Orville Update: ‘Star Trek’ Veteran McNeill Returns To Direct + Jessica Szohr’s Character Revealed

Photo credit: Brandon Ilano/The Sundial

Production is now well under way with the first few episodes of the second season of The Orville. Here’s a round-up of what we’ve gleaned from articles, interviews, and social media posts in the last couple of weeks.

Voyager’s McNeill helms episode shooting at familiar Trek location

The Orville cast and crew went on location to nearby California State University Northridge this week, the campus has the kind of retro-futuristic buildings from the ’70s that are popular with sci-fi productions. Thanks to the shoot being on an active university campus, lots of folks recognized The Orville shuttle prop on the lawn and of course saw the cast walking around, students took to social media to share with the world.

TV show Orville being filmed at my campus

Thanks to an Instagram video, we spotted director, and Star Trek: Voyager alumnus, Robert Duncan McNeill on location with Seth MacFarlane. McNeill also directed an episode for season 1 of The Orville. His return to direct was later confirmed on Twitter by MacFarlane, saying “Great to have Robert Duncan McNeill back in the director’s chair this week.”

The man of the hour @macfarlaneseth #TheOrville #SethMacFarlane #CSUN #Filming

A post shared by Debbie "Guido" Sal (@deborah_saladbar) on

The location shooting was very much done in the open on the CSUN campus, with no apparent attempts to maintain secrecy. Members of the cast even took time out to take selfies with students.

The Orville was shooting in front of CSUN’s main library building, the Delmar T. Oviatt Library. Trek fans will recognize it as it was used in both Star Trek: Voyager, and most recognizably as part of the Starfleet Academy grounds in Star Trek (2009).

The Oviatt Library at CSU Northridge in Star Trek (2009)

Jessica Szohr’s character revealed

Thanks to all the photos being posted on social media from the location shooting on the CSU Northridge campus, we also caught a glimpse of Jessica Szohr’s character in costume, with makeup. She appears to be a Xelayan, the same species as security chief Alara Kitan. She was also seen wearing a red security division uniform, like the one worn by Alara.

Jessica Szohr in character

And similar to how we found out about Chris Johnson’s character name of Cassius, we can make out Jessica Szohr’s character name from an image of a table read shared on Instagram by producer Jon Cassar.

The character’s full name isn’t shown, due to a stack of paper partially obscuring her name card, but it is something like “___la Keyali.”

Robert Picardo in the house

Speaking of the Kitan family, as we previously reported, Star Trek Voyager’s Robert Picardo was back to reprise his role as Alara’s father, Ildis Kitan. Producer Jon Cassar tweeted out a photo of himself with Picardo in Xelayan makeup and Seth MacFarlane.

More clues on Season 2

While details about Season 2 are generally being kept under wraps, TV Guide rounded up all the bits and pieces it could including new comments from the cast.

Penny Johnson Jerald (Dr. Claire Finn), told TV Guide:

“Well in season two you’re going to see more expansion of the characters, because in season one I think you got the groundwork, but in season two we’re elevating to different levels, we’re understanding relationships, we’re understanding inner workings of individuals, how they react to things and situations. And surprises, surprises, surprises.”

That 13th episode from season 1 which was held over for Season 2 will continue the story of Bortus and Klyden’s child. Peter Macon (Cmdr. Bortus) spoke to TV Guide about the episode, saying:

“It will be worth the wait, we did some stuff and changed some things with our child, so they had to retool it. It will still hold up. I was a little, ‘Oh no, they’re not going to see it!’ but it will bookend nicely once we come back to it. Also we’ll let you know that some time has passed, so that tells you that the issue [around the gender assignment] has not resolved. So rather than it being a closed chapter in Season 1, it’s going to extend itself to Season 2.”

As we covered in our last update, an Instagram story by J.Lee (Lt. Cmdr. LaMarr) teased a “legendary” actor hidden in alien make up for Season 2.

J.Lee’s Instagram “Legend” tease from last month

Mark Jackson (Isaac) also hinted at this person to TV Guide. TV Guide says he “was thrilled to share the stage with one famous guest star,” naturally Jackson wouldn’t divulge the identity, but he remarked:

“To be honest, he was so done up as an alien I couldn’t even tell who he was.”

More behind-the-scenes tidbits from social media

Here are a few interesting shares from cast and crew since our last update.

The Orville will return for Season 2 this Fall on Fox.

Keep up with all of The Orville news at TrekMovie.com.

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Excellent. Looks like they have genuine fun on the set. Looking forward to Season Two quite a bit.

Personally not a huge fan of the Orville, but I would love to see Discovery make more use of practical models like those mini Orvilles (assuming they are used for space shots.)

I feel like we could have a lot more beauty shots of the ship if they were practically shot vs CGI.

Loving that giant shuttle as well.

