In some ways, casting was always going to be the most essential element of Freevee’s hit series Jury Duty. The showrunners and producers may have found an absolute gem in Ronald Gladden, but surrounding the non-actor with a talented and committed cast of comedians and improvisers was instrumental in pulling off the show’s unique social experiment.
Casting Director Susie Farris had her work cut out for her, balancing several different considerations in putting together the show’s hilarious cast.
“You’re looking for people who have comedic and/or improv backgrounds, who are also unknown commodities to most of America. At the same time, it’s also a really big task that we were asking from these people, to be able to stay in character for such a long time.”
As viewers witnessed, members of the jury were kept in sequester, and so they were expected to remain in character nearly 24/7. With the project so heavily shrouded in secrecy, Farris knew she was asking a lot of potential players by not even offering them a script to read. But it’s a testament to Farris’ reputation and that of the entire Jury Duty creative team that so many talented actors and actresses eventually signed on to the show.
Of course, the premise also offered a truly meaty opportunity for those who were up to the challenge.
“We had asked people to audition with playing one of two characters. We gave them two prompts and just said ‘be that character for a minute’. The people who really love this medium, I think were so thrilled to be able to do that,” says Farris.
Farris and her team were careful not to fall in love with any one auditioner too quickly, however. If anyone on the team identified someone as too recognizable, they were struck from consideration. Fortunately, the show’s LA setting provided slight wiggle room in this regard.
“Being in Los Angeles, you also see people all the time that you don’t know if they were your friend from first grade or if they were on a TV show,” Farris jokes. There was some slight concern while filming Jury Duty that Ronald had recognized character actor Kirk Fox (masquerading as Juror #1), but the cast and crew were quick to adjust and maintain the illusion.
Of course, Fox is not the show’s most recognizable face. That honor belongs to James Marsden, whose hilariously heightened version of himself has netted an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.
Listen to the full interview below to hear about Farris’ casting of Marsden, as well as her broader thoughts on the show’s breakout as a cultural phenomenon.