Ronald Gladden’s Jury Duty experience may be over, but the unsuspecting star of Amazon Freevee’s critically-acclaimed docu-style series isn’t done reflecting on his wild ride to fame just yet.
Freevee and Prime Video dropped eight cast commentary episodes of Jury Duty on June 1 that feature behind-the-scenes secrets, memories, reactions, and anecdotes from America’s hero Ronald Gladden, Sex Drive star James Marsden, director Jake Szymanski, and jurors Mekki Leeper (Noah), Cassandra Blair (Vanessa), and Maria Russell (Inez) — all of whom rewatched the episodes together in Burbank, California post-filming.
The four-hour commentary is filled with laughter, honest admissions, and never-before-heard tidbits that are sure to delight Jury Duty fans and enhance their understanding of how co-creators Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky (along with their cast, crew, and writers) successfully pulled off this complex, one-of-a-kind series. Here are 20 of the greatest takeaways from Jury Duty‘s cast commentary.
Food Truck Fakeouts
Remember when James Marsden offered to buy everyone lunch from the food truck outside the courthouse? Well, in one of many delightful cut bits, when the actor had to present his credit card he asked Ron if he wanted to split the bill with him. “We maybe should have put that in,” Szymanski laughed. Ron also revealed he paid for his meal before James “bought lunch” for everyone, got a bit suspicious when the food truck worker handed his card back too quickly, and checked his bank statement to see that saw that no one charged him for lunch. Rather than questioning it, he said he was thrilled.
The Ben Schwartz Phone Call
Ronald started off trashing Marsden’s movie Sonic the Hedgehog, but after learning Ben Schwartz was in it, he had a major change of heart. “James, why didn’t you tell me Ben Schwartz was in that movie,” Ronald joked in the commentary. “That’s maybe my favorite joke in the show. That day we wrapped and I called him immediately. It made him so happy to know that,” James revealed to Ronald’s delight.
Keeping Kirk Fox Away
Once production learned that Ronald was a huge Parks and Recreation fan, they were terrified he would recognize Kirk Fox, who plays Sewage Joe in the NBC sitcom. Fox had to grow a beard to hide his mustache and was separated from Ronald as much as possible, which Ronald says was a good call, because he likely would have recognized him without the beard. “First thing he said when he hugged me is, ‘I’m in Parks and Rec. I’m Sewage Joe,” Ronald said about meeting Fox post-filming.
The Cannes Jury Joke
One of the most iconic lines in Jury Duty is when James Marsden announces to the courtroom that he served on a jury before at the Cannes Film Festival. It turns out the joke was scripted, and Ronald had no idea what he was talking about in the moment. “James, I will say I did not understand this reference, but I was talking to Lee Eisenberg the other week and he told me that he wrote this joke over 10 years ago,” Ronald shared.
James Marsden Improv
Though a majority of the lines and general directions were scripted, Marsden did get to flex his improv skills a few times throughout the series. The first was when Lonnie (Ishmel Sahid) got selected as an alternate and James let out an, “OOF,” and later Sahid threw it the “OOF” right back to him. “That was just on the fly man, it was brilliant,” the former Cannes juror said. Another James Marsden special? The Chris Pine freakout. “Just adding some reality to the situation,” the actor said.
The Cut Judge Bit (Literally)
Remember when Judge Rosen sliced his hand in the first episode and said he cut it on his car window? Well, in an elaborate cut bit, when Ronald arrived at the courtroom that morning production planned to stage a woman breaking a car window and begging him not to tell anyone. Later, the judge was going to say his car got broken into and announce that he cut his hand, but the scene felt too “unfair” and “stressful” to put Ron through — especially so early in the process — so it was canned at the last second. “Yeah, somebody told me about that. I’m glad you guys decided not to include that, because you would have created a real moral dilemma for me for sure. I would have been sweating,” Ronald said.
Keeping The Audience In The Dark
When the series starts, Ronald is the only one — including viewers — who doesn’t know everyone else is an actor. But that wasn’t always the plan. The commentary reveals there was a lot of deliberation at the start as to whether or not the series would reveal Ronald was the only non-actor. There was talk of revealing the crucial piece of info in Episode 3 or 5, but ultimately after shooting all that footage it was clear the beats played better if viewers knew from the start.
The Best Cut Bits
As noted earlier, with so much footage and only eight half-hour episodes, a lot of prime footage got cut. Among the best cut bits was a scene that James improvised where he takes everyone to the middle of a parking lot, points to the hill, and says, “You can actually see my house right up there it’s the one with the Spanish roof.” Ronald recalled another major storyline that cut, in which Todd was presented as “a fresh out of prison felon.”
