Mark Jackson chatted about his role as Isaac on The Orville: New Horizons. Season 3 currently streams weekly on Hulu.
British actor Mark Jackson is best known for his role as “Isaac” on The Orville. He joined the cast from the pilot in 2017 and remains one of the core characters. Mark continues playing Isaac in Season 3 – streaming on Hulu with the “New Horizons” subtitle.
On the show, Isaac is a member of the Kaylon species – artificial lifeforms who view themselves as intellectually superior to organic lifeforms, i.e. humans.
Isaac joins the Planetary Union as an emissary, to determine whether it would be beneficial for Kaylon to join. Without giving too much away, this has serious repercussions as the series progresses.
Besides The Orville, Mark worked with English comedian Peter Kay on That Peter Kay Thing. He has also worked extensively in the West End in productions such as War Horse, Noise and Shout.
Mark chats with Courageous Nerd about his experiences on The Orville, making the move to LA as well as his wider career to date. In addition to this article, the interview is also on the Courageous Nerd YouTube channel, linked below.
Fans of The Orville know you as Isaac, the ship’s resident Kaylon. However, could you discuss your acting journey before the show and what led you to where you are now?
Mark Jackson: I’ve been acting since 2006, professionally. I did a lot of theatre, as actors do in the UK. It’s the sort of ‘bread and butter’ and often how actors learn their trade on the go.
It’s brilliant, you play a huge variety of parts. You make the best friends you’ll have in your life. Each show you do, you pick up a new family. I did a huge variety of work, from small summer theatre companies to work in the National and the West End.
The last show I did before getting The Orville was the last cast of War Horse. I played the part that Benedict Cumberbatch played [in the feature film]. I was steadily working as an actor and then this completely bizarre audition came up. So, I went for it.
Much like Isaac is the only Kaylon aboard The Orville, you are the only Brit in the main cast. Going back to the first season, how was the experience of moving to the US and meeting your castmates?
Mark Jackson: It was very exciting. The first month I was there, La La Land had just come out. So, I saw that in the cinema by myself.
It was so magical and romantic to be heading to LA to perform in this big TV show. Science-fiction and playing an alien… I always loved Star Trek and always loved sci-fi. It was a complete dream come true. I feel so lucky.
I like submerging myself in different cultures. America was not strange to me, I’d been to America quite a few times before. My parents even lived there for four years, when I was in my early 20s. It was great, just so fun.
How much input have you had into Isaac’s journey? Or, do you just work with what’s on the page?
Mark Jackson: We’ve had a lot of discussion about it. At the end of the day, it’s up to the writers to come up with whatever they want.
I think they weren’t quite sure what to do with Isaac, at the beginning. He was a comedic device. That was great, Mr Potato Head and chopping off legs. He really became the emotional heart of the story, somehow. I’m very grateful to the writers for making that happen.
His personal journey through Season 3 really mirrors the greater journey of the ship; the crew. He’s been thrust centre stage in his own journey, but has taken the crew and The Orville with him. It’s been quite a miraculous journey.
When we spoke to your co-star Peter Macon (Bortus) recently, he mentioned that you both come from theatrical backgrounds. How much does this help while playing a dialogue-heavy character such as Isaac?
Mark Jackson: I think both of our parts require a lot of discipline. Theatre training gives you discipline. It gives you a skillset which you can draw upon when you find a role particularly challenging.
Unusually for a character like Isaac, you’re both the voice and in-suit performer. How much does one aspect inform the other? For instance, do you think about your line delivery in ADR based on the character’s physical movements?
Mark Jackson: Well yeah, that’s just acting, isn’t it? Every moment an actor moves or speaks, they do it in a certain way to convey what they’re trying to convey. Absolutely, Isaac’s very precise. He’s efficient and a machine that doesn’t see any point in wasting energy on anything that wouldn’t be 120% communicative.
Although primarily a stoic character, Isaac does have a connection with the Finn family consisting of Claire, Marcus and Ty, which began in Into The Fold (1×08). How do you find working with those actors?
Mark Jackson: Such a joy. We’re a little set family, it’s great. Penny’s fantastic, you all know Penny from countless shows. She’s an absolute class act of a performer, she’s very generous, she always brings wonderful things to her performances and it’s always a pleasure to do a scene with her.
She’s got hella energy, I don’t know where she gets it from. She can go all day and still deliver right to the end of it. There are long days on set, we’re talking at least 12 hours.
I’ve seen the boys grow up, really. They were quite small and now BJ (Tanner, “Marcus”) is taller than me. He’s over 6’0 now. Even Kai (Wener, “Ty”) is coming up. Every time I see them, it’s wonderful.
The kids are great with each other and they’re quite different ages. They were always brilliant on set with each other. I’ve gotten to know their parents, so it’s been great and it’s not over.
In Season 3, a new character, Charly (Anne Winters) harbours a deep dislike for Isaac, owing to his actions in Season 2. Could you discuss working with Anne Winters and developing that dynamic throughout the season?
Mark Jackson: [It was] great, she’s a treasure, I love her. Really nice. It’s not easy to come into a show in its third season and make your own stage. She came in and was very nice, very good at what she was doing.
Our team are a great bunch of people, so it was a good fit. She’s fantastic and has an amazing stillness about her. So yeah, brilliant addition and she did a great job this season.
With The Orville Season 4 unconfirmed at this time, are there any other projects you can discuss?
Mark Jackson: I shot a movie in September, so hopefully that will be coming out at some point. I’ve bought a house, moved into it, painted it, done a lot of painting. I’ve just been getting on with a bit of life, really. The Orville does get in the way of that, somewhat.
We’ll see, lots of things could potentially pop up when you least expect them.
In a wider sense, what would you like to accomplish with the rest of 2022?
Mark Jackson: Just keep working, be happy, share the love. You must’ve spoken to a lot of actors in the past. Actors never know what’s going to happen to them next week, let alone in the next few months or the year.
You’ve just got to roll with the punches a bit, as an actor. Make the most of whatever comes your way. Six years ago, I never thought I’d be in the third season of a science-fiction show. It’s absolute madness and you really have to go with it.