Adrianne Palicki And Penny Johnson Jerald Talk The Orville Season 3 - Exclusive Interview

Current co-stars Adrianne Palicki and Penny Johnson Jerald both have long-established careers in the entertainment industry. Many will know Palicki from her time as Tyra in "Friday Night Lights," and she has also appeared in big films like "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" and "John Wick." You might recognize Jerald from TV staples such as "24," "Castle," and "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine." Now, they are both starring in the futuristic sci-fi "The Orville: New Horizons." Palicki plays Kelly Grayson, and Jerald plays Dr. Clair Finn — both members of the exploratory spaceship crew.

With Season 3 of the series premiering on Hulu on June 2, the actresses sat down for an exclusive interview with The List to discuss their roles. They revealed some of the many changes behind the making of this season, including the show moving to Hulu and the obstacles during filming due to COVID lockdowns. The actresses also shared what makes "The Orville" so special and why being part of the cast is different from other TV shows they've been part of.

What it was like stopping filming for COVID

Do you feel like there were any big changes to the show going into this season?

Penny Johnson Jerald: We're on Hulu. That one's big, and [there are] lots of big changes.

Adrianne Palicki: The gravity of it, the bar went from ... it was pretty high, but it's now here. The amount of freedoms we had, and the intensity of the episodes ... It's been quite a journey.

I know that filming got interrupted by quarantine. What was it like having to stop in the middle and then come back?

Penny: Well, all life was interrupted during that time. Honestly, at the beginning of the break, I said, "Yes!" because I felt like I needed it. I went, "Whoa, this is cool to be off in the middle," because you can reset and understand that "I didn't quite get that there, but we're not finished with that episode." So I'm able to bring it in for the rest. But then, as time went on and on and on, it was challenging to be away from it, knowing that we had a tease ... "We're going to come back in June," then "We're going to come back in September."

Adrianne: It was May at first.

Penny: Then we were going to come back in October, and then finally in November, we came back.

Adrianne: It was definitely ... We'd been working really hard, so I'm with you. Both Penny and I have homes outside of LA, so it was also this feeling of, "Oh, two weeks, I get to go home and be with my pit bulls."

Penny: Right.

Adrianne: All of the sudden you're like, "Oh no, this is happening. This is real. This is a long-term situation." And obviously [it was] scary as hell.

Penny: You made the better choice, though, because at one time, when it felt like the whole world was changing, my husband and I said, "Oh, we better get back to LA." We thought we may not be able to get back to LA [with] planes and stuff like that. So I came home prematurely, thinking that we were going to start when we were told we were going to start. I should have waited for the last minute because I could have been at my other home for half a year.

Adrianne: Yeah, it was nice. That portion was nice.

How The Orville tackles big issues

What can you tell us about your characters and how they're starting out this season based on the Season 2 finale?

Penny: You'll see with almost all the characters that everyone has to deal with the Isaac situation. How do you allow someone that's betrayed friendship and trust ... How [does] he come back, or is he welcomed? That weighs on all the different characters, and we all have a different take on that, and we deal with it differently. I'm not sure if we have anybody who doesn't resolve it at all. I'm not privy to tell you that anyway, but it is an interesting journey, and it's a wonderful arc for the third season.

Adrianne: Absolutely. And for you [Penny] specifically as Claire, it's a really beautiful arc as well. Kelly's dealing with another arc that happens. Being the nurturer of the ship and people going to her, she has to deal with a problem that ends up being quite a few episodes and a very big deal with what's happening in the world today. It'll be apropos — I can't say anything more about that, but you'll also see an evolution of her relationship with Ed and see where that goes and a lot of things happening.

It's interesting because you have topics that relate to the real world, but you're in this sci-fi universe, so you get to approach them differently. Do you feel that gives you freedom in the way the story gets told?

Penny: Oh, yes. We're a moral compass, but we don't impose our beliefs on anyone. What we do is that we bring up situations so that you will have a conversation about it, and it is truly [an] art-imitating-life, life-imitating-art situation. That's one of the reasons why this season is so exciting, because we've been through so much in the last two years, and before that — I won't go there. But we've been through an awful lot, and we're saying what people are thinking, and we're bringing it out so that you can check yourself. I think that's it. This season is a "check yourself" season. It's about "What do you really believe?" and "What is truly important to you?" and "How do you want to invest your time and your efforts with life?"

Adrianne: Seth [MacFarlane], as somebody who can be very outspoken in his beliefs and thoughts, [has] done a great thing with the show from day one, which is sending a message without beating you over the head with it. That is even pushed a little further this season, and we're dealing with some really big topics that are affecting a lot of people. So yes, it's well done.

Why they filmed the show completely out of order

Are there any topics or episodes in particular that you're excited to come out and to have people see and respond to?

Penny: All of the above. Oh my gosh. Sometimes, when I was reading this season, there are topics where I may have had a different thought, and because of the writing and because of the execution, I [had] to think, get in my quiet space, and go, "You know what, I never thought of it that way." To learn something, to change someone — good or bad — is a powerful tool. And we will do that this season. Definitely.

