During the late 1980s throughout most of the 1990s, the family television set in my household was tuned faithfully to Star Trek most evenings. Whether it be the voyages of Captain Picard, Captain Janeway, or Commander Benjamin Sisko, daring adventures set far beyond the stars were enjoyed by all — mother, father, brother, and myself.
After Star Trek: Enterprise ended, there was — and has been until recently — a dearth of Star Trek related content in terms of television vehicles. Enter The Orville.
While not officially related to Star Trek, or to the franchise’s latest episodic content in the form of Star Trek: Discovery, The Orville is nonetheless a love letter to the kind of science fiction on which I was weaned so long ago — this time, with a modern comedic twist.
Focused on the adventures of the crew manning the titular ship as part of the Planetary Union, a crew which is even more diverse than the science fiction offerings that have come before it, The Orville presents a fresh and creative face to a genre which desperately needed as much. Blending equal parts high-octane action and high-concept philosophy with wisecracking jokes and cutting one-liners, the Seth MacFarlane creation has captivated a large and loyal audience.
Perhaps one of the early breakout characters of the show is a steel-witted synthetic life form by the name of Isaac. Hailing from the planet Kaylon 1, his race can live for millions of years and have a heightened intelligence and physical prowess. They are also quite good at quipping jokes — as Isaac is frequently cast as a comedic foil just as often as he is called upon to save the day.
Actor Mark Jackson is the gentleman who portrays the mechanical crew member on The Orville, and I was lucky enough to be able to ask him a few questions about the show’s upcoming second season. We also had the opportunity to explore his acting background, his greater thoughts on the genres of comedy and science fiction, and his love for the Trekkies who have supported, and continue to support, the show.
The Orville Season 2 launches on December 30, 2018, and can be seen exclusively on Fox, FoxNow, and Hulu.
Nicholas Morine: What did it feel like to be given the nod and actually be cast as Isaac for such a large television vehicle like ‘The Orville’?
Mark Jackson: Well it was a dream come true really. I was working in the U.K., and had been for a good 10 years or so in London.
I had done a lot of stage work, a bit of TV over here, and this crazy audition came through to play a robot in L.A. on a science fiction show with Seth MacFarlane. You kind of think ‘How have all of these things come together at once?’
So I went and auditioned, and you know, quite early on we know that Seth was interested – which was great! So that was fantastic, and it took about six weeks for the part to be offered. When it did come through, it was unreal. I knew I was going to go across the Atlantic and film in Hollywood – which was just amazing, yeah! I’ve always loved sci-fi, I’ve always wanted to be part of sci-fi. I read a lot of sci-fi, and I think… I’ve always enjoyed comedy as well, so to combine the two was a real dream.
NM: We’ll dig a little deeper into the science fiction nature and your own personal love for it. What’s your background with science fiction? What were your personal preferences? When you were a boy, growing up, was it something that you read extensively and enjoyed?
MJ: Well, I sort of came into reading it late in life, actually. Not that I’m that old – I’m only 36 – but I suppose it was about six or so years ago that I really started reading sci-fi. Before that I had watched ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ and ‘Star Trek: Voyager’ and loved those. So yeah, it’s always been weird for me – I’ve always enjoyed the escapism of it, but what I like about it, and why I prefer it to fantasy, is that it’s always based in fact.
Good sci-fi is really believable sci-fi. You can see the logic trail leading from now to then, and I’ve always really enjoyed that. It gets you thinking.