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Interview: Mark Jackson on The Orville Season 2

Seth MacFarlane’s science fiction comedy series The Orville was a surprise hit with us when it premiered back in September 2017  alongside prequel Star Trek Discovery. For us it felt very much like the original old school Star Trek series in the way that the show explored new species, new planets and missions and it was genuinely pretty hilarious! 

The show finally returns for a second season today (10th January) at 9pm on FOX UK and we caught up with actor Mark Jackson who plays fan favourite Isaac to discuss all things season 2!



NA: How have things been since the success of the first series? You’ve experienced San Diego Comic-Con and you’ve also moved to America, it must be going pretty well!

MJ: Oh well yeah, lots has been going on in the last two years for me! So I moved to America on New Years Day, 2017 to do the show and obviously it’s quite an auspicious date to do that and to travel as well. You know, the start of the year and a big new life over in America. I mean, it’s not like I was string free, I was leaving behind my fiancee, I was leaving behind all my friends and family – so it was a mixed bag. But I was going to Hollywood, so that’s obviously a great thing, to work on a crazy new show which I guess you will all have seen now which is great. It was a strange experience but a great one in the end.

And yeah, we’ve been to Comic-Con a couple of times now and I think we were going to go as a cast to the New York Comic Con this year, but it didn’t quite work out ’cause we ran over filming somewhat. The nice thing about Comic-Con is that it’s the sort of only opportunity where we get, so far, to meet our fans face-to-face, the show fans, so that is really lovely. We do a big poster signing, and we get to have chats with people and lots of interviews and stuff, but it’s our only real taste at the moment of the actual audience face-to-face.

NA: What are the fans reactions to you like so far, as you’re wearing a suit in the show!

MJ: Well you can never really prove it, let’s face it! They’ve reacted to Isaac really well. I keep on saying this, but I think he’s the weirdest character on the show and I think people gravitate towards weird don’t they – I mean, I certainly do when I watch anything really, but it’s particularly sci-fi and fantasy. I literally just got to see Fantastic Beasts and it’s such a pleasure to watch because you just sit there and you have all these imagined creatures in front of you, which has always been a huge pleasure for me to see and to read. And so, actually, to be one of them now is really fun, so it’s great to play around with that. So yeah, it’s really nice to have people’s reactions to Isaac, a lot of people say that he’s their favorite character, which I think is really sweet. I don’t know if they’re just saying it because they’re standing in front of me – I suspect I’d do the same!

Obviously as the show goes on, it’s becoming slightly more apparent that it’s me who’s playing him, because there was the whole Brent Spiner thing with the voice, which was very funny. I don’t know if you knew about that on Twitter, but Brent Spiner who plays Data in Star Trek: Next Generation kept on being asked on Twitter if he was playing Isaac in The Orville. He obviously got so pissed off about it that he made a tweet saying no, that is not me, it’s this guy, which brought a lot of Twitter traffic my way, so thanks very much, Brett!

NA: What would you say your favourite scene or line was to film from the first series? My personal favorite has to be the Mr Potato Head scene!

MJ: Yes, yes, nicely humiliating! Yeah, that was good to film because of the reaction to all of the other cast when I walked in, that was great fun. Of course pieces of it kept falling off while we were filming, so everyone found that hilarious. And I wouldn’t even notice, to be honest with you because you can’t feel it when you lose something.

I can actually see quite well through the helmet, they’ve been very clever with that. I don’t know how they’ve done it! They’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and used some sort of NASA technology to make it work, but I’m very greateful for it.

NA: So what can you tell us about season two of The Orville? Do you think we’ll see any more Kaylons at all as Isaacs is the only representation at the moment?

MJ: I mean, you might do…but you’ll have to tune in to find out!

