You are having nitrogen candy snacks, talking to pointy-eared aliens and taking in the deck of a spaceship. Quick, where are you?
On the set of the 20th Century Fox Television and Fox lot with the “The Orville,” of course.
Even better, before I got to the set there was a screening of the season one finale, “Mad Idolatry,” which was written by Seth MacFarlane. There was also a Q & A with host Jon Cassar (EP and producing director on “The Orville”). MacFarlane and his crew attended (with shout outs from cast members in the audience).
When questioned by Cassar on how the show was first put together, MacFarlane said that it was “case by case.”
“Some people I had worked on projects before,” he explained. “Or I was a fan of their work.’
“I’ve seen a lot of Sci-Fi films; it’s tricky to get it done on time and on budget. I’ve never seen anything like this craftsmanship before, the lightning speed to get it done. It’s really astonishing what they did.”
When Cassar asked the crew about their Sci-Fi influences, Luke MacDonald (VFX) related that he grew up watching Sci-Fi, while Tom Costantino (editor) had “toy wars” with battles between “Battlestar Galatica” toys and “Flash Gordon” toys. Howard Berger (head of makeup) was a “monster kid,” while Marvin Rush (director of photography) loved “Blade Runner.” Brannon Braga (executive producer, director, writer) said he would sit up all night with the “Twilight Zone Companion” book while watching the “The Twilight Zone” television series.
MacFarlane made everyone laugh by saying, “Probably ‘Friday Night Lights’ – so alien!” and then admitted to “Star Trek.”
Asked about the writers room, MacFarlane told the audience that everyone got along very well.
“We have a conversation and wait to see what happens…an idea can come from anywhere. We write a story as a group; then one writer does a draft in 2 weeks. We will do a pass and that’s it.”
“We are maybe a little passive-aggressive,” Braga joked.
Cherry Chevapravatdumrong (co-executive producer and writer) added, “We watch a lot of YouTube!”
Stephen Lineweaver (production designer}, related how they do research about other time periods and other shows on how to create “a race that doesn’t exist.” They will pitch it to MacFarlane and then adjust things.
“We wanted to create a world that was comfortable, where you’d want to live and work. We use curves, big windows of space to look like wonder, not a submarine,” explained Lineweaver.
Joseph Porro (costume designer) added that he had never worked as hard in 30 years or been as challenged.
“To give it quality was a little tough for the crew, but they came through.”
Porro travels to the largest cloth market in the world in Guangzhou, China, where they have several stalls of cloth, and buys “at a price that TV can’t afford.”
As for the ship itself, MacFarlane thought it should always look like a “real cool toy.”
“I see ships (in films) that are so intricately involved, I can’t tell which end is up! It’s one of the hardest things to develop, it’s hard to find new ground and these guys are amazing, they’ve done it.”
When asked to describe it, MacFarlane joked, “The Orville? It’s like describing Stewie’s head.”
John Debney and Joel McNeely (both composers) were thrilled to work with MacFarlane – McNeely was already working with him when Debney joined. With a 75-piece orchestra for the music every week, it was a dream come true for both.
And this Moviehole writer was also thrilled to be at the Fox lot to see the set, which was enormous and amazingly detailed. A few cast members, such as Peter Macon (Lt. Commander Bortus), Penny Johnson Jerald (Dr. Claire Finn) and Mark Jackson (Isaac) wandered around, happily posing for photos and signing the elegant “Orville” coffee table books given out to the guests. Food trucks with copious amounts of hamburgers, pizza, fried chicken sandwiches and S’mores ice cream were stationed nearby. The crew, from special effects to production design, answered questions and explained things to the attentive guests on the set.
What a night, and Moviehole was there to see it all.