James Marsden on playing jerk on ‘Jury Duty’ — and how Ronald Gladden kept him in check


Hello! I’m Yvonne Villarreal, TV writer for The Times and “The Envelope” podcast co-host.

We’re back with another season, and we’re kicking things off with actor James Marsden, who stars in Freevee’s comedy “Jury Duty.” In “Jury Duty,” the entire cast and crew stage a fake trial. Everyone is in on the joke, except for one person: Ronald Gladden, a 30-year-old contractor from San Diego.


Marsden plays a hilarious Hollywood jerk version of himself — a far cry from his past roles in “X-Men” and “Enchanted” — but stops short of making Gladden the butt of the joke. In fact, Gladden emerges as a kind of lovable hero. By the time we reach the big reveal, the show is just as heartwarming as it is comedic.

Marsden and I discussed how the cast and crew managed to pull it all off (despite moments where they thought they might not) and how — despite his very believable performance — he strives to keep ego from ruining his reputation in real life.

James Marsden

We also got to chat about Marsden’s start in Hollywood, his resistance to being typecast as “the guy with the blue eyes and cheekbones,” and why he passed on “Magic Mike.”

The feeling was, it’s either going to be really funny — and maybe skewing a little mean, or ... morally questionable — or it’s really what they say it is, and it’s a hero’s journey, and we’re going to hoist this guy on our shoulders at the end of it and celebrate him, and the comedy’s going to suffer for that. But somehow we managed to walk and chew gum at the same time there.

— James Marsden on “Jury Duty”

Listen now wherever you get your podcasts or on, where you can also read the full transcript. We have a new YouTube channel, too!


Can't get enough about awards season?

For more, follow us on Twitter at @villarrealy and @IndieFocus, and for a deeper dive into the best new movies, get Mark’s weekly Indie Focus newsletter.

If you’re enjoying this newsletter, please consider subscribing to The Times.

Feedback? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at