In other cases I would fully agree with you. In this case, the shuttle looks like a cheap fiberglass set piece, so no, CGI would be better if that silly looking shuttle is the best they can do with practical effects.

Onscreen it looks fine.

No, it really does not. Aside from the modest but genuine pleasure of seeing something built full-size, it is just a mess designwise, ugly and less functional looking than a TMP travel pod, with the awkward backing-in dock function and a shocking lack of aesthetic appeal. As much as I absolutely love that ORVILLE doesn’t utilize a dramatic crutch teleporter, seeing this shuttle week after week really sets my teeth on edge.

@Jack — I would agree. Onscreen it sort of reminds me of the STARGATE “puddlejumpers” — except when flying, then it takes on the unnerving look of a spermatozoa. But like the STARGATE puddlejumpers, and similar to TMP pods, the rear entry docking mechanism makes a lot of sense for this kind of design. I never really understood the side entry holdover from TOS (and contemporary commercial aircraft) which assumed a rear-craft propulsion design — which was kind of odd for such a small ship already designed with engines mounted on the sides. It is unfortunate that it looks more like something out of FLESH GORDON when in motion.

Like most TV, they’ll do post work to doctor it up like they did in Season 1.

I just hate the design for Orville’s shuttles. They remind me of nothing so much as those kid’s sneakers that light up.

Whereas, the Orville itself is sleek and beautiful.

Go figure

I don’t mind them. They’re definitely a little awkward, though. I never liked any of the TNG shuttles. They looked even cheaper — inside and out.

I find myself with the “shuttle’s design is uninspiring” camp. (Hey, site owners — any way we could get a poll?) It doesn’t have enough surface detail — now, I can well imagine SFnal reasons for an egg-smooth surface, such as protoplasers that can seamlessly seal the skin after maintenance — but this is TV, and it needs something (maintenance covers, navigation lights, fill ports…) to be convincing, IMHO.

By way of comparison: the bug-shaped Taelon shuttle from “Earth: Final Conflict.” Seamless, but with a segmented hull design, and visual interest when it transformed for interdimensional flight.

Paint it yellow and it’ll look like the Flying Sub (and just as un-airworthy).

Yeah, but the real question is, will it look as cool while crashing? (which I think was the Flying Sub’s main purpose.)

Great pics, thanks for sharing. I AM a huge fan of The Orville, as I think it captures the exact feeling of watching Star Trek: TNG, yet with even more warmth and humor.

I must say, I’m going to be very upset if they replaced Alara. And if the rumored dating with McFarlane is true and THAT’S why she’s out? Even worse. The blowback on this won’t be pretty. I hope I’m concerned for nothing.

I have to say that they really chose a horrible design for it’s shuttle. The Orville itself isn’t that sexy either.

Agree on the shuttle

… But not on the Orville. Gorgeous exterior. Most of the sets are great too, but the bridge, not so much.

I find the sets to be very generic. And that bridge is worse than the Enterprise D. Although, it would make a nice home theatre room! lol

Yeah not big on the Orville’s look either. But also not big on Discovery’s. They are both sort of growing on me the more I see them but I’m not rushing out to buy their model kits.

Cal State Northridge? That’s not that far from Twin Pines Mall, is it? (Or is it “Lone Pine Mall”?)

@CD — depends on which timeline you’re living in …

Wasn’t the mall used in BTTF located in the City of Industry 40 miles away? Or am I thinking of a different 80s movie?

I love the Orville.

Now they are even copying Babylon V characters with that J’Kar look-alike.

Not impressed.

Barely looks like G’Kar (not J’Kar) from Babylon 5 (not V). Otherwise, impressive comment.

Your response illustrates a classic process over substance retort, son. Congrats!

And no, he looks very close to “G’Kar,” including the spots and recessed eyes and mouth.

Not seeing even the slightest similarities to G’Kar at all, though it does look like somebody just slapped horns on some generic TNG/24th century Trek mask. A little below expectations for ORVILLE, but not surprising, but then again, this image isn’t in production lighting, which I hope and pray will be more moody and contrasty and less TNG-like this year.

“Not seeing even the slightest similarities to G’Kar”

– The skin spots on similar amphibian skin look nearly identical to G’Kars

– Very similar Recessed eyes

Really? Not “even the slightest?” I could get it if you disagreed, but to say “not even the slightest” ignores a couple of obvious similarities.

No, my reply was a classic “hey, you don’t know what you’re talking about” retort. As in, if you can’t get the character’s name right, you don’t have much credibility talking about the character’s looks.

Aside from “spots”, it’s nothing like G’Kar. Get over it, child.

LOL. Your condescending-bully nonsense that I have seen you pull on others here will get no traction with me. ;-)

Hahaha, you’re funny for a troll, kid. By the way, what you just did is called projection, as in you projected your own behavior (condescending-bully) onto me.

You can’t go around calling people “son” and pretend you’re not condescending.