I’d say we certainly learn more about the Kaylon, a lot more in fact, it’s pretty epic, so there’s a whole two-parter very much about Kaylon stuff – but I don’t wanna tell you too much because it just spoils it! Also I might get fired, so I’m going to step back and not tell you too much, but yeah, it’s really cool. I actually wrote an email to the writers after we wrap just saying thank you for giving Isaac so many brilliant things this season. He goes on so many arcs and has so much action and gets to save the day a lot. So it’s really good for Isaac this year and I think anyone who likes him is gonna really like the show even more because of it.

THE ORVILLE: Mark Jackson as Isaac in the new space adventure series THE ORVILLE from the creator of “Family Guy.” The first part of the special two-part series premiere of THE ORVILLE will air Sunday, Sept. 10 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT), immediately following the NFL ON FOX Doubleheader. ©2017 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Noah Schutz/FOX

NA: And you have some new additions as well this series?

MJ: We do – the awesome Jessica Szohr! So it’s no secret now that she’s involved but she is just so fun to have around. We’ve also got lots of cameos from pretty well-known actors as well like we did in the first season.

NA: They were great!

MJ: Yeah, and it’s surprising how people are queing up to part of it, and it’s not just to play a human, it’s to play some strange alien and you know, often you can’t even tell they’re a celebrity or if they’re an actor you know, because they’re so covered up in strange make-up, but they just love doing it.

NA: Yeah, Rob Lowe was head to toe in blue paint!

MJ: Right?! And I reckon most people who watched the first episode had no idea! So when he turned up later on they were like, “Ohhh okay, I know you from somewhere…” so that’s been really fun. The main cast is pretty much the same, but it’s the supporting cast that keeps on changing and yeah, it’s really cool.

NA: You’ve done a bit of writing before, if you could write an episode for Isaac what would you love to see him do? Would you get a cat for the bridge?

MJ: The cat for the bridge? I still don’t think he understands cats to be honest with you. The whole bonding experience – I’m not sure he quite got it! He has difficulty dealing with the intelligence of humans, let alone cats, dogs, canaries or whatever. I think that it’s probably best not to leave him with one, I mean he’s scarily strong as well, we might end up with something crushed and dead by accident, perhaps!

I don’t know, there’s so many great things you can do with Isaac, he’s in many ways a blank slate and he’s bit of a sponge as he goes round the Orville world collecting data and not just on quantities of things, but also on the nature of relationships and friendships and the different sort of emotional vortexes that biologicals can end up in. There’s so much that you can do with him, I would never pretend to better what Seth and our fantastic team of writers has done for the show! But I do think about things that we can do with Isaac and where he can go, maybe let’s chat about this next year, perhaps and I’ll be able to be a bit more candid.

NA: How would you describe Isaac’s perfect date?

MJ: Well, I suppose he quite likes someone who talks a lot because if he did all the talking, well he wouldn’t wanna do all the talking, as he wants to gather all that data and find a lot nuances in a person’s personality. So yeah, he’d like a chatty date I reckon and he doesn’t eat so that would be awkward. I mean it would have to be a, I don’t know, maybe like a space walk, or something? A chatty space walk.

NA: What’s it like being a Brit living in America? I know you’ve done some work in theatre, so is Broadway much different?

MJ: I’ve not worked on Broadway, I’ve been to watch Broadway shows a lot, which is great ’cause I often hop by New York on the way home to break up the jet lag, which is great because it’s eight hours difference, but also because I’ve now got a few friends in New York, which is nice. So Broadway is fantastic, the discipline for the performers on Broadway, is very, very high – always has been, I think, and it’s great to see the shows they have there. They often have shows there that we get later on, I want to see something fantastic the other day called ‘Come From Away’, which is opening in London soon, about 9/11. It sounds really depressing doesn’t it, but it’s great, you should all go and see it. It’s about all those planes that were grounded in NewFoundland during 9/11 and they descended on this small little town and the town put up around 700 people for four days and it’s just a brilliant and joyous, feel-good musical. Anyway, that’s a complete side-track but broadway is great.

