Adrianne Palicki & Penny Johnson Jerald Interview: The Orville Season 3

Adrianne Palicki & Penny Johnson Jerald Interview: The Orville Season 3

After over three years of waiting, The Orville is finally setting a new course with season 3. Subtitled New Horizons, the new season finds Seth MacFarlane and his crew of Planetary Union officers as they continue their battle against the Kaylons while also navigating their relationships with one another.

The series’ future was uncertain for a time, despite the fact that Fox had renewed The Orville for season 3 back in May 2019. But after all the trials and tribulations, the crew are finally back together and new adventures await the fans who have been so patient.

Related: Unlike Star Wars, The Orville Actually Knows What a Parsec Is


In anticipation of the show’s return, Screen Rant spoke exclusively with stars Adrianne Palicki and Penny Johnson Jerald to discuss The Orville season 3, filming in the midst of a pandemic, losing Norm Macdonald and more.

Adrianne Palicki in The Orville

Screen Rant: I admittedly have been a big fan of The Orville since it started on Fox years ago. It’s been so long since we’ve seen the show come back. What was it like for both of you when you finally got your hands on the scripts for the new season?

Penny Johnson Jerald: You know, we had our hands on the scripts prior and, I have to say, I never read them and one of my cast members was really upset with me. [Laughs] Because he kept saying, “Did you read it yet? Did you? Did you read it yet?” and I go, “Nope” and he said, “Why not?” I said, “Because it may be a while.” [Chuckles]

Adrianne Palicki: I was with Penny on that one. I didn’t read them either. It was like, “Okay, which one are we doing today? I don’t know.” [Chuckles]

Penny Johnson Jerald: It’s so surreal. You never knew when you were going back to work and why put that in your head? I’ll be honest, when I get a script in my head, I’m just living Claire in different pieces of life, outside of being on the set. Actually, I just kind of really dug being Penny for a while. [Laughs]

Sure, I can appreciate that, especially when Claire is dealing with as many threats as she is, sometimes you just want to relax a little bit. So then what was it like for both of you when you did finally step back on set after all that time?

Adrianne Palicki: Penny and I have discussed that and it was scary. Because you’re coming back from pandemic, we shot a little bit before, but then we had that big shutdown. So we had that big gap in between and, for me, it was a little bit of a start over, like, “Okay, what’s my character? Who am I, it’s been a year.” But then also the fear factor of getting tested and hoping that your fellow man are going to be trustworthy and stay out of trouble and wear their mask and whatnot. So there were a lot of different things, elements that I think we were all juggling when we we came back.

Penny Johnson Jerald: And that’s a big job, too. We were tested every day, even if you didn’t work and sometimes, I have to say, it was frustrating. Because you never had a day off, so imagine normally you have a few days off and then you can plan something, but during the pandemic, we never had a day off.

Adrianne Palicki: No, and because a lot of us don’t live near the studio, it was like a whole day of travel back and forth.

Penny Johnson Jerald: Yeah, and we tested on Sundays, too. So it was testing, testing, testing, testing. But the biggest fear, I have to say, I just had that thought, and this was a fear, was that I thought that my kids would be married with children by the time we got out of it.[Laughs]

Adrianne Palicki: I mean, BJ is like six foot seven. [Laughs]

Penny Johnson Jerald: That was the funny thing. They started out being these little shrimp, I could look at them eye-to-eye. I have to look up now and I go, “Wait a minute, we got to do our scenes with this kid now on his knees. I mean, what?”

Adrianne Palicki: The continuity is hilarious. Hair, weight, kids growing up. [Laughs]

Penny Johnson Jerald: We shot one episode and we didn’t shoot the rest of it until the end, I think PJ must have been, what, 12 inches taller by the last day.

Adrianne Palicki: Genuinely, he’s so much taller than me. He’s so tall, his voice is getting all deep, it’s weird.

Penny Johnson Jerald: He’s 18, now, I can’t believe that. I have a man.

The crew of the The Orville in a briefing room

I will admit, I also was a little caught off guard in the opening of the premiere where I was like, “Wait, is is that? Oh my god, he grew!” So, Adrianne, I’ll go to you next, since you you both were trying to find your characters again in that downtime, what was it like trying to find that rapport with Seth again after all that time?

Adrianne Palicki: That’s easy, that’s old hat. Seth and I have known each other for 14 years and we’ve been dear friends and I think that helps with the Kelly and Ed relationship a lot. So we just kind of fell back into that and it’s fun to have a little bit of poking the bear with that guy. I love their relationship.

Their relationship has been fun to watch evolve from the hatefulness of the early episodes to where it is now. With that said, season 2 ended with the relationship still kind of in limbo and the episodes I’ve seen so far have not really addressed anything. Can you give me any insight on whether we can expect an evolution on that front?

Adrianne Palicki: There will always be an evolution, and it’s not the only relationship to watch for.

Okay, I like that tease. So Penny, for you, what can we expect from Claire this season? Obviously as a single mother, she’s always focused on Ty and Marcus, but there’s always so much going on with the ship and her own relationship with Isaac.

