Category: Interviews

Did James Marsden ever stop worrying about ‘Jury Duty’?

Did James Marsden ever stop worrying about ‘Jury Duty’?

The sleeper hit “Jury Duty” documents a trial, focusing particularly on one juror, Ronald Gladden. Except it’s not a real documentary; the cameras are real, the trial is fake, and a cast of actors surrounds Gladden, who is unaware of the ruse. But Gladden is not being set up as a mark; the Freevee limited series makes him a hero. And it turns juror-actor James Marsden into a petulant, spoiled Hollywood star.

In reality, executive producer Todd Schulman says, “James Marsden the person was basically the antithesis of James Marsden the character on the show.”

Co-creators Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky (“The Office”) worked with their writers to create outlines and scripts that would provide the springboard for improvisation, designing the show as a comedic “12 Angry Men.” Filling a shuttered courthouse in Huntington Park with hidden cameras in addition to the “documentary” crew, they enacted a fake civil trial from jury selection to deliberations. Early on, Eisenberg thought of including a celebrity, since in L.A., actors serve along with everybody else.

Marsden was initially suspicious of the offer. First he worried that the show would be pranking him. Then he worried that it would be cruel to Gladden, says Schulman, speaking by phone along with executive producer Nicholas Hatton (both of “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”). “He grilled us. He did not want to do the show if it was at all mean-spirited.”

As if to prove their point, Marsden shows up for an interview in a Hollywood hotel lobby without an entourage, helps find a quiet room to talk, and when that quiet room is empty of furniture, carries in armchairs. And then carries them out again afterward. The guy is thoughtful and game, qualities that proved essential for his role.

But even after taking the job, Marsden called his agent to try to back out. “I was just panicking, because after 30 years of doing this, you know what to expect. I didn’t know if I could do this.” At the same time, he has longed to try improvisational comedy, citing “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “The Larry Sanders Show” and Christopher Guest movies as touchstones.

So he took it on, while voicing his concerns daily when the cast gathered (without Gladden) to rehearse the obstacle course of sorts that they would put the unsuspecting Gladden through as he interacts with an assortment of eccentric jurors. “I was a thorn in their side for the whole thing,” Marsden says. “They were probably like, ‘Oh, my God, here’s Marsden again, worrying, worrying, worrying.’” Au contraire, mon frère, says Hatton. “James would analyze each beat — he really put himself into Ronald’s shoes. A lot of people have responded to the heart of the show, and it was a collaborative effort from everyone, but James was a big part of keeping us on track in that way.”

The only aspect Marsden didn’t worry about was playing himself as a big baby. “I’ll make an ass of myself all day long. I enjoy it; I’ll send up the cliché Hollywood petulant brat.”

On the show, his character tries to get out of serving by secretly alerting the paparazzi to his whereabouts to prove how disruptive his presence would be, which ends up causing the sequestration of the entire group. And then he gets out of sequestration by pleading stardom and throwing his cash and clout around. “He really did encourage everyone to go in at him, and to heighten his cartoon villainy,” Hatton notes. Our hero, Gladden, was generally forbearing (even when it came to Marsden’s bathroom jury doody) but stood up to the actor’s more asinine antics.

As much as he agonized, Marsden started to believe that the show might work when Gladden befriended juror Todd, actor David Brown playing an odd duck intended to weird him out. “When I learned that he showed Todd ‘A Bug’s Life’ ” — to make him feel better about his idiosyncratic ways — “and then gave him a makeover, I was like, this guy is like an angel,” Marsden recalls. “If we are going to succeed in creating a hero’s journey for someone, we found the guy, and now we just have to get him to the finish line.” That was a big “if.” The stakes grew exponentially higher with every passing day of the shoot. “Everyone was terrified. No one wanted to be the one to screw it up.”

After Gladden was let in on the joke in the finale, and headed back home to San Diego, Marsden called him to see how he was holding up. “I was like, ‘How you doing; you feeling it?’ And he’s like, ‘Are there still cameras around?’ I said, ‘No sir, there are not. I know you shouldn’t believe me, but it is all done.’” Gladden and the cast kept the show a secret for a year.

Marsden had one final concern. “I thought maybe three people would see it. That line where I said, ‘I’m in mourning for my career,’ was half-real.” The morning after “Jury Duty” premiered, he was in New York, “and I walked across the street to a coffee shop, and every other person pointed at me and was like, ‘The jury!’ TikTok got a hold of it, and it just exploded.”

Within weeks, Gladden signed with a management company and made a Mint Mobile ad with Ryan Reynolds. And he’s still friends with the cast. Marsden can stop worrying now.

