Scott Grimes & J. Lee Interview: The Orville Season 3

Seth MacFarlane's The Orville is a loving homage to Star Trek and centers on the lives of the crew of the titular starship as they explore various parts of the galaxy. MacFarlane leads the cast alongside Adrianne Palicki, Peter Macon, Jessica Szohr, Scott Grimes, J. Lee, Mark Jackson, Penny Johnson Jerald and Anne Winters.

The series was in limbo for some 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 have returned once more for The Orville: New Horizons, and fans couldn't be more excited to catch up will all of their favorite characters.

Related: What To Expect From The Orville Season 3

Ahead of the show's return, Screen Rant spoke exclusively with stars Scott Grimes and J. Lee to discuss The Orville season 3, the move from Fox to Hulu, Lee's past as a Fuzzy Door receptionist and more.


Screen Rant: I have been a fan of The Orville since the start and New Horizons is no different. J, I find it so fascinating, your journey from working as a receptionist at Fuzzy Door to where you are now. What has that been like for you, this evolution in your career working with Seth and Scott?

J. Lee: It's a big blessing. When I first came to LA, I came out to act, I was young. I had a theater degree, so I just knew I was gonna come out here and blow up and be a star. But that's not how it works, right? 30 days into moving to LA, I got the opportunity to be a receptionist at Family Guy, and I'd never seen the show, didn't know who Seth was, but it was a part of my path. I took it and said, "Well, you know, we'll see what happen." I met Scott, he was doing American Dad! It was the first year American Dad had come out, Family Guy got brought back, and I became really good friends with Seth and a lot of people.

If you would have told me then that this would have been my trajectory, I would have laughed. There's no way I would have thought this would have happened. It's been an interesting ride. I think to close it off, I guess, just trusting yourself and putting one foot in front of the other and believing that doors will open and be nice to everybody, because you have no idea who you're going to be working with.

Scott Grimes: I gotta just do this real quick, what's great about J. Lee is yes, he was the receptionist at Family Guy and American Dad. When I heard he was up for this, I wasn't surprised at all, because I knew he was an actor. Everybody else was like, "J. Lee from the desk at the thing?" What J. Lee had to do because of that, I think the hurdles you had to go over to get this part were even bigger, because Seth wanted you. But you still had to talk 20 other people into hiring you who knew you were a receptionist, just because they went. "Oh, so he's not an actor?" and it was like, "No, he is an actor!"

J. Lee: That's a great point. And, just very quickly, it's Seth MacFarlane and it's this show and it's huge. I'm sure anybody that's my type or that can play John LaMarr was probably trying to get it. I'm sure every agent was trying to get their clients it. But thankfully, Seth, when he told me about it, we were already pals. He was like, "Hey, I don't know if you want to do this sci-fi thing I got, but I got this part." I'm like, "Alright," and here we are.

That's amazing, that's a real inspirational story for many others out there in the industry. What has it been like for you two watching the evolution of both your characters and this show throughout its seasons?

Scott Grimes: I think, first of all, all three seasons feel like one season to me. We've been doing this so long and because it's not like traditional television, we work long, long, long days and months for 10 episodes, right? I'm just so happy that we got a chance to do three seasons, the first season obviously is more comic. I knew Seth wanted to make the show that this season is. He kind of bridged the second season with what maybe Fox wanted and what he wanted, and then this one is Seth MacFarlane. So I'm just happy that we got a chance to make the show he truly wanted.

J. Lee: Yeah, no, I'm 100% in agreement.

Scott Grimes: Also I'm just proud and happy to be working. I've said this a couple times, but lots of shows didn't make it through the pandemic and shutdown continue or whatever. Because of Seth and Hulu and all the producers and people really working hard to make this safe, we got to stay at work.

I'm glad you did too, because you're right, there were even shows that Netflix had renewed that were retroactively canceled. A lot of people that I've talked to today mentioned that they got the scripts before the shutdown, Adrianne and and Penny said that they did not read them, they wanted to wait until production started. Was that the same case for you two or did you just dive in as soon as you got them?

J. Lee: No, I waited, I'm the same as them. I didn't even want to watch the episodes that they sent out for people to screen. Seth even had - a select few people got to go to his house and, he'd show us some scenes. But I kind of like to wait, I want to see it when it's all shiny and done. Because when we shoot it, we shoot it in so many different parts, so you have no idea, and then you look at the end result, you're like, "Oh my God, I'm a part of that. That's crazy."

Scott Grimes: And our scripts changed so much, we would get — I'm not complaining, but J. Lee will tell you, the emails that we would get daily have different versions. We'd run out of colors and have to look at what's the newest version of this script.

