‘Jury Duty’: James Marsden On “Lampooning Entitled Actors” With Heightened Portrayal; Possible Season 2
Freevee’s new series Jury Duty is gearing up for its finale on Friday, and executive producer Nicholas Hatton and star James Marsden spoke with Deadline about all that went into creating the docu-style comedy with no one finding out. An exclusive featurette for Jury Duty can be found above.
Across 8-episodes, the series chronicles the inner workings of an American jury trial through the eyes of one juror, Ronald Gladden. Gladden is unaware the entire case is fake, everyone except him is an actor, including Marsden, and everything that happens — inside the courtroom and out — is carefully planned.
Hatton— who collaborated with Sacha Baron Cohen on Borat Subsequent Movie Film and Who is America—opened up about how difficult the process was from the show’s inception to its conclusion because everything could fall apart at any point of production. The key ingredient here was secrecy.
“As someone who has worked with Sacha Baron Cohen for a number of years, you get used to these protocols of secrecy. You kind of start treating everything like you’re an undercover CIA agent, and every single secret is vitally important to the state. So it was pretty natural translating that into Jury Duty,” Hatton shared. “But that’s only as effective as the cast and crew want it to be. The great thing we had was everyone bought into the secret element and all became super spies and enjoyed it. That’s what allowed us to keep it from folks for as long as we did. Everyone knew at any point this might not work if you talk about it.”
Marsden shared that his experience working on Jury Duty was unlike anything he had experienced before. In addition to becoming a super stealthy ninja on a mission, he did so while playing a heightened version of himself which really appealed to him.
“An exciting element of this to me was the opportunity to completely lampoon entitled Hollywood celebrities. Those celebrities out there who think that acting is the most important vocation in the world and that there’s not an interesting conversation unless it’s about one of their future projects,” Marsden said with a laugh and without naming names.
The actor worked closely alongside Gladden—the two have remained friends since wrapping— and each interaction was a sort of trial and error for Marsden in an effort not to alienate Gladden.
“The tricky part with Ronald was we had to push these beats where I was being ‘Jackass James Marsden,’ but not turning him off to the degree where he wouldn’t confide in me or he wouldn’t want to be seen with me,” Marsden said. “I remember early on pushing something a little too far and he migrates over to the other cast members who are a little more normal and kind. So I had to kind of get him back into my good graces. The experience every day for everyone was to be nimble and listening, watching and reacting and absorbing. I’ve never been that aware of my surroundings before. You have to be present and be able to flow with it all because it’s constantly evolving based on how he reacts which was fun.”
As difficult as this was to put together, both Marsden and Hatton are really proud of all they were able to pull off. But as has happened before— like with producing a follow-up to a film like Borat when everyone’s been let in on the secret—how could they make a Season 2 without the world knowing what’s going on? It’s difficult, but not impossible.
“We could do more but it won’t be the exact same format,” Hatton revealed. “Tweaks will need to happen because the process of finding these wonderful real people involves a little bit of subterfuge and hyping up tracks and sort of pretending you’re something that you’re not. So you have to use a slightly different process every time and we have to keep that very, very secret.”
He added, “There are many more worlds of jury duty and many more iterations of it and I think it can go in any number of incredible directions. We have some things we’re picking up right now which is really exciting. It’s a wonderful proof of concept, I’ll say. People told me often this isn’t going to work, so to come out on the other side of this thing that we’re really really proud of is immensely gratifying. It’s really exciting to think of where we can go with this in the future.”