Seth MacFarlane’s new science-fiction dramedy “The Orville” has boasted some bright guest stars in recent weeks.
Liam Neeson, Charlize Theron and Jeffrey Tambor have appeared in the first few episodes of the show, set 400 years in the future with MacFarlane as spaceship captain Ed Mercer. And producers promised there are more to come.
During a press roundtable at New York Comic Con, cast members weighed in with their own wish lists.
“Patrick Stewart would be a really cool person,” said Adrianne Palicki, who plays First Officer Kelly Grayson, Mercer’s ex-wife. “Seth would figure out a way to do it.”
Stewart is beloved in the Comic Con world for his turn as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” series and the “X-Men” film franchise.
Scott Grimes (helmsman Gordon Malloy), said Seth Green would be a great match to play his sibling, while Penny Johnson Jerald (chief medical officer Clare Finn) said she’s a big admirer of actor Jeffrey Wright’s work.
The show is a passion project for MacFarlane, who rose to fame after creating the sharp-tongued animated sensation “Family Guy.” While MacFarlane is a huge fan of the “Star Trek” shows, showrunners and stars said “The Orville” — which airs Thursdays on Fox — is more than an homage to that iconic piece of science fiction history.
“There’s no getting around there is some ‘Star Trek’ inspiration in this show,” executive producer David A. Goodman told reporters. “Seth is also very much aware he’s making a show for everybody.”
Early criticism of the show has softened as more episodes air and people see MacFarlane’s willingness to take on some controversial social issues of the time (a hallmark of the original “Star Trek” series) while keeping a healthy dose of humor.
“The Orville” retains its optimistic tone despite tackling serious topics like religion and gender reassignment.
Grimes admitted it was tough reading some of the early reviews but noted that some critics have admitted they weighed in too soon.
“I wish everyone had watched the first 10 episodes first,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Theron and Neeson needed little convincing to do the show. Both worked with MacFarlane on his film “A Million Ways to Die in the West.”
“They love working with Seth,” Goodman said.
A highlight of Theron’s guest spot was a fight scene with Palicki, who honed her action skills as Agent Bobbi Morse (Mockingbird) on “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
“It was kind of the best thing ever,” Palicki said with a smile. “I’ve idolized her. She’s another strong female who does a lot of action. It was kind of epic fun.”
So fun that Grimes said Palicki and Theron told the stunt women to take a break — they wanted to do the scene themselves.
Johnson Jerald, a veteran of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and “24,” plays a no-nonsense medical officer who has to fight off the advances of Yaphit, a creature voiced by comedian Norm MacDonald.
“I’m having the most fun playing against the Yaphit character,” Johnson Jerald said. “I have to tell you, you ain’t seen nothing yet. This green blob will not go away.”
Grimes and Palicki said the camaraderie of the cast is real, even getting together on rare days off to share a meal.
“I love these people,” said Grimes. “It’s hard work and we’re making something great.”