Seth MacFarlane and the Orville at PaleyFest

It was all about the PaleyFest at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre last week. The Paley Center’s annual festival brought forth some of the top names to celebrate the best in television. The week-long festival kicked off with a tribute to Barbra Streisand and rolled out the red carpet for the likes of Will and Grace, Stranger Things and the Orville.

I was thrilled to spend my St. Patrick’s Day afternoon with Seth MacFarlane and the cast and creatives behind his hit sci-fi series, the Orville. While certainly most beloved for Family Guy and the Ted movies, the Orville finds MacFarlane channeling his inner Gene Roddenbury.

As my husband has made me a Trekkie, I was skeptical when he first put on the Orville a few months back. I envisioned a spoof, parody, of a franchise I have come to love. What I discovered with the Orville is a clever show not afraid to push boundaries. To make the viewers think while not shying away from comedic moments and one liners we all can laugh at.  Much like the sci-fi classics that have come before it.  I was proven wrong as it’s in no way a take-off of any one series.  The Orville can stand on it’s own.

The Orville at PaleyFest

In attendance for the Orville afternoon at PaleyFest was the entire cast as well as Executive Producers Cherry Chevapravatdumrong, Jason Clark, David Goodman, Brannon Braga and Executive Producer, Writer and Creator, Seth MacFarlane, respectively.

“We’ve kinda always viewed this show, and Star Trek as well, as an anthology series with recurring characters” explained MacFarlane, who plays Captain Ed Mercer. “The tone should be dictated by what the story is. If you’re telling a story like the Rob Lowe episode, you can keep it more light. If you’re telling a story like Bortus’ baby, you can’t be peppering jokes and taking away from the matter.”

The latter could be one of the strongest episodes to date in the show. Lieutenant Commander Bortus (Peter Macon) plays a Moclan. Moclans are a single gender species that procreate by laying eggs. Yet, he and his partner hatch a baby girl. While the immediate instinct is to abort this perfectly healthy baby (since it’s looked on as a dreadful disability in the Moclans world), a heated fight on Captain Mercer’s part to keep this girl alive rises.

Photo: Brian To for the Paley Center.
The creative team. Photo: Brian To for the Paley Center.
Photo: Brian To for the Paley Center.

When asked why an episode like this is important: “Good science fiction should certainly touch on every subject. That’s what sci-fi should do” he explained, “The fans were game for any story we want to tell. In this genre, there should be nothing off limits. It goes back to the Twilight Zone. I think the second you start closing off, especially ones of the moment, you’re not doing your job.”

When the audience was invited to ask questions, I was pleased at the thoughtful ones proposed. One asked about holding the power of not only poking fun at pop-culture, but shaping it as we move forward and what does that mean? Penny Johnson Jerald gave a powerful answer. One that I think would have made her character, Dr. Clare Finn, proud.

“I’m a Christian and I love doing the Orville. I have some people who want to judge me. ‘Oh my God, you’re doing a show like that?’ I said Of course I am. What you want to do is present the issues and be generous and loving enough to let people make their own decision. We have this one life. We’ve gotta live it. I’ve been doing this business for sometime and people often ask that question. If you’re not apart of being the light in the room you’re just allowing anything to be tossed up. I always want to be a light in the room. Whether its loving on people or doing excellent with the script. Playing Claire I find is extraordinary. Seth and the writers have allowed me to be three dimensional and not just one. I get to do everything!”

While I was hopeful to get the microphone brought over to me, a young woman who traveled all the way from the UK to be there, beat me to my question. We were interested about Captain Mercer’s obsession with Kermit the Frog. On the series, Ed keeps a small stuffed Kermit toy on his desk. MacFarlane’s answer could not have been more perfect.

“I (effing) love the Muppets. I think the Great Muppet Caper is one of the best movie-musicals ever made. I’m a  big Henson fan. I was astonished with what they pull off. I feel like Hensen never got his due as an actor. Kermit’s basically a sock puppet and there’s so much so much soul in that character”

Those who know me well may know that I also LOVE the Great Muppet Caper! But, when asked about any details into season two of the Orville, we got a quick “nope!” from Seth.

While I can understand the desire to stay mum, I was a bit disappointed. The PaleyFest is such a fantastic time to spotlight where your series is going. With deep plots and impressive guest stars thus far like Charlize Theron and Liam Neeson, I am sure we are in for a great trip back to the Orville this Fall.

(*Disclosure: I attended as a guest of the media for this afternoon. All opinions are my own.)

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