'Orville: New Horizons' Stars Adrianne Palicki, Penny Johnson Jerald Talk Season 3 of Hit Sci-Fi Comedy (Exclusive)

The Orville: New Horizons will soon debut on Hulu, and it finds the exploratory space crew on new missions and adventures. Recently, series stars Adrianne Palicki and Penny Johnson Jerald — who play Commander Kelly Grayson and chief medical officer Doctor Claire Finn, respectively — sat down with PopCulture.com for an exclusive interview about Season 3 of the hit sci-fi comedy-drama series. Speaking about what it was like to return to the series after so much time away, due mainly to the Covid-19 pandemic, Palicki joked that it was "crazy."

'I'm like, 'how do I do this? Who's Kelly? Huh?' No, it was fun being back to see everybody. It was difficult obviously we had, you know, COVID in the middle and it was, it was hard. I mean, I genuinely... it was very massively fearful, like even talking to the studio, like, do I have to go back right now? Because I'm so freaked out about this situation, and thankfully, we had such a beautiful team of doctors and nurses that, you know, we had to test every day. We had to test on our days off, we had to test on the weekends. It was honestly a pain in the ass, but it kept us safe and it kept us feeling safe, and I think that the bar was set really high as far as COVID health and awareness on our set. So it was weird. It was like, 'Yay, we're back. Yay, we're back.'"

The Covid-19 protocols, while understandably necessary, had an impact on performing, with Johnson Jerald explaining, "It was more difficult because I was the first to go back, and I was there for a while when we came back from COVID. And so all the masking and having the shields on and all of that was physically difficult. You could not breathe, and there were scenes that we were shooting that required a lot of movement, and even when rehearsing those scenes, you had to have all of the gear on and you became more exhausted because there was no air. I feel like for colored girls who committed suicide "and then there was no air" that whole monologue. You really could not breathe, and if you sat down, you couldn't have a snack. So you were starving and you couldn't [eat]."

Notably, The Orville has moved to Hulu from Fox for Season 3, which raises questions as to whether or not the change from broadcast TV to streaming could have an effect on the show. For Palicki, as an actor, she says she did notice some positive differences after the switch. "We had the luxury, I feel like, of always having a great show and telling great stories, but I will say that this season specifically has been epic," she said. "It feels like it's a billion-dollar show. You know what I mean? And you really see that in the new costumes, in the new ship, in the new, you know, like, things are new and shiny, and also the special effects are insane. And the action is amazing and, it doesn't slow down and you really, you really feel that. On top of the fact that, we had more time to shoot lots, three years time to shoot."

One thing that has always stood out about The Orville, is that it never shies away from controversial topics, and instead uses the filter of sci-fi to offer commentary. New Horizons is no different and even begins the season by exploring something very complicated and emotional. Johnson Jerald offered her feelings on being part of the cast on a show that takes a grey-area approach to complex concepts. 

"First of all, it's exciting," she said, "and you feel kind of like you have a responsibility because if you have a format to be able to bring about issues so that people can have a conversation about them at that point, you have accountability because you should use it. And I think that's what we do with The Orville. And then as the actor, you have to execute it so that you're not making comments to make people think a certain way, but you are doing it so that you are introducing thoughts to people so that they can change for the better. So I think you do have a responsibility."

Ultimately, fans can rest assured that there is a lot to look forward to in The Orville: New Horizons, with Palicki teasing, "I just think the evolution of this show has been phenomenal and you're going to see such big arcs. There's a lot of inner turmoil within the ship. You're going to see this between a bunch of different characters and a lot of different relationships happening within the ship too, the shocking ones."

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The Orville: New Horizons premieres Thursday, June 2, on Hulu. Fans can also go to Hulu to catch up on past seasons of the series. For more coverage of The Orville: New Horizons, including more exclusive cast interviews, stay tuned to PopCulture!