Now, get over yourself and move along. You have nothing of value to say here, as you have so clearly proven.

Not impressed. Next?

Yea, when I first saw this Orville character, my immediate reaction was that they had included a fat-headed version of G’kar from B5. This show does nothing original, so it’s not at all surprising; heck, they even have Vulcan-looking characters.

Exactly. They copied the look of G’Kar, but made his head wider.

@BorgKlingon — I was getting a kind of Gorn vibe, so who knows what they were thinking. Since they’ve surrounded themselves with Trek alums, probably Trek … there’s plenty of Trek characters that have similar looks …

Maybe, but look at this photo of G’Kar, and notice how they even copied the spots and the recessed eyes on his reptilian head? Looks to me like someone said, “do a G’Kar, but make him look a bit different.” Remember, there is nothing original about this series; it’s all derivative of better shows that came before.


It’s hard to take you seriously when you misspell G’Kar’s and clearly don’t even know what G’Kar looks like since he looks nothing like that.

If this person doesn’t know what G’Kar looks like, then why would he post a link to G’Kars photo? You are not making sense?

This Orville alien is obviously a G’Kar derivative in my opinion. You are entitled to a different opinion, but playing Spelling Policeman on someone who misspells a character from a largely forgotten 90’s series is just weak.

“you…clearly don’t even know what G’Kar looks like”

Huh? I actually posted a link to his photo in my post that you are responding to here? Weird response?

I may need to work on my spelling skills, but at least I have 3rd grade reading comprehension skills mastered.

@BorgKlingon – Yep, I’d say “3rd grade reading comprehension skills” are exactly what you demonstrate. Too bad you never progressed from there.

I know you are used to others here responding in kind to your troll bait attacks – you obviously crave that sort of discourse.

Not me, David; oh darn, of course I meant, “Paul.” First I am making spelling errors; now I can’t tell the difference between two posters here. How silly of me to make this mistake. ;-)

David? Huh? You aren’t funny, kid. And your attempts to label me a troll are laughable. Seriously, why are you such a disagreeable little child? Grow up.

Closing thread and warning to all who are engaging in personal insults.

– The Management

Damn. I got hooked and I am counting down the days to Orville’s S2. Laugh at me all you want, call me a hater, call me what you will – but I chuckle, it makes me think and it uplifts me. Thanks Seth. This is my Trek.

I won’t laugh at you, Martin. I’ll support you. Not only is The Orville more uplifting, it addresses various social issues in every episode. Discovery addresses social issues to a much less extent each week, and has a lot less to say.
The Orville is my Trek too. Not everyone thinks that darker is better, or fitting in with the current trends on TV makes it better. I like the Orville because it is fun and it has something to say.

Discovery will be doing different things for Season 2 so it will be interesting what they do this time. I hope that the show does more self contained episodes peppered through the Season, it works far better than doing season long arcs in my opinion.

I’ve dipped in and out of both Orville and Discovery. Both shows have plenty of room to get better in S2. Here is hoping both shows succeed in this manner.

Can I call you later for dinner? :-))

Why would anyone call you a hater just cause you love a certain show?

Another Star Trek scoop: MacFarlane & Halston Sage spotted at area hotspots Spork! and Le Chiffre.

Holy, Issac is darned handsome with the mask off.

At first, I thought the whole concept (and the costume) was a little silly — but the character has grown on me. And, surprisingly, the costume works, I think.

I enjoy this show. I’m usually pleasantly surprised by how well episodes work.

Keyla Keyali

Has the Season 2 premiere date been announced yet?

My search only turned up “later this year.”

Matt Wright

Cool, thanks.

I was soo soo skeptical of the Orville and generally don’t enjoy Sci-Fi other than Star Trek. But damn. I LOVE the Orville. It’s my favorite show on TV right now. And yes. As a Star Trek purist I believe it to be the better Star Trek and consider it miles and leagues ahead of Discovery. And that includes (inner) continuity (like as part of only the series itself… especially for Discovery, if we disregard all other Star Trek shows/movies), general story-telling, character development, narative development, filming techniques, pacing,…

Any advice on how to watch The Orville? I use a PS4 to stream Netflix and Amazon. I have a dinky indoor antennae to pick up digital broadcasts.

@Fasafan — if you can’t pick up a FOX station on your “dinky” indoor antenna, you can always stream it the day after it airs on the FOX website. There should be a FOX app for the PS4. You can do this for free, or you can subscribe to HULU and get additional programming.

I’m calling Sir P-Stew as the hidden alien actor. Eyes, jaw, lip. Would be awesome! But…. I was kind of hoping he’d show up as an admiral.

It’d be funnier if he turned up as a whiney Ensign, given TAPESTRY.

As God is my witness, when I saw that pic of the 3D printed Orville models, for a second I thought they were a group of ladies’ shoes…