‘The Orville’ Newbie Jessica Szohr Breaks Down Her Character Talla & Working With Seth MacFarlane

The Orville - Jessica Szohr
Kevin Estrada/FOX

[Warning: The below contains spoilers for the Season 2 episode of The Orville, “All The World Is Birthday Cke.”]

The Orville welcomed a new team member in its latest episode, “All The World Is Birthday Cake,” as Gossip Girl and Shameless alum Jessica Szohr arrived on the scene.

As the U.S.S. Orville’s new chief of security, Szohr’s Lieutenant Talla Keyali made quite the impression from her first scene. Between her threats of violence and desire to problem solve, Talla proved herself to be a worthy member of the group.

Below, Szhor fills us in on her new series regular role, what fans can expect moving forward, as well as her take on a potential Gossip Girl revival.

Lieutenant Talla Keyali made her debut this week. What was it like joining this exciting team?

Jessica Szohr: I just love playing her, so I was so excited to be working with the whole cast and everything. Joining the ship and coming on as the new chief of security [has been] super fun. Talla… she’s Xelayan, so she comes from Xelaya and she has super powers — basically she’s super strong because of the gravity from her planet. So I get to do really amazing stunts, and all this crazy stuff that you would never think she’d be able to do [Laughs]. I’ve never played something like that… Everyone was super welcoming.

Your transition of being accepted into the team was fairly smooth, was it the same behind the scenes?

Everyone’s so sweet, so professional and so prepared and really cares about this show. There’s such a good vibe and chemistry with everyone and then obviously working with Seth [MacFarlane]… he’s a genius. With how much he’s got going on and being the creator, directing and writing and acting in it — how calm he is with putting it all together is insane to me. I’ve been very blessed and so honored to be working with him as well.

What should fans expect from her moving forward?

There’s a lot of crazy stunts that come… I don’t know how much I can actually say cause I know Seth doesn’t like to give anything away at all but it’s a really fun season. And aesthetically from the some of the trailers I’ve seen, they look like mini movies. There’s so many messages that Seth has underlying all of these topics… But I really do think people will like Talla she’s got a big heart, she’s a little spicy, she wants to do the right thing and help people but yet she’s like a little badass.

Lt. Talla is a bit testy and not afraid to throw some punches, was it fun getting to play that side of her?

I go after what I want in life and things like that but because of [Talla’s] super powers it’s almost subconscious when she’s going after things. She’s pretty secure and stable in herself then all of a sudden she’s literally ripping doors down and picking up things where you’re like ‘how is she doing that?’ But it’s been super fun playing her.

The show and this episode in particular dealt with an important social issues. Were you aware of that approach beforehand?

Yeah, when I sat down with Seth when he was pitching it to me, telling me all about this character and I read one of the episodes. So yeah, I was well aware. It was a big part of why I actually wanted to do [the show] because I think that there’s so many things you can learn or see in it and I just think the way he does it is so genius.

Have you figured out the rhythm of the show balancing comedy, action and issues?

With the way it’s written, I don’t know if I’d say it’s super difficult, I think that because it takes place in space it shifts it a little bit. Like, when you tell a joke or touch a certain subject but because it’s out of this world and with space jargon it makes it a little bit easier to do.

What would you like fans to take away from you character if nothing else?

I just feel like she’s got a big heart and definitely always wants to do the right thing. I feel like there’s so many layers to her as well, like things will come out as the season goes on. She goes after what she wants, she’s very direct, and I hope people can see her warm side and see she’s also really funny sometimes too. I think people will enjoy her because of the different colors.

We loved you in Shameless. Is there any chance Nessa may pop up in the second half of Season 9?

I don’t think you’ll see Nessa again. [Laughs] But it was super awesome to work on that show and when Perry [Mattfeld] and I joined it we were actually only supposed to do five episodes so we ended up kinda staying a bit longer which was fun, but I thoroughly enjoyed that. Emmy [Rossum] was awesome, that was also such an amazing set to be on as well. They’re definitely like a machine there. After so many years there was such a good vibe with everyone… you could tell they were like a big family and I really felt that was special.

Reboots and revivals seem to be all the rage. Would you ever reprise your role of Vanessa on Gossip Girl if asked?

For a TV series? I’m not sure, but maybe for a film. I think it would be cool because it would be interesting to see where Vanessa is 10 years later. Probably still wandering around the Upper East Side even though she hates it so much. [Laughs]

The Orville, Thursdays, 9/8c, Fox