Living in America as a Brit, in L.A particularly, is exactly like the series Episode, if you’ve seen that? So it’s very, very similar and the way the Americans come across to us is very similar and baffeling sometimes! Definitely after two years though I’ve kind of acclimatised I think, and I’ve met so many wonderful people who are just so full of Joie de vivre. They really wanna make shit happen, and it’s so nice to be around that because Brits will only commit to something if we are absolutely certain that we can pull it off and that’s fine obviously, that means generally, nobody gets hurt or gets let down, but at the same time, I think a lot less risks are taken there, and it’s fun to be around risk takers.

NA: Does the cast hang out outside of set?

MJ: Yeah, we do but it depends if we’ve had a 200 hour week, I don’t know if that’s possible actually, but if you’ve been on set for 15 hours a day for five days, the last thing you really wanna do is hang out in a bar with each other! But we do, there’s often a day when we’re like shall we pop round to the hotel next door for a drink and we go out to dinner and those are really special nights, we really have a good time. It tends to happen at the beginning of a season because the shit tends to hit the fan towards the end because the workload just becomes huge and there’s all the stuff that you need to catch up on, and that gets added to and added to, and it’s sort of snowballs! So the earlier on in the season the better as everyone’s a bit more chilled out.

NA: Are you watching anything else at the moment? I know you are a fan of sci-fi, as well as The Orville.

MJ: So I just binged The Expanse pretty quickly, I love that. Loved Star Trek: Discovery, thought that was great and looking forward to all that coming back. So yes, loved both of those, but sci-fi wise, I started watching The Thirst slowly, so that’s good as well. I’m also re-watching, again, for the fourth time, the entire seasons of Peep Show – I just can’t get enough of it, it’s so funny.
And I’m enjoying all the David Attenborough stuff and we finished House of Cards so quickly. It’s funny really, you kind of go through really different phases now with box sets and things don’t you – you’ll finish something quite quickly and you’ve got it in your head, and then you’re on to the next thing. 

NA: What’s next in the pipeline? Obviously The Orville is coming out on the 30th December in the US and then 10th January on Fox in the UK…

MJ: Oh great! I thought it would be later, that’s fantastic news, thank you for telling me! I’m sure my publicist has sent me that in an email and it’s got lost my junk folder or something…

Well, I recently got married so we’re going to be going off on a honeymoon at some point in the next couple of months and I’m shooting a short film when I get back after that, which will be nice. I need to make sure that I don’t get too brown for that though because the part does not require me to be tanned! So I’m doing that and I’ve just done a bit of filming this week, which is nice. So, yeah, I’m just mucking around with friends and writing a bit and just seeing where the next few months takes me.

NA: Anything in the theatre coming up at all?

MJ: No, not at the moment, I haven’t done anything in the theatre for around two and a half coming up to three years now. It would be nice to do some, but it’s funny with theatre, it’s so time consuming that you sort of have to say goodbye to TV and film work for a little bit, so you kind of have to pick what you want do in advance, so yeah, it’s bit tricky with theatre. I mean I love it and I will always go back to it, so I know it’s there.

NA: You’re in London at the moment so I’m sure you’re probably gonna watch something while you’re here!

MJ: Oh yeah, I already have! I went to see Jungle at the playhouse which was great. I want to see Sisters, the Angela Carter play at the Old Vic. Something with sisters in! What’s wrong with me?! Anyway, that was very good, there’s lots I want to see yes.

NA: Have you seen Hamilton? That’s the big one!

MJ: Well, I saw that on Broadway actually, so that was great. There’s nothing else like it, it was fantastic. It’s funny actually, as a Brit, and I’d know actually how it’s gone down here. But as a Brit, who doesn’t necessarily really know the history, because we don’t get taught it in our school do we, of Hamilton and of that period in American politics. I think it’s a lot harder going for us Brits to watch the show because we’re really having to pay attention to figure out what the hells going on! Whereas for I think for the Americans, it’s obviously drummed into them all their lives, so I think they can probably relax when they watch it. So I think another viewing might be very useful for me actually! But it is very good.

The Orville season 2 premieres on FOX UK tonight at 9pm.