Amazon Freevee's Emmy-nominated hit series "Jury Duty" has taken the mockumentary genre by storm, blending comedy with elements of real-life intrigue. At the heart of this unique show is Ronald Gladden, an unsuspecting solar panel contractor from San Diego who believes he's on a genuine jury duty, surrounded by improv actors, all in character.
Amidst this cast is James Marsden, portraying a fictional and highly narcissistic version of himself, who employs various antics, including a particularly hysterical "soaking" scene, to keep the facade alive. The scene in question is etched in viewers’ memories, as Marsden springs onto a bed with jurors Jeannie (Edy Modica) and Noah (Mekki Leeper) in a fabricated intimate moment.
Despite Gladden's absence from the scene, the dedication of Marsden and the team was unwavering. “We wanted Ronald to witness the same if he ever chanced upon it,” Marsden shared in a recent interview with EW, emphasizing that they shot the scene in real-time sequence for authenticity.
Marsden's Comedic Character Challenge
Despite the comedic spontaneity, Marsden recalls the challenge of staying in character without Gladden around. The trio's uncontrollable laughter due to the sheer absurdity made the scene a memorable one.
Marsden recalls Leeper's innocent portrayal as "brilliantly virginal", which made it even more comical. For Marsden, known for roles in "Dead to Me" and "Westworld", the freedom "Jury Duty" provided was a fresh experience.
The character, an exaggerated self-version, allowed him to showcase both comedic and serious nuances. With a focus on maintaining Gladden's trust throughout the series, Marsden often shifted between his character's Hollywood arrogance and genuine kindness.
This delicate balance ensured that Gladden, the unsuspecting hero of the story, remained invested and unaware. Interestingly, Marsden likens his performance to method acting, albeit temporarily. “It was important for my character to have depth and not be a constant annoyance,” Marsden explains, emphasizing that he enjoyed returning to his usual self post-filming.
With a 30-year career spanning myriad roles, Marsden's first Emmy nomination for playing "James Marsden" is an ironic yet fitting tribute to his versatility. He jests about the TV Academy recognizing him when he's essentially being himself but revels in the surrealism of the honor. "It's a testament to how different this 'James Marsden' is from the real one," he concludes with a laugh.