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Videos: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

Videos: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

“Jury Duty” star James Marsden talks about the time he was called to serve, and why he quickly realized he wouldn’t be getting out of it in The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Also, James Marsden talks about the extensive preparation and misdirection that went into fooling Ron Gladden, the hero of the hit series, “Jury Duty.

James Marsden Says He Has to ‘Master’ All of His Hobbies, Including Being a ‘Nerd’ About Watches

James Marsden Says He Has to ‘Master’ All of His Hobbies, Including Being a ‘Nerd’ About Watches

The actor tells PEOPLE about his deep love of the timepieces from IWC Schaffhausen and why he continues to partner with the brand

James Marsden doesn’t do things halfway.

The Disenchanted star, who has partnered with IWC Schaffhausen for years, admits that he’s a “nerd” when it comes to watches — and all of his hobbies — because he wants to know everything there is to know.

“I just have to immerse myself in all of it,” he says of his hobbies, one of which is collecting watches. “I have to master it, not to prove anything; I just can’t get enough information about it.”

His love for IWC Schaffhausen dates back to his Ally McBeal days in the early 2000s, he tells PEOPLE exclusively. When the show wrapped, the actor was gifted with an IWC Portofino watch, he says, and he fell in love with it right away.

“That was what lit the fuse to my enthusiasm,” Marsden, 49, says. “It was the first nice watch I’ve ever really owned. I began to slowly learn about them and learn about [IWC’s] history.”

Not too long after that, Marsden says he was preparing for a Met Gala when his stylist, Ilaria Urbanati, handed him another IWC watch to wear with his tux.

“It was just happenstance,” he says. “I was like, ‘Okay, well, this is written in the stars.'”

But rather than simply wear the watches and admire how “pretty” they are, Marsden did what he does with all of his hobbies — he learned everything. He met the team, he went to Switzerland to see how the timepieces are crafted, he joined the brand at events and he’s worn a number of watches for his own enjoyment.

“It’s one of these rare friendship-work relationships where these are your friends, but you are also just as much of a fan of the brand as you are the people who are involved with it,” Marsden says.

The luxury brand, which just opened the doors of a new boutique location in Palm Beach, Florida, in a partnership with Greenleaf & Crosby, specializes in classic timepieces that are built to last. And what Marsden loves so much about them is the fact that they aren’t splashy or “show-offy.”

“I like function; I like tool watches,” Marsden tells PEOPLE at the event celebrating the store’s opening. “I like something that has a purpose to it and on top of that is beautifully finished and looks very elegant. [IWC Schaffhausen] epitomizes that.”

Marsden rattles off a list of his favorite watches from the brand, including a Pilot Spitfire, a Portofino Chronograph and a Portugieser Chronograph. If you give the actor enough time, though, he’ll continue naming watches and features he likes, proving that he actually has mastered knowing all the fine details of the brand he admires.

The beautifully crafted watches start around $4,000 in price, but many are over $10,000. For Marsden, though, a luxury watch is a worthwhile investment if you can afford it — because you can hold onto it for years and years.

“I never went really crazy with fashion,” Marsden says of how he spent his first few big paychecks as an actor. “But luxury, boy, watches are what I would spend money on. To me, I could always argue you’re never going to lose that money on certain things. There are always going to be collector items, so essentially you’re making an investment.”

A classic watch ties in seamlessly with Marsden’s signature style, which he says is “effortless.” He’s quick to give credit to his stylist Urbanati for any fashion accolades he gets and notes that their relationship works well because she understands what he wants to wear.

“We would always talk about how there has to be an element of effortlessness,” he says of his process with Urbanati. “You don’t want to see the work put into it. [The outfit] can’t be wearing you. The people that I always think about are classic Marlon Brando or Paul Newman, where it’s simple but still beautiful. I think there’s a way of doing simplicity without it being boring. You can have elegance — so, that’s my foundation.”

And though the father of three is game for little bits of flair for a red carpet, he jokingly tells PEOPLE that he can’t compete with the style stars of today. The pastel Dolce & Gabbana suit he wore for the SAG Awards earlier this year was about as far outside his fashion box that he was willing to step.

“I wore a baby blue tuxedo to the SAG awards — I fought it for a while,” he says with a laugh before clarifying that he let Urbanati put him in “whatever” she wanted. “I always let her do that anyway; I don’t actually fight her.”

His stylist assured him that the suit was a winner, even though he felt like he belonged “on top of a wedding cake” somewhere.

“She said, ‘You wear this, you’ll get in GQ‘s best dressed,’ and sure enough, she was right.”

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Studio Photoshoots > Photoshoots from 2023 > Set #001