Penny Johnson Jerald: You are so sweet not to name her a slut because I feel like Claire has like slept with [a lot of people]. [Laughs]

Adrianne Palicki: She’s not a slut! [Laughs]

Penny Johnson Jerald: I mean, [she slept with] Yaphet and Isaac, you know? Who isn’t she with? [Chuckles]

Adrianne Palicki: If anybody’s a slut, it’s Kelly. [Chuckles]

Penny Johnson Jerald: I think that there are so many relationships to look out for, I have to agree, this coming season. All of them are unexpected, I can say that, all of the relationships that you see are unexpected and some are beautiful, some are violently delicious. That’s kind of crazy to put that together, but trust me on that one. [Chuckles] And you’ll see growth for every character. I think every character goes through a growth spurt, and I think that was probably due to the fact that, even though we got the scripts before the pandemic, I think that Seth had a longer opportunity to write these. I think the man just went crazy, I think he went buck wild. Maybe he was drinking too much and said, “Oh, yeah, let’s do this” and somehow it works. I have to tell you is not an issue. Don’t worry

Adrianne Palicki: “Money’s not an issue, don’t worry about that. We can make this happen.” [Laughs]

Penny Johnson Jerald: You guys are gonna have fun. I know you saw the first episode and the third episode and, oh my gosh, I was so impressed with them. But don’t stop there, it gets better, so much better.

Penny Johnson Jerald in The Orville

Oh, I have no intention of stopping with those two, I rewatched the first two seasons before I watched the screeners because I wanted to get re-familiarized with everybody and I just I love this show.

Penny Johnson Jerald: Thank you for doing that, that makes your questions that much more interesting.

Adrianne Palicki: Exactly.

So since we have brought up Yaphet, last year we did unfortunately lose Norm Macdonald. I know with an animated character the voice actors aren’t always on set, but what was it like for both of you hearing that news of Norman’s passing?

Adrianne Palicki: He was way too young.

Penny Johnson Jerald: It was surreal.

Adrianne Palicki: It was so weird and surreal and it’s a bummer. Yaphet had much more to do in the series and sadly we lost not just Norm but the character a little bit.

Penny Johnson Jerald: We were here in New York doing I think it was Comic-Con and I was walking in the Theater District and I saw a billboard of Norm and he was performing at this club. So I took a picture of it and I brought it back and showed a couple of people and I was just so excited that Norm had his New York stuff. Then this happened and I realized, “Wow.” You may not know this though, Adrianne, is that I worked with him before and he and I never brought that up, because we probably both forgot. But I was looking at old episodes of The Larry Sanders Show and I saw Norm and I went, “I knew it! I knew we had worked together.” [Chuckles] Beverly and Norm had a full-on scene and one thing that was wonderful about him then and on our show is that he has the ability to laugh at himself. That is absolutely going to be missed.

Adrianne Palicki: Yeah, he was such a wonderful person.

Norm’s presence will certainly be missed on this show, Yaphet was always such a fun character. With this season, there is the transition from Fox to Hulu, I’m curious for both of you, did you notice any kind of differences in the production or in the atmosphere on set?

Adrianne Palicki: Well, I think it allowed us to have a little bit more freedom, obviously [in the] content speech, but also the amount of time that we had to shoot the episodes. It was a little freer, I think, ultimately.

Penny Johnson Jerald: Well, when I first heard it, I was on a bus with most of the rest of us, and I was pissed. [Laughs] I was pissed, because “Why weren’t we told” and I didn’t understand it at all. Then I truly understood it, I understood that it was the best choice ever. Because this is not a show that you can just sit and you’re going to watch episode after episode after episode, these are freaking movies. And if we were not on Hulu, we would not have been allowed the freedom to really do that, more time means more investment in storytelling. And the production values are just through the roof, maybe Hulu is just super rich or maybe it’s somebody else we know. [Chuckles] The production values are just amazing, so I am happy that it happened. But I’m not gonna lie, I was pissed when I heard, I don’t like moving around like that.

Adrianne Palicki: It makes total sense and that’s the evolution of the show. I mean, you’ve gone back and rewatched a bunch of them, if not all of them and it’s really funny season to season to see this evolution. This year, literally, we’re making epic mini movies.

Season 2 definitely felt like it had a better grip on its tonal balance of Seth’s unique comedy and its space-faring adventures and this one feels like something even more unique. Since you do mention the higher production values, can you give me a tease of some of the set pieces we can expect for both of your characters in the season?

Penny Johnson Jerald: No.

Adrianne Palicki: No. [Laughs]

Penny Johnson Jerald: We can’t. [Laughs] You know, when you watch episode 3, the one that you did see, did you see Gordon on that ship? Was that like the coolest piece? Was that beautiful?

That was pretty awesome.

Penny Johnson Jerald: That was pretty awesome!

Adrianne Palicki: He loved flying that thing.

Penny Johnson Jerald: Yeah, if that’s the foundation of change, and how exciting it is, then that’s where the bar is set for the rest of the season.

The Orville: New Horizons Synopsis

Adrianne Palicki and Seth MacFarlane in The Orville

Set 400 years in the future, The Orville: New Horizons finds the crew of the USS Orville continuing their mission of exploration, as they navigate both the mysteries of the universe and the complexities of their interpersonal relationships.

Check back soon for interviews with the rest of the Orville: New Horizons cast.

More: What To Expect From The Orville Season 3

The Orville: New Horizons premieres on Hulu on June 2.

Indiana Jones 5

Indiana Jones 5 Image Reveals First Look At Harrison Ford’s Return

About The Author

Grant Hermanns
(1751 Articles Published)

Grant Hermanns is a News Writer, Interviewer and Hiring Manager for Screen Rant, having joined the team in early 2021. Way back in 2015 while still in his college days, Grant got his start in the entertainment journalism industry with creator-friendly site Moviepilot until it shuttered nearly three years later. From there he joined the staff at and was its Associate Editor prior to coming over to Screen Rant.

To say he’s a lover of film and television would be an understatement and when he’s not mass consuming either you can find him exploring the world of Dungeons & Dragons with friends or slowly making his way through his gaming backlog.

More From Grant Hermanns

Author: Deann Hawkins