If you haven’t watched Jury Duty yet, be warned that this article has spoilers.
Amazon Freevee’s Jury Duty recently received four Emmy award nominations. Since premiering this spring, the viral hit has become a fan favorite; plus it’s been garnering a lot of positive media coverage. Last month, we caught up with Ronald Gladden, a solar contractor who thought he was taking part in a documentary about the legal system, to get the behind-the-scenes scoop.
Can you tell us about Amazon Freevee's ‘Jury Duty’?
Jury Duty is a docu-style comedy in which I was under the impression that I was participating in a documentary exploring the judicial process. It was going to be a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on in the deliberation room and what it's like in the actual courtroom. Unbeknownst to me, everyone I was surrounded by was an actor. Everything was fake.
How did you become a part of it?
I was a solar contractor in San Diego before I signed up for this. I was feeling a little burnt out. I was really just looking for a new experience. I came across an ad on Craigslist that advertised being a part of a documentary.
What were your initial thoughts about the other jurors, including Hollywood A-lister, James Marsden?
I was obviously prepared to meet and interact with new people. I thought, “I'm going to be surrounded by a lot of people. Some of them are probably just going to be a little bit different; it's just the way it is.” We're all a little bit different, you know? So, that's kind of what I was expecting. Seeing James there, it caught me off guard. I'm not proud to admit how long it took me to fully realize who he was!
The audience saw some outrageous moments, like, when Todd, the juror, shows up to court in “chair pants.” Or when you play what you think is a Korean gambling game, and win $2,000, but then you don't take it. Which was your favorite?
[Playing the game with Ken]. That’s actually a real Korean board game. It was a lot of fun. Although I felt bad for the way it ended with Ken, it was still was a good time.
It appears there were genuine friendships formed. What kind of bond did you get with the group?
The relationships I formed with these people were genuine. Everything that they told me about their past lives, about themselves, what they've gone through, things they've done, that was actually real.
When the judge revealed that this whole thing is fake, did you feel deceived at all?
The best way I can describe it is sensory overload. I had a feeling in my gut the whole time that something wasn't right. They got me on camera multiple times saying, "I feel, like, I'm on reality TV. Like, this can't be real. What's going on?"
The day of the reveal, everyone was so quick to let me know that, like, "Hey, we understand that none of this was real. But the one thing—that the relationships we formed were real." They were so quick to just let me know that that wasn't fake. And that honestly is what made the whole thing worth it for me.
Your life has probably changed tremendously since the show came out.
My life completely changed overnight, I don't even like using this word, but apparently I'm famous now and I can't grasp that concept yet. It's still a weird feeling.
You won a $100,000 as part of this experience. Any plans for spending it?
Truthfully, [my plans are] surviving in Southern California and spoiling my little corgi puppy, Meatball.
‘Jury Duty’ is a viral hit. What do you think is the reason for this show becoming so popular?
It's a combination of everything. It’s a feel-good lighthearted comedy. It's super original. It's something that's never been done before.
And, the audience that it reaches [spans generations]. I've had people tell me that their 9-year-old child watches it, and their 80-year-old mother also watches it. I think that's just the humanity ultimately—is why it's been able to reach so many people.
What can people take away from your experience on ‘Jury Duty’?
If there's anything that people take away from this, it's just to be a decent person. I'm being labeled as a hero. I'm flattered, but it feels like a weird title, because if you look at what I did on a day-to-day basis, all I was trying to do was just be a decent human being. Show kindness to everyone, be respectful, help people who need it. Just be good to each other. It really is that simple.