Seth MacFarlane Shares His Love of Space-Based TV As He Beams Up to The Orville

The creator and star talks about classic Star Trek, new aliens, and taking sci-fi seriously while having fun.

by | September 7, 2017 | Comments

The Orville may look like a Star Trek spoof from the creator of Family Guy and Ted, but Seth MacFarlane takes fun sci-fi seriously.

MacFarlane is a huge fan of episodic sci-fi, particularly Star Trek: The Next Generation, which frequently found humor in the mission-to-mission foibles of its motley crew. But TV doesn’t offer much high-profile space adventure with a lighthearted touch right now, especially with the recent cancellation of Syfy’s Dark MatterThe Expanse on that same network stays true to its literary source material and offers heavy-duty genre drama. Even the highly anticipated CBS All Access series Star Trek: Discovery is a more grim and gritty war story with lots of phasers and explosions.

Early trailers of The Orville reminded many of beloved 1999 film Galaxy Quest, a comedy starring Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, and the late Alan Rickman about the cast of a Next Generation–like TV series that, through an alien cultural disconnect, gets caught up in an intergalactic war.

MacFarlane has said that the film wasn’t an influence, however.

“The intent of that movie was to be a full-on comedy,” he said during the Television Critic’s Association press tour in August. “As a result, the stakes, in terms of science fiction and the parables of science fiction, weren’t really something that needed to be taken all that seriously.”

Though it also aims for the funny bone, The Orville is something different and more earnest in its space comedy — a brightly colored show about the daily life of a spaceship crew.

Ed Mercer (MacFarlane) gets his last shot at captaining a spaceship when the Orville needs a leader. Only problem is: His ex-wife Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki) has been made his first officer. Between Mercer’s one-liners and quirky crew members (one lays an egg in episode 2), The Orville serves up plenty of jokes, yet the missions are life or death, and both Mercer and the show acknowledge the stakes.

The Jungle Book director Jon Favreau directed the pilot, and each week the Orville crew boldly go where great sci-fi shows haven’t gone in a while — and some new places all their own.

MacFarlane, a tad hoarse from a day of filming (that includes acting and producing) and speaking to reporters, talked to Rotten Tomatoes about the show’s unique tone.

Fred Topel for Rotten Tomatoes: Was acting always your dream when you started out creating animated shows?

Seth MacFarlane: Not necessarily, no. It never was a foregone conclusion that had to be part of it.

RT: Why did you decide you had to star in The Orville?

MacFarlane: A: because it was just too much fun not to, and B: because I really wanted to straddle the tone that was both funny and earnest. It requires a love for comedy and a love for the genre and the willingness to be openly earnest and sincere in a Maria Von Trapp way.

RT: What were some ideas Jon Favreau had that really helped you realize your vision?

MacFarlane: Jon was all about tone. The pilot needed to set a tone that dealt with both the drama and the comedy. There’s really no other director in town who could’ve handled that as well as Jon. Jon is a master of tone. It was nice to be working with someone who had been through the writing/directing/acting gauntlet.

RT: Is there a workplace comedy aspect to The Orville also?

MacFarlane: There is, yeah. That’s what I always loved about the best days of Star Trek was it felt more like people working in an office than a military crew on a ship.

RT: Is Kelly looking out for Ed more than he ever knows?

MacFarlane: I think so. I think they’re both looking out for each other but certainly in the pilot.

RT: Will he start to clue into that?

MacFarlane: We do deal with that in season 1.

RT: Are the Krill your big bad guy?

MacFarlane: One of them.

RT: But are they like your Klingons who are always out there?

MacFalrane: There’s a very specific element to the Krill that I think makes them very unique that is revealed in our sixth episode. They’re different from the Klingons because of this one thing. I can’t tell you what it is, but you find out. It’s a very specific element to their species that allows us to tell very specific stories.

RT: Did you do the designs for the aliens?

MacFarlane: No, that’s all Howard Berger, our makeup designer.

RT: How did it work? You told him what you wanted and he came to you rather than presenting him sketches?

MacFarlane: Here and there. Most of the time I would say, “Come up with a really cool design and let us build a character around it.” It’s worked both ways.

RT: Did you insist on having a full title sequence to introduce each actor and the characters they play, and even printing the title of the episode on screen?

