Interview: Seth MacFarlane On How ‘The Orville’ Is Filling The Void Star Trek Left Behind

Believe it or not, we here are still sorting through everything we gathered at last weekend’s San Diego Comic-Con. One of the things we can now bring you is some exclusive interviews we did with cast and crew of The Orville, Seth MacFarlane’s Star Trek inspired dramedy coming to Fox this fall. The highlights were talking to Seth along with two former Star Trek writer/producers and Penny Johnson (aka Kasidy Yates on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine).

Here is our video interview with Seth (with quotes from him along with the others below)

Seth MacFarlane is bringing back optimistic sci-fi

Seth MacFarlane is most famous for creating hit animated comedies like Family Guy but he is a life long fan of Star Trek and science fiction. He is also a fan of real science and was the driving force in rebooting Cosmos. TrekMovie talked to him about his dream of making his own sci-fi show.

How long have you wanted to do a Star Trek-like sci-fi show?

Seth MacFarlane: You know me really well. [The Orville] is really the show that I came out to Hollywood to make more than anything that I have done, so a long time.

This is your dream project?

SM: I love comedy and I love sci-fi and to try to exist in both worlds is challenge, but to do it in an hour-long format is an absolute joy and there is a certain kind of aspirational, hopefully, optimistic sci-fi that hasn’t really been done in fifteen or twenty years. Star Trek did it for a long time and then they evolved into something different so it left open that space. That thing that we all used to love so much is what I am trying to recapture while putting a brand new spin on with some ingredients that no one has ever seen before.

It is being billed as a dramedy or a mix of comedy and sci-fi, so on a scale of Family Guy to Cosmos, where does The Orville fall?

SM: It’s probably somewhere in the middle, probably leaning a little more towards Cosmos, but it is probably in the middle. It is very different than Family Guy, let’s put it that way. Tonally, it is it’s own beast.

It has been said you want to tackle allegorical issues, sort of like Star Trek. What would be an example of an issue that the crew of The Orville might tackle?

SM: It is so hard to give stuff away. There is the character of Bortis which is a single-gender species, all male. What we do with that – there are two ways to go: you can treat that as a gag, or you can delve into that the real-life politics and consequences will be. And we do do that. These characters are set up the way they are for a reason. We want characters that tell legitimate sci-fi stories that include an element of comedy, but at the same time we are an hour-long show. We are an episodic show so each episode has a beginning, middle and end, it is not serialized. But we do take the job seriously of telling actual sci-fi stories that have relevance.

Seth MacFarlane, Adrianne Palicki, Halston Sage, Penny Johnson Jerald, guest star Brian George and guest star Christine Corpuz in The Orville

Brannon Braga and David A. Goodman: Don’t call Orville A spoof

The Orville features a number of Trek vets working with MacFarlane. The two most notable ones are probably executive producers Brannon Braga and David A. Goodman. Braga has more Trek writing credits than any other writer and worked on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Voyager and Enterprise as well as co-writing two Trek feature films. Goodman worked with Braga as a writer and consulting producer on Star Trek: Enterprise. He has also written  three in-universe Star Trek reference books, including the upcoming “Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard” and wrote Futurama’s Star Trek homage, “Where No Fan Has Gone Before.”

A lot of people are describing The Orville as a Star Trek spoof or parody. Would you say that is a fair assessment?

Brannon Braga: Not really. It is not making fun of shows like that or science fiction in general. It is its own thing. If anything it is a tribute to that kind of storytelling. We are not really making fun of it. It is not that broad.

David A. Goodman: In a spoof, the jeopardy wouldn’t be real. The dramatic elements wouldn’t be real, and that is not true on Orville. In Orville we are invested in these characters and their success, even though there are a lot of moments of humor between them.

Would you say this show is a comedy with elements of sci-fi or the opposite, a serious sci-fi show with moments of comedy?

BB: Hopefully the perfect balance between real, emotional stakes and comedy. It is a balance we talk about every day. Some episodes are flat out comedy from the beginning to the end and some are little more serious, so it won’t be the same each week.

DG: But even those straight-out comedies will have at the base of them a serious science-fiction element so that we are always playing that. So the writing staff is one half comedy writers and one half drama writers. And that was our intent – let’s mix them every step of the way.

BB: And we hate each other.

DG: We do not like each other.

The crew of the U.S.S. Orville in The Orville premiering this fall on FOX

Penny Johnson happy to be back in space

Star Trek fans will recognize Penny Johnson Jerold (Kasidy Yates from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), who plays Dr. Claire Finn, “one of the Union’s most accomplished physicians” on The Orville. TrekMovie talked briefly with the actress about her return to space. 

This is a return for you coming from Deep Space Nine, what’s it like to be back in space again?

Penny Johnson Jerrold: Not only am I in space, I am outta space. Outta space in that this is so much fun. Not to say that Deep Space Nine wasn’t fun. Deep Space Nine was crafting — almost Shakespearean. This is a different kind of thing, being in space. It is very naturalistic and very realistic, with a lot of funny. So it’s a dramedy and a true playground for me. I look forward to going to work every day. It’s truly fun.

Seth MacFarlane, Penny Johnson Jerald, Scott Grimes, Peter Macon, Halston Sage and Mark Jackson in The Orville

The Orville premieres Sunday September 10th at 8PM on Fox

TrekMovie SDCC17 interviews

Sonequa Martin-Green on First Officer Michael Burnham

Anthony Rapp on Lt. Stamets in ‘Star Trek: Discovery

Shazid Latif on Lt. Tyler in ‘Star Trek: Discovery’

‘Discovery’ showrunners Aaron Harberts and Gretchen Berg and executive producer Heather Kadin

Mary Wiseman on Ensign Tilly in ‘Star Trek: Discovery’

More TrekMovie SDCC17 coverage

Full ‘Discovery’ panel video and official post-panel cast interviews

‘The Orville’ panel report and new trailer

‘Discovery’ press conference report

New trailer and images from ‘Star Trek: Discovery’

IDW Panel reveals details for ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ and Boldly Go comics

See ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Federation and Starfleet Props and Costumes

See ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Klingon Costumes And Props

Klingon Torchbearer Revealed + Gentle Giant Announces Discovery Collectibles

‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Concept Art Details Klingon And Federation Ships

Stay tuned for even more coverage of San Diego Comic-Con.

 

 

 

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