J. Lee: That was just you though, because you know you had trouble. [Laughs]

Scott Grimes: Yep, that's why. [Laughs] So there was probably scripts out there, and I'm sorry as an actor to say this, from this season I didn't even read. They were just being thrown at us and I was there and I don't know. But now I'm gonna be able to watch it.

So what was it like for both of you then finally getting to step back on set after such a long gap in productions due to the pandemic and everything?

J. Lee: It kind of felt like riding a bike, in a weird sense. With everything that was going on in the world, just finding some level of normalcy or familiarity I think was really beneficial. Then being able to get to go to work and all the safety protocols and getting into that bubble and being on set, it felt special. It was all about making a good product, not rushing anything, not trying to hurry up and placate, it was, "No we're going to do this, we're going to do it right." We had the best person leading that ship for us.

Scott Grimes: My first day back from pandemic, I do remember, I was in a flight suit. I think I'm allowed to say that. [I was in] all this gear, very claustrophobic, and then put into this tiny little space and I have a mask on. I was like,"This isn't gonna work, man. I don't know how we're going to do this," because I was flipping out. It got better and everybody got used to it with the masks and all that thing. But I'll never forget going, "This is uncomfortable." That was just me complaining to you guys just now. I shouldn't complain, though. [Laughs]

J. Lee: [Laughs]

At least that was a pretty cool action sequence, the dogfight. It was also a testament to the upped production values that you had this season for Hulu. Did you notice any different vibe or atmosphere when you came back on set in comparison to past seasons?

Scott Grimes: Not atmosphere, just sets. We would do these scenes of an alien planet where the entire soundstage was the planet and was the interior of something. Then three days later, when you're done filming it, they tear it down. I was just so amazed at the level of turnover of these sets that were being built and I was like, "Ah, this season's gonna be different." Seth has some ideas that are a little bit more expensive than the previous ideas.

J. Lee: Yeah and a lot of that goes to the post production, the special effects, the details Brannon showed us. You can see the windows on the Orville and those panels, that stuff is very detailed and intricate. You've got to really care to do that.

Scott Grimes: Brooke and Tom and all these people. On the day if you're doing a scene, he would have an iPad, Brannon would show you a pre-vis already done. He had this one app where we'd be somewhere, I think you saw the episode on a football field and he's showing me this creature within the football field that I'm looking at in the show and how big it was, so you could react and where you are supposed to look. That level of technology is something I truly don't understand.

I'm sure as actors, it's helpful to have that, in addition to maybe a green tennis ball on a stick.

Scott Grimes: [Laughs]

J. Lee: Yeah, yeah, whatever works. [Chuckles]

Scott, this season we get to meet a new crew member, Charlie. In the premiere, you especially have a lot of interaction with her, and we get a little bit of insight into how you're feeling about the Kaylon attacks. What was that like for you working alongside and building that rapport off camera and welcoming her onto the crew?

Scott Grimes: One, Anne Winters is a terrific addition, both in person and as a character on the show. She's easy to be around as an actor and a really talented actress to. The other thing is it's tough, man, tough to John Lamar, who sat next to me for a long time, that was a tough seat to fill and she does. It's hard at first to bring someone new on, but we share our kind of disdain for Isaac, me because of one reason and her for another reason, so we had that that connection. But she's a trooper in every way.

Again, Anne had to come on to a two-season show where everybody's goofy and there's so many inside jokes with this crew and that's just not an easy thing to do. So my hat's off to Anne Winters, you're gonna see she's just a very talented human being. But I do miss do miss having John Lamar, J. Lee, there because we had so much fun.

J. Lee: At the Helm, we got to get that podcast [going].

I miss John and Gordon together, we need more of that.

Scott Grimes: We had it tougher, J. Lee, because you have to realize, everybody else looks forward on the ship. They've got the one close up, but J. Lee and I would say stuff forward and turn around to say things to other people, so we had to do scenes way more than everybody else.

For my final question, though, I know you can't give too much away about this season, but can we expect John and Gordon to share more screen time together than we saw in season 2?

J. Lee: We have some moments, I kind of honestly kind of forget what the season has in store, because the last couple of years have been a whirlwind. But I still have my seat on the bridge, I'm over on the side, the engineer station, and Gordon comes down to Engineering sometimes when he's trying to bother me when I'm trying to work and save the day. Comes down and pisses me off.

Scott Grimes: We had that already, that dynamic between us, it was great and we have to save something for season four.


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 out our interview with Orville: New Horizons stars Adrianne Palicki & Penny Johnson Jerald.

More: 10 Best Characters From The Orville, Ranked

The Orville: New Horizons hits Hulu on June 2.

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