Mark Jackson: Do you want me to jump in while you have a think?

Penny Johnson Jerald: Well, I have so many! I think one of my favorite scenes was with a guest star and I think it’s because I was so excited to find out that Claire had a history and she had a relationship with her professor and I found myself being very excited, maybe because it was a human. [Laughs]

Mark Jackson: Rude! Rude!

Penny Johnson Jerald: Although I love everything that I’ve done with you, Mark, but that and the other one was when we were in the bed together, Mark. That was so exciting, I remember when we worked out and did all that, they shot it like this, that was one of my favorite times, as well. [Chuckles]

Mark Jackson: All I read was topless scene and that sent me into a panicking spiral. The first thing we did after we shot that scene was ate doughnuts, do you remember?

Penny Johnson Jerald: I remember! [Chuckles]

Mark Jackson: I enjoyed the whole emotion chip scene, that was really fun to do with you, but I particularly enjoyed our dancing. I like that, because we had to rehearse quite a lot for that. Then filming it was actually a pleasure, because you when you film a scene over and over again until you don’t even know what the hell you’re thinking anymore, it’s hard, but actually filming a dance over and over again was really pleasurable.

Penny Johnson Jerald: It was like being at the gym when you can’t. [Chuckles]

Mark Jackson: Yeah, it was a bit.

The Orville: New Horizons Synopsis

The Orville Crew

Seth MacFarlane’s epic space adventure series “The Orville” returns exclusively as a Hulu original series. Set 400 years in the future, “The Orville: New Horizons” finds the crew of the U.S.S. Orville continuing their mission of exploration, as they navigate both the mysteries of the universe and the complexities of their own interpersonal relationships.

The Orville: New Horizons is streaming in its entirety on Hulu and Disney+ now.

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