James Marsden Is Surprised and Delighted by Jury Duty’s Emmy Haul



James Marsden went to bed as late as he could Tuesday night, hoping he would sleep through the Emmy nominations announcement this morning. “But of course, when you do that, you wake up three hours before the nominations, and you just ruminate for three hours,” he tells Vanity Fair with a laugh.

The actor, who stars in Freevee’s unconventional comedy series Jury Duty, was just as unsure as the rest of us if his show would be acknowledged by the TV Academy. “It’s not your traditional comedy. You could argue that yes, there were scripts, but it wasn’t really scripted. It was a hybrid of reality and scripted architecture,” he says. “There’s these incredible shows like Ted Lasso and Barry that are proven. I didn’t think I was ever in the conversation, and I really didn’t know if the show was either. So it was a real genuine surprise when the show got its love…. I know everyone always says, ‘Well, I didn’t expect it.’ But I really, really didn’t this time around.”

Jury Duty followed an unsuspecting man (Ronald Gladden) who thinks he’s been chosen for a regular jury when in reality, he’s on a hidden-camera show, surrounded by actors. Marsden played a character called James Marsden who exhibited all of the stereotypical traits you’d expect from a celebrity trying to get out of jury duty. But in the end, Gladden’s enigmatic and kind personality made him an unexpected hero on the show.

The series took the world by storm when it was released, gaining attention on social media and high praise from critics. And it surpassed all expectations this week, earning four Emmy nominations—for casting, writing, comedy series, and a supporting-acting nomination for Marsden. “This is new territory for me,” says Marsden, who earned his first nomination today, despite strong performances in celebrated TV series like Dead to Me and Westworld.

“I think the sort of understatement of this whole show is uncertainty,” says Marsden of making his unorthodox series. “It’s a new frontier. We went into the show asking, ‘What are we doing? Is this gonna even work? Is it even funny? Is it morally questionable? Are people gonna laugh?’”

His first call this morning was to Gladden, with whom he built a friendship on Jury Duty. “I wanted to call Ronald immediately, because him having a positive experience was just the most important thing to me,” the actor says. “I’m always just making sure he’s going to be in a good place.”

Of course, fan-favorite Gladden will join Marsden at the Emmys, which is sure to be a unique experience for him. “If I’m a betting man, if we’re talking about who’s going to be asked for the most selfies, I guarantee you he’s going to be top five for sure. I love it for him that he’s embracing it, because we just didn’t know by the end of this how he would react. Keeping someone in the dark for three weeks of their life is an unconventional way of celebrating someone’s humanity,” says Marsden. “Now that he’s been embraced by the world, I just couldn’t be happier.”


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