NYCC 2017: Cast & Crew of ‘The Orville’ Discuss ‘Star Trek’ Influences and the Direction of the Series

Six episodes in and the first season of Seth Macfarlane’s The Orville is tracking well with fans and has delivered a surprisingly dramatic approach to the science fiction genre. Without wasting any time the new FOX series has not only supplied some laughs, but has dared to address certain real life, social situations regarding gender identity and religion. At this year’s New York Comic Con, we were fortunate enough to have a sit down with a few of the stars and producers of the series and see what their thoughts are on the direction of the series.

While series creator Seth Macfarlane could not join us for our round table interviews, we did have a pleasant sit down with cast members Scott Grimes, who has previously worked with Seth on the animated series Family Guy and American Dad!, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine alum Penny Johnson, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. alum Adrianne Palicki. Additionally, producers Brannon Braga and David A. Goodman, who have both worked on numerous Star Trek series in the past, gladly discussed bringing their expertise to Seth MacFarlane’s new science fiction series.

Adrianne Palicki and Scott Grimes, who both come from working with ensemble casts, seem to enjoy their latest gig on The Orville, and are definitely very proud of the work they are now a part of. While the series is not without it’s humor, it still dares to address different social situations we are currently faced with now in our society. Episode three in particular, entitled “About a Girl”, delved into a story about gender identity in regards to a female being born into an alien race comprised almost entirely of males. The episode ended with a surprising conclusion that saw the newly born daughter of main character Bortus go through a forced gender reassignment. This was an ending Palicki and Grimes both seemed to be affected by, and even though the ending was sad Palicki appreciated it as it proves that they aren’t “always going to have a happy ending on the show.”

On a less serious note, Palicki and Grimes do discuss the amount of enjoyment they are both having working on The Orville. Palicki seemed very glad to have worked with a powerhouse actress like Charlize Theron in the fifth episode entitled “Pria”. As far as who each respective actor would like to see guest star on the series down the line, Grimes mentioned Seth Green, which would make total sense considering Green, Grimes, and Seth MacFarlane have worked continuously together on Family Guy and American Dad! Another actor that would work well in a cameo and would surely please plenty of Star Trek fans would definitely be Patrick Stewart, who Palicki says she would love to see on the show. Considering MacFarlane’s relationship with Stewart and Stewart’s recurring role on American Dad! this may not be that difficult to come by.

Penny Johnson, who plays Dr. Claire Finn on The Orville, isn’t a stranger to the science fiction genre, having played a recurring role as the wife of Captain Benjamin Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Like her Orville co-stars she too has ideas of people she would like to work with on the series, including Jeffrey Wright (Westworld) and former Castle co-star Kate Beckett. A recurring gag for Dr. Finn has been her interactions with Yaphit, a gelatinous alien voiced by comedian Norm MacDonald. Johnson discussed the oddities involved with acting against a CGI character who really isn’t there on set.

While The Orville clearly takes some inspiration from Star Trek series of the past, when asked about how it compares to said series, Johnson stated the show is not an homage or a parody but “truly is something that stands by itself,” referring to it as an original science fiction “dramedy”.

Johnson was also able to shed some light and tease upcoming stories involving her character, stating that Dr. Finn has children, and her relationship with her children may be explored in an upcoming episode.

Producers Brannon Braga and David A. Goodman, have both worked on numerous Star Trek series including Enterprise, Voyager, and The Next Generation and Braga himself was also one of the co-writers on the TNG films Generations and First Contact. Considering their respective backgrounds within the genre of science fiction, the two definitely bring a lot to the table and add some expertise to Seth MacFarlane’s vision.

When asked about the social situations addressed in ‘About a Girl’ and ‘If the Stars Should Appear’, Braga did mention that those ideas did “originate with Seth” and Goodman went further stating they intended to “challenge the audience’s preconceptions.” Goodman also teased that the conclusion of ‘About a Girl’ will have ramifications in an upcoming episode and it’s something they would like to continue exploring if the series were to get a second season.

As stated by Johnson before, The Orville is much like a dramedy, and Braga and Goodman did mention the hardships involved in discussing the series prior to it premiering in September. Goodman stated there was “a difficulty to explain what is this genre and where does this fit”, while Braga described previous round table interviews for The Orville as “absurd” stating simply that you just “have to see it.” And it looks like fans are.

It was definitely an enormous pleasure being able to sit down with the cast and producers of The Orville. Only halfway into its first season and the series is already gaining a new fan base and is pleasing plenty of fans of old school Star Trek series. Hopefully, the series is successful enough to continue going considering the immense pride cast members Palicki, Grimes, and Johnson have for it and the expertise Brannon, Goodman, and Seth Mac Farlane have brought to it. What are your thoughts on The Orville? Have you been enjoying the first season? Feel free to let us know your thoughts in the comments and in the mean time check out the trailer for the next episode of The Orville below airing Thursday, October 26 AT 9/8C on FOX.