The Guy From ‘Jury Duty’ On What It’s Like to Be ‘Truman Show-ed’ in Real Life
The judge, the lawyers, the plaintiff and defendant, the jury, even the waitress at Margaritaville were all actors. Except Ronald.
Ronald Gladden is a solar contractor from San Diego who thought he was participating in a documentary about the judicial system. In reality, he was the subject of a Truman Show-like reality series, Jury Duty, in which every single other person he came into contact with was a paid actor. The judge, the lawyers, the plaintiff and defendant, the jury, even the waitress at Margaritaville were all actors. Except Ronald.
The series, which has been compared to The Office, documented Ronald’s reaction to the actors around him performing bits. For instance, one scene showed Ronald jokingly relaying a scene from Family Guy to a potential juror in which Peter tries to get out of jury duty by saying he’s a racist. Later, the potential juror awkwardly tries to tell the judge he is racist and then tells him that Ronald told him to say it. The camera pans to Ronald, who looks like a deer caught in the headlights.
Two years ago in 2021, 30-year-old Ronald had answered a vague Craigslist ad looking for volunteer jurors to film a documentary about the judicial process. Executive producer Todd Schulman said production received thousands of answers to this ad and were careful to select an applicant who was not financially desperate but was answering the ad because they were looking for “adventure”. Ronald was selected because he was the most likable (and photogenic) candidate that seemed to meet this criteria. The addition of famous actor James Marsden as “himself” seemed to add credibility to the jury experience because it felt so preposterous it had to be real.
Schulman said he was interested in creating an organic “hero’s journey” for Ronald that relied on finding a diverse group of people/actors and finding a way to sequester the group together so that they could bond. The show accomplished this by forcing the jury to sequester as a result of James Marsden’s shenanigans. The experiment was a big success with the cast bonding so much that Ronald tried to help out neurotic social misfit Todd (David Brown) by showing him the film A Bug’s Life (1998). Ronald thought Todd would enjoy the movie because the misunderstood bugs are always making inventions to make life better, like Todd.
One of the things we talked about from the beginning was we wanted a show that never felt like it was punching down and felt optimistic, that had the tropes and the tone of something like The Office but really had a warmth and an optimism to it as well. When we saw Ronald’s tape, we couldn’t believe it. He’s such a nice guy. He’s funny, he’s charming, he’s witty. That’s what we had hoped for. He exceeded our expectations in every single moment of the show.Lee Eisenberg, How Jury Duty Orchestrated the Trial of a Lifetime
In the season finale Ronald was let in on the joke and awarded $100,000 for his participation. Ronald’s genuine shock is clear in the episode, and he has continued to share with fans how the series has impacted his life. After Jury Duty wrapped, he took another month off of work to recover. Ronald says James Marsden has been especially helpful in helping him verbally ventilate his feelings about being the surprise subject of the show. For instance, at one point Ronald was concerned there were still cameras following him and there was another “reveal” coming up. Marsden was in immediate contact to assure him there were no more cameras and helped Ronald process his feelings about being “Truman Show-ed”.
Audiences have loved Jury Duty and especially Ronald. Fans have requested that he be the next Bachelor and have make TikToks about how he is an example of “the female gaze“. You can catch all 8 episodes of Jury Duty streaming now on FreeVee.