Interview: Mark Jackson

From the interview archives.

English actor Mark Jackson has been seen in series like That Peter Kay Thing and The Royal Today, and this fall you can catch him as Isaac in the highly anticipated sci-fi series The Orville. VULKAN had the opportunity to chat with Mark about his experiences on set and what we can expect when the series premiers on Fox on September 10th, 2017.

So I’m really, really excited for The Orville to premier. It looks like a really fun set to be working on. Can you tell us about who Isaac is? 

I’m glad you’re excited. After 8 months of filming in our own little insular world on set it was vaguely surreal that everyone outside knew what we’d been up to. This is the fun part though, where we get to hand the whole thing over to the audience. So Isaac is an artificial life form from the planet Kaylon which falls outside of Union space. He’s in no way human and very much an alien. He’s technologically and intellectually superior to those around him and doesn’t have any qualms in pointing this out. To hilarious effect, of course…

How freeing is it to play such an other-worldly character?

Surprisingly so. There sort of aren’t any rules. If you think about it, why would aliens abide by our social norms? What we deem to be offensive could be the greatest display of affection on another world. Or a chat up line here could start a war over there. The great thing about this show is that we’re really none the wiser about how the other half operates despite the fact that it’s 400 years in the future. So I guess the joy of playing an alien is that, script permitting, you can go to town with the weirdness. 

Did you have to do a lot of research to prepare for this role? How did you get into the mind of Isaac?

It’s pretty difficult to do research for a character that’s brand-spanking new. I mostly had to go on what was in the script. We were, however, fortunate enough to have all the first season scripts written before filming started (quite unusual, I believe). So early on Seth slipped me the most important ones for Isaac which gave me a good idea of where he was going. In terms of getting into the role, Isaac comes from a place of deep logic and tireless curiosity. Once I’d nailed that he sort of got up and walked around by himself. 

How did Isaac wind up on the S.S Orville and what is his role within the team?

He’s been sent by his planet as an ambassador to study the Union and its cultures. Presumably for a lengthy report that we’re thankfully spared this season. His role onboard is Science Officer and he knows he’s very good at it.

Seth MacFarlane being such a creative genius, I imagine he’s always thinking about how to further improve a scene to make it funnier. How often were their off the cuff improv scenes and did such things make it to the final cut?

There were a few rewrites but generally each script was a fully formed creature by the time we came round to filming it. I think that’s where the true creative genius lies. Anyone can improvise on the day but to know exactly what a script needs and to put that in place well in advance takes true skill. Because of this there was very little off the cuff. Seth knows that comedy is a finely balanced thing. Tinkering with it too much can damage it. He also had a wonderful team of writers working with him that each lent their own style to the episodes.

Most interesting thing you learned about space travel?

Everything is underscored by a 75 piece orchestra. 

Did you get to experiment with any kind of zero gravity training? If not, is that something you would you be interested in?

No, but hell yes.

Who out of your castmates would you be willing to pack up and move to Mars with and why?

There’ll be recriminations if I show any favoritism. Also, would you really want to be marooned on a planet with only one other person? No thank you. 

If you could send anybody into a pod to live in the vastness of space by their lonesome, even if only for a few months, would you do it and if so, who would you send?

I suspect, once editing is finished, Seth would jump at the chance for a bit of peace and quiet. So I’d send him.

If you could see the state of the world 400 years from now, what changes do you hope Earth and society as a whole have made by then?

You still can’t get a decent cup of tea in LA so I’d hope that would have been rectified. Obviously there’s all the important stuff about world peace but I do genuinely believe that the moment aliens make themselves known to us we’ll have no choice but to get our act together. 

Were you a fan of Star Trek prior to landing this role? Do you hope the show resonates with Trekkies? 

Definitely. Star Trek was the first thing Seth and I bonded over when he called me after I got the part. Mostly Next Generation but also Voyager. We both grew up with it. I would have given a limb to be in Star Trek when I was a teenager. The Orville is an ode to that show. It doesn’t shy away from occupying a similar space in the sci-fi universe. I think what’s really unique about our show right now is that, like the Star Treks of Captain Janeway and Picard, The Orville offers a glimpse of a future that is filled with hope and adventure, that moves away from the current trend for dystopia. I think the Trekkies are going to eat that up.

Does the Krill have its own language a la Klingon? 

It always sounds like English to me but that might be my translator chip kicking in. 

What is one current show that you currently cannot get enough of?

Catastrophe. I’m late to the party but I love it.

On that same note, if you could guest appear in any show right now, which one would you set your eyes on?

A stint on House of Cards would be very nice. Then Modern Family for something completely different. 

What is the first thing you dove for when you returned home after filming? A social night out with friends and family, your favorite restaurant, your bed?

The evening I wrapped I caught a plane back to London for a few weeks of much needed catch ups with everyone at home. I needed my fix of Englishness. Once I got there I did all of the above in very quick succession. 

Anything else you’re currently working on that you’d like your fans to know about? 

It’s all currently projects in the pipeline. Need to get my hands on a long hook to pull some of them out of there. In the meantime, I’m happy to send you my CV.

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