Adrianne Palicki first drew attention as one of the stars of Friday Night Lights, a beloved but low-rated football drama. Since then, she’s worked steadily, most recently as one of the stars of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Currently, Palicki’s starring in friend Seth McFarlane’s passion project, The Orville, a Fox series that serves as a tribute to MacFarlane’s favorite sci-fi show.But The Orville isn’t just a Star Trek send-up. Over the course of half a season, MacFarlane and the cast have been able to give us some surprisingly nuanced storytelling that lives right alongside the kind of slapstick, sh*t-taking comedy you’d expect. We chatted with Palicki about doing comedy with a seasoned pro like MacFarlane, sex scenes with Rob Lowe, and that one storyline from Friday Night Lights we still can’t get over.
Thank you for making a sci-fi show set in space that doesn’t involve any armageddon nonsense.
Right? Isn’t it nice to have a good optimistic feeling when you’re [watching this].
Especially since I’m worrying about the world ending in real life all the time right now, so I don’t want to see that on TV.
It’s coming, it feels like it’s coming.
You’ve been friends with Seth MacFarlane for a long time. What was his pitch to you for this show? Secretly I’m hoping it was just that first scene when we meet Kelly and she’s getting it on with a blue alien played by Rob Lowe.
Yeah, that’s actually what sold me on the whole thing. I’m not kidding. First of all, I was rolling, but also I’m like, “How does she come back from this?” And to play that character and to take on that challenge, was why I wanted to do this.
The show has really evolved from the pilot.
I read a few of the scripts before we started shooting the pilot, and the pilot is like every show. It’s a way to introduce people and characters and the idea, but it’s not going to be what the show is usually. I think now that we have the time and space and people really, really love these characters, thank God, [Seth’s] able to delve into every specific character.
Were there any nerves in taking on a comedy and knowing you were going act opposite someone like Seth, who’s really experienced in this realm?
The nice thing about Seth, and the fact that he is such a good friend, it was like I’m going into this with a partner. That trust was already there, and I know he felt the same way with me with the dramatic aspect of things, which was new to him. So it was like we went in with this very clear partnership, and I think that’s what is on screen, that’s what you can see. It was a very trusting environment.
What’s the response been from the sci-fi fans, because they can be a very intense, very passionate group of people, especially when it comes to shows that borrow from Star Trek?
It is the most important thing, but there’s also this level of trust where Seth’s concerned, because this was his baby. His dream was to make a show like this since he was five. The support that we’ve been getting is massive, and lovely, and beautiful, because having been in the genre world for a very long time, it’s so important to have those fans. It’s so important because nothing will work without them.
Talking about the trust with you and Seth, there’s a lot of great back and forth between your character, Kelly Grayson, and his character, Captain Ed Mercer. Where will their relationship go in the second half of the season?
Here’s the thing, it’s the Ross and Rachel …
Just in space.
It’s the Lois and Clark, it’s the thing that will go on for as long as it can, the will-they-won’t-they. And they’ll have maybe moments where they get together, they might have moments when they don’t. It’s that really interesting line that I know Seth is trying to balance in the writing, because you can’t go too far too soon.
There are some really great undercurrents in this show. I’m thinking specifically of episode three, when you guys took on a big issue with gender. Are there any more of those kinds of episodes happening in the future?
The last one with J. Lee where you press up or down if you like or don’t like somebody, it’s very much an ode to social media and how we judge each other, and what’s happening in the world right now. These episodes have a lot of relevance with what’s happening with the world as we speak. I think that it’s brilliant because the way Seth does it. It’s not wagging the finger, it’s going, “Think about this.”
Be honest, who breaks the most on set?
I probably break the most, I’m not gonna lie. Between me and Seth, I would say it’s one of the two.
Is there a trick for keeping it together? Maybe think of Donald Trump as president or something?
Literally. If I start laughing Seth will be like, ‘Trump! Think of Trump!’ All right, now I’m angry.
We’ve avoided it for as long as we can, but now’s the time. What was up with that season two murder plot in Friday Night Lights?
You mean the storyline that we forgot at one point?
That’s the one.
I think at that point, we didn’t have the highest ratings. I think that there was a bit of pressure at that point to make it a little bit more of the mainstream, which that show was not. Then it was like, “This didn’t work, let’s go back to doing exactly what we were doing, because it was working. Let’s just forget this ever happened, and let’s continue.”
But then think about it, it did bring together Landry and Tyra, that’s a big deal.
Did a guy have to die? No.
Network TV man.
That poor guy died three times. The first season, he was originally supposed to die once he tried to rape me the first time. Then he came back again, and then they’re like, “We don’t like the way he died, we’re gonna bring him back again and kill him with a different weapon.” I was like, “Poor Mike the Rapist.”
If we could get a spinoff or maybe a reunion, where would Tyra be?
Let’s say it is Tyra and Riggins. She moves back, she marries Riggs, has a couple kids, now she’s counseling the high school and he’s the coach. Except it’s a different dynamic because they still have that banter. It’s not that loving Taylor relationship. I think that would be great, then you could bring back other characters.
Get on it then Adrianne. It’s your responsibility.
Yeah, just gotta get done with this other show first.