Adrianne: I agree.

One of the things I find fun about watching this show is that each episode is its own contained story, but there's also this overarching story throughout the season. What is that like for you as actors? Do you know where your character is going from beginning to end from the start of filming, or are you going one episode at a time?

Adrianne: Well, Penny and I had this in common. We got all of the scripts well in advance, and neither of us read them. But I liked the element of surprise.

Penny: Yeah.

Adrianne: Also, we got massively out of order — not even just episodes; we're talking pieces of episodes. It was kind of that thing. I'd be like, "Seth [MacFarlane], what am I doing here?"

Penny: He knows everything. This is in his world.

Adrianne: I'm like, "Okay!" Because we didn't know what we were doing day to day or moment to moment, which kept us on our toes and probably kept things very fresh.

Penny: Even [in] Episode 3, there was some of that we shot, and then the rest we didn't shoot [until] the very end because Keyali [Jessica Szohr] had a baby.

Adrianne: Yes.

Penny: It's like, "Oh, okay." Didn't that [episode] take two years, almost?

Adrianne: We started with one that took three years. Yeah.

Penny: It was a long time.

Adrianne: It was really interesting, too, to try to shoot around Jess [Szohr]. It was crazy because we'd shoot portions of the scene at the bridge, but we wouldn't see her. Then, when she came back, it was like, "Poor thing. All of her coverage at once — sorry, girl."

The most challenging element filming this season

What is it like for you guys now? This whole season that you've been working on for three years — for it to be coming out now, what is that feeling like?

Penny: It's like ... We're talking about babies.

Adrianne: [It's] like you're giving birth.

Penny: It's like all of us could have had babies. "Oh my gosh, I want this out." And then it's so wonderful that it's out. We just saw the episodes, and I'm a fan of "The Orville." I have to say, I'm a fan. It was so good.

Adrianne: We shot so long ago that it was like being outside of yourself. You're like, "I'm not even watching me. I'm watching a TV show that has nothing to do with me." It felt really fresh like that.

Penny: That was the coolest thing, though.

Adrianne: I forgot. I'm like, "Yes, can we do another episode?" It's too long ago.

What would you say was the most challenging element of filming this season?

Adrianne: COVID. And we shoot a lot. We shoot long hours, and sometimes that can be very exhausting, and for me that was probably the hardest thing. The most challenging thing was the amount of time. But at the same time, I get to spend all this time with my dear friends and family.

Penny: We have to balance it to be as though we're at a party. That's how we do it because the hours are long.

Adrianne: It was definitely a party.

Penny: We shoot on Saturdays. We shot on a Sunday once, too. We shoot all the time. If we didn't have the relationship where it is one big party ... You don't want all of us on set at one time because we're going to do it. We'll get the job done, but we are going to have some fun because you can't do this and not have fun.

One thing we are really good at is that we know that we are going to get the work done, and we hold everyone responsible for getting the work done. We don't tolerate anybody like ... that doesn't even happen. But we're the type of people who wouldn't tolerate you coming to work and you don't know your stuff. You would get the stink eye.

Adrianne: And some of that dialogue is hard as it is. You got to know your stuff.

Penny: Yes. Be respectful, come there, bring on your A-game, and let's get it done. Let's have fun because it's going to be a long day.

Adrianne: There were dance parties.

How close is The Orville cast?

Do you have any favorite memories in particular from behind the scenes?

Adrianne: There's too many. People say this all the time, that they love each other and whatnot, and they really are backstabbing each other. But we don't do that. We actually, genuinely love each other. We're still in a chain. We've talked throughout COVID, we've talked through every break. We're still talking now, and we haven't shot for a while. We are genuinely true friends.

Penny: Look, we are definitely true friends, because not only do we love each other and we laugh at each other, we will cuss one another out. We will put you back in your place. If you act like a fool, you're going to get it from all of us. We'll go, "What are you doing? Don't do that." We're real. We are the real thing. We've both been on enough shows to say "Everybody says it," but no — we're the real deal.

Adrianne: Oh, yeah. And certain things would definitely happen. There comes the 13th hour where J. Lee and Scott [Grimes] get up to their antics, and it's always been great because the crew loves them. All of the sudden, there's this breath of fresh air where they're doing some little side thing themselves. We really should have shot the two of them. 

Penny: We're with crew people too. I've been on shows where the cast is the clique, and crew members don't know when or how to approach a cast. It becomes this separate camp thing. That's not so, and it was more so with COVID [because] we had these zones, but we respect everyone as a human being. It's not like, "Hey, 'background number two' over there." We know people's names.

Adrianne: We know their families. We know what they're doing. We know about their kids' soccer teams. We couldn't do it without every single person on set. Also, with those hours, you better be friends with the crew.

Penny: They're your new friends. They're your new neighbors. Exactly.

The Orville Season 3 premieres June 2 on Hulu.

This interview was edited for clarity.