MacFarlane: Yeah, I miss that, and I think it’s good showmanship — the things that shows used to do to respect the viewer and would say, “Hey, somebody took the time to put on a show and this is that show. It’s not just filling an hour of time between commercials on a network.

RT: Does that cut about a minute out of your show?

MacFarlane: We haven’t really had too many problems. We found that our shows have actually been pretty close to length. We lucked out.

Tag Cloud

series Dark Horse Comics PBS Lucasfilm YA politics Mindy Kaling zero dark thirty period drama stand-up comedy Podcast Pop Spectrum Originals Polls and Games Tumblr American Society of Cinematographers game of thrones Mary Tyler Moore Toys science fiction TV Land Song of Ice and Fire teaser Brie Larson Superheroe TLC ghosts Disney streaming service Hulu TV cinemax ESPN crime drama Teen LGBT Watching Series Walt Disney Pictures Animation 2016 strong female leads animated Syfy Schedule facebook Rom-Com Netflix robots Vudu Food Network Nickelodeon disaster Winners HBO Video Games BET Drama cats Winter TV Reality theme song Infographic Shondaland Amazon Anna Paquin Photos Acorn TV Emmy Nominations serial killer Film comiccon Reality Competition Fantasy Premiere Dates hist technology Countdown comic Binge Guide Rocky police drama crime thriller spy thriller See It Skip It unscripted Family Starz AMC Summer Calendar book TruTV DC Comics dragons Universal Trophy Talk Rock 2017 anthology E! anime festivals Spring TV PaleyFest Thanksgiving green book DC Universe zombies 2018 Year in Review sitcom 2019 Crackle NYCC Awards Tour blaxploitation psychological thriller WGN dramedy Tarantino MCU Freeform natural history Grammys Cosplay Nat Geo Creative Arts Emmys ITV tv talk SundanceTV Horror foreign San Diego Comic-Con ABC Family GoT boxoffice BBC America Fox News Holidays spider-man Tomatazos miniseries Comedy Character Guide spanish language IFC Films justice league Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Best and Worst Britbox Warner Bros. Paramount Network Superheroes true crime CBS Esquire Rocketman Election zombie Sundance HBO Max 2015 LGBTQ VH1 Lionsgate hispanic south america Ellie Kemper Ovation medical drama Star Wars Comics on TV witnail doctor who vampires TCM Nominations Pet Sematary cults CW Seed diversity TCA 2017 Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt elevated horror television APB space Kids & Family Mary Poppins Returns Paramount Amazon Prime Video NBC Quiz supernatural historical drama transformers cooking streaming Stephen King romance TIFF Columbia Pictures X-Men spinoff political drama Mudbound Super Bowl MSNBC DGA Epix Cartoon Network Country movies sequel Emmys DirecTV Extras Box Office CMT Heroines Black Mirror Adult Swim thriller Comic Book sports Musicals Certified Fresh Trailer First Look what to watch quibi revenge latino 24 frames GIFs Pride Month Sony Pictures SDCC National Geographic cops USA children's TV Red Carpet New York Comic Con spain Fall TV Biopics Cannes dceu Mystery Star Trek VICE Shudder Awards Marvel dc talk show Film Festival war richard e. Grant E3 Music 21st Century Fox game show crossover History ratings Captain marvel discovery Christmas DC streaming service IFC TCA The CW nature FX 20th Century Fox Sci-Fi A&E RT21 Trivia binge adaptation golden globes psycho Disney Channel Western Opinion Sundance Now President YouTube Red Chernobyl ABC Masterpiece SXSW docudrama Mary poppins YouTube Premium Set visit CBS All Access adventure Spike kids FXX Pixar Lifetime The Arrangement composers El Rey Writers Guild of America Comedy Central Musical Action Oscars biography mockumentary 45 OWN Elton John travel TBS Showtime TNT Ghostbusters award winner USA Network Disney Sneak Peek FOX harry potter The Witch Amazon Prime based on movie jamie lee curtis Pirates RT History Marathons GLAAD First Reviews social media Logo Interview aliens singing competition MTV 007 finale casting Valentine's Day mutant BBC Apple Bravo WarnerMedia crime cars Martial Arts Women's History Month CNN toy story