If you haven’t yet tuned in to Jury Duty, this is your sign to start watching the delightful new Amazon Freevee show.
Created by producers of Bad Trip and The Office, the eight-episode mockumentary series turns an everyday American experience into a hilarious reality TV experiment. Jury Duty explores the progression of a civil trial in California through the eyes of one very special juror, Ronald Gladden.
While filming for 17 days in 2021, Gladden believed he was serving on a sequestered jury, while participating in a documentary. Little did he know that everyone else involved in the process, from his fellow jurors to the bailiff to the judge, were actors, all performing a series of partly-scripted, partly-improvised antics.
Gladden turns out to be the perfect subject for the comedy docuseries. An easygoing, genuine, and amenable participant simply doing his best to be a good citizen, he bonds with his fellow jurors, including a range of people from a narcissistic, self-involved version of James Marsden (played by Marsden himself) to Todd Gregory (David Brown), a lovable oddball who, in one of the series’ best moments, Gladden decides would benefit from watching Pixar’s A Bug’s Life.
“One of the things we talked about from the beginning was we wanted a show that never felt like it was punching down and felt optimistic, that had the tropes and the tone of something like The Office but really had a warmth and an optimism to it as well,” series co-creator Lee Eisenberg told Vulture. “When we saw Ronald’s tape, we couldn’t believe it. He’s such a nice guy. He’s funny, he’s charming, he’s witty. That’s what we had hoped for.”
Executive producer Todd Schulman went on to explain how they found Gladden by putting out a Craigslist ad. “We went with Craigslist because it is a kind of democratic process,” he told Vulture. “If you go through casting, you’re going to find a lot of actors. We wanted to get people who were genuine human beings living in the real world, not people in the Hollywood ecosystem.”
Gladden—who found out what was really going on while shooting the end of the show—even had a little trouble getting back to his real life after learning he had been secretly filmed. “After everything was revealed and then after I came home for the weekend, I started getting paranoid,” he told TV Guide. “I started freaking out and I was like, ‘I feel like I’m being followed,’ so I was texting James [Marsden] and I was telling him this. James just being the wonderful person that he is, he called me up. We talked on the phone for like 30-45 minutes and he just helped me accept reality, accept fate. He reassured me there were no cameras following me around and he really helped me start working through those emotions.”
Since premiering on April 7, Jury Duty has blown up on TikTok, with fans of the series creating fancam edits of Gladden and the hashtag #JuryDutyOnFreevee garnering over 206 million views on the platform. “This is not even an ad I’m just urging u to watch bc it’s a hilarious show,” one user captioned a popular TikTok that has received more than 3.2 million likes.
Gladden himself now has over 94 thousand followers on Instagram, a development that’s apparently come as a shock to him. “I really didn’t think a lot of people were gonna see this,” he told GQ. “That’s one of the reasons I was okay with doing this. And then while we were doing it, once I realized that James was gonna be in it, I was like, ‘Okay, maybe a few million people might end up seeing this because we’ve got a Hollywood superstar now.’ But I never, I never imagined it’d be like this.”
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