“They made a big deal about that in court, and so I was also under the impression that not only was he this kind of weird guy, but also a fresh out of prison felon,” he shared.
The Chair Pants Saga
Speaking of Todd, he had to wear those chair pants for a 90+ minute bus ride from the hotel to the court house, and yes, they were uncomfortable. The commentary also revealed production cut a bit on the fly where two people were supposed to enter the court room to unbolt and remove Todd’s seat from the floor so he could sit on his chants. They ultimately thought it might have raised too many red flags, and Ronald agreed.
Bits And Bets
Not only was the show full of bits, but several bets took place while filming. That day Barbara (Susan Berger) was sleeping in court Ronald bet James $20 that she would get kicked off the jury, which he still owes him. James also revealed that Edy Modica, who plays Jeannie, asked him for $100 one day and simply never gave it back. “I mean, eh. Do I look like I need it? Gotta give it out!” the actor, perhaps channeling Asshole James Marsden, joked.
The Easter Egg Gone Wrong
Mekki Leeper, who plays Noah, said he tried to throw in a fun Easter egg by naming his IRL girlfriend’s two friends, Brenna and Francisca. But he didn’t anticipate that Edy would improv and call Francisca “busted” and “so ugly.”
“You can see me look into the camera for real,” he admitted as everyone else laughed.
The cast commentary also revealed the key to successfully Googling “jorf” at Margaritaville was putting the word on UrbanDictionary two months beforehand to establish the fake world. Now that’s commitment to the bit.
The Hot Ones That Weren’t
Remember the Margaritaville arm wrestling contest that led to James Marsden paying for dinner? That was originally going to be a hot wing eating contest, but after learning Ronald didn’t like spicy food during filming they pulled the plug. Ronald also revealed one of his biggest fears is being invited on Hot Ones, because he’d want to say yes but knows he’s not cut out for it.
Mekki Lepper Genuinely Puked
For all those wondering if Mekki Lepper’s post-Margaritaville bus barfing was a bit, it wasn’t. The actor revealed he consumed too many sugary, non-alcoholic drinks at the restaurant and genuinely had to hurl. His character was supposed to fake throw up the following day as a result of a fake hangover, so they ended up having to cut that beat. In the end, the real puke sold it better.
The James Marsden Cardboard Cutout
To get back in Ronald’s good graces after James offended him in the park there was briefly a plan to deliver Ron a life-size cardboard cutout of James as his Sex Drive character. (Ronald obviously still wants this gift.)
Ken Almost Left The Show
After Ken epically lost a game of Yut to Ronald, the plan was for him to mysteriously disappear from the show and leave Ronald an envelope of the money he owed outside his door. Then James was going to take his place on the jury. Thankfully, Ron Song stayed until the very end, and he even sent Ronald a Yut game of his own after filming wrapped.
A Book Almost Blew Jury Duty‘s Cover
In the cast commentary, Ronald also revealed that he was a bit suspicious about the courthouse after finding a fake book in one of the interview rooms. “You guys got fake books?” he told “sweating” cameraman Chris Darnell. “I don’t trust anything here.”
Ronald’s “Naughty” Shirt
Ronald may be America’s newly crowned hero, but he does wear one “not good,” “naughty” shirt during the show that he hoped no one would see. It appears on-screen quickly during the finale and simply reads, “LEBRON JAMES DRINKS HIS OWN PEE.”
Ronald’s Initial Reactions
We all know it took Ronald quite some time to process that a majority of his Jury Duty experience was a meticulously crafted set-up, but there is one thing he was relieved to learn was fake: “The shit.” The commentary revealed that after filming wrapped the entire cast went to dinner and Ron was “a little disappointed” meeting everyone authentically because he loved the fake versions of them he came to know. He also expressed a deep desire for the series to be funny rather than an over-earnest drama. “I never had any aspirations of being famous, but if I did i would want it to be a comedy,” he explained. “I didn’t think you guys were going to make it a comedy, but I was hoping that maybe if I gave a little input you might include some funny stuff in here.” His wish was granted.
The Journey To Hero
When reflecting on his journey, and how kind and accepting he comes across on the show, Ronald said the experience changed him as a person and he wasn’t always his Jury Duty self. “I definitely used to be a different person before this. Part of the reason I am the way I am is because I wasn’t necessarily the nicest person, so I’m working on reconciling my past, you know?” he said. “So I’m trying to make it a point to spread positivity as opposed to negativity. I mean, I didn’t used to always be like this so the fact that you guys are calling me the hero in the show surprises a lot of people who I grew up with who haven’t known me since I moved to California.”
Both Jury Duty and the Jury Duty commentary episodes are currently streaming via Amazon Freevee and Prime Video.