‘Jury Duty’ Star Ronald Gladden on His Newfound Fame and Future Plans: ‘I Would Love to Be on Something Else’
In the days since the finale of “Jury Duty” on Amazon Freevee, Ronald Gladden’s life has changed in ways he never could have imagined. After responding to a Craigslist ad asking for participants to take part in a documentary about jury duty, the 30-year-old San Diego-based project manager instead found himself as the unknowing star of his very own “Truman Show.”
He ended up being the foreman on an absurd, fake trial while a cast of actors orchestrated a string of ludicrous scenes pulled straight out of a sitcom. While in hindsight it’s hard to see how Gladden didn’t have his suspicions, the most unbelievable moment for him might have come in the final episode, when it’s revealed that every interaction he’s had over the past month was scripted and rehearsed, with hidden cameras documenting his every move that would ultimately be viewed by millions of strangers.
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“I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t a little bit nervous about all this attention,” Gladden tells Variety over a Zoom call from a Los Angeles hotel, where he’s currently on a press tour for the show alongside fellow jurors James Marsden, David Brown and Mekki Leeper and creators Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky (the producers behind “Bad Trip” and “The Office”) “Obviously, I’ve never experienced this type of recognition before.”
Gladden says he’s fielding thousands of DMs on Instagram, where his follower count has grown from a few hundred to 120,000 since the show aired. His fans are arguably even more obsessed on TikTok, where a hashtag of his name, #RonaldGladden, boasts more than 28 million views, filled with videos dubbing him as the “perfect example of the female gaze” and thirsting over his good-natured reactions to the increasingly absurd situations thrown at him.
For example, when Brown, who plays oddball juror Todd, shows up to court with crutches attached to his legs, a contraption he calls chair pants or “chants,” Gladden doesn’t laugh behind his back. Instead, he shows him the movie “A Bug’s Life” in their hotel room later that night to make him feel better about his idiosyncrasies. When juror Ken, played by Ron Song, loses $2,000 to Gladden in a Korean gambling game he’s never played before, Gladden refuses to accept the money. One of the best scenes occurs when Gladden is asked to jump on the bed while two other jurors, Noah (Leeper) and Jeannie (Edy Modica), have sex in an act called soaking. When he refuses, Marsden steps in — a scene so good that even Gladden admits he wishes it were real.
Following the show’s finale, Variety spoke to Gladden about his newfound fame, his relationship with the “Jury Duty” cast and his plans for the future.
I can only imagine that the past few days have been some of the craziest in your life. How are you enjoying your new fame?
I’m definitely enjoying it but truthfully nothing really changed until a couple of days ago, like my social media presence grew and that was really about it. But as soon as the finale aired, and everybody saw how it ended and I’m doing all these events, now the change is actually really happening.
As someone who’s more private on social media, are you nervous about having so much attention on you?
If you look at my social media, you’ll see that I was never really on there to begin with. One thing that I think attributes to my quality of life is the fact that I’m not on social media, like I can see how it’s beneficial, definitely, especially now in the position I’m in. But a lot of it is detrimental to people’s mental health. I’ve never had a Twitter, I’ve never had a TikTok, and so I just stay off of those things.
Were you upset or did you feel deceived at all over how much time and effort you put into the trial when you found out it was fake?
There was never a moment when I was truthfully angry about it, no, because on the day of the reveal, it was so much to process, like I couldn’t be mad about it. Like I still had to process the fact that everything they were telling me was true. And then it was like peeling back layers of an onion. After I processed that it was true, I still had to accept the fact that this was fake. So there was never any time to be angry. And truthfully, the only reason I would have been mad was if I found out those relationships I had forged with people were completely forced. Like if they were like, “Hey, you know, this is all a joke. See you later,” and I never heard from again, yes, I would have been mad about that.
Who is the most different from their ‘Jury Duty’ character?
The three people that surprised me the most were Noah, Ken and Todd. Obviously Todd. Those three individuals were the complete opposite of the people that they portrayed themselves to be. And so now I’m absolutely fascinated by those three, because I just want to get to know everything about them. Because I spent a month of my life thinking that they were a certain way and now they’re like, “Hey, just kidding, this is who I really am.’ So like, ‘Who are you?”
How long did it take for you to get used to referring to the actors’ real names and not their fake names?
I’m embarrassed to say, but I’m still confusing them. And it’s weird too because I’m doing these interviews so I’m trying to use the names that people can relate and associate with. But it’s like, Todd is not Todd to me anymore, that’s David. But when I say David, nobody knows what I’m talking about. Reverting back and forth has been extremely confusing lately.
Had you met other celebrities before doing the show?
Up until this, I had never personally met a really famous person. I’ve been to their shows, I’ve seen performances, but I’ve never personally met them. So in the beginning, James ruined all those people for me. Anybody famous, James ruined them. I was like, “This is apparently just what they’re all like.” So after I found out that wasn’t who he really was, it was just a huge sigh of relief.
Where did you find the ‘Sex Drive ‘DVD for James to find? Is that actually one of your favorite movies?
Great movie, obviously phenomenal. Everyone involved in it killed it. James’s role in that movie, and I’m not joking, I was not just buttering him up, that is one of my top five favorite roles of all time. I think he absolutely killed it. I love James in that show. I will never stop saying that. I think he is so funny. I wish more people knew James for his comedy because he is a very, very good comedic actor. After we got sequestered, production essentially told us to give them a list of anything that we wanted. Books, DVDs, board games, anything that wasn’t connected to the internet or social media. “Sex Drive” was the first thing I requested.
What are your plans for the future? Are you open to being in another show or staying in entertainment?
I mean obviously I want to capitalize on all this. But as of right now, I can’t give you anything concrete, because we’re still having those discussions. But yeah, absolutely. I would love to be on something else. I am not opposed to staying in this world. Everybody asked me, “Do you want to do stuff after this?” And I always tell them, “If you would have asked me this before this experience, I would have given you a resounding no, I have zero desire to be in this world.” But now that I’ve had such a fantastic introduction, I’m not opposed to staying in it.
What was one of your favorite moments from set that got cut?
I’m assuming it’s because they didn’t get the right footage because it was hidden camera, but literally on day one was one of my favorite moments when James and I were out at the food truck. He offers to buy everybody lunch in an effort to impress the judge, whatever he was trying to do. Doesn’t work out. They ask James, “Hey, can we get a credit card from you?” He turns and looks at me. And he’s like, “Hey, man, do you want to split this with me?” I was like, “No, absolutely not. You just offered to buy everybody lunch. I’m not going to split this with you.” I wish that had made it.
What has it been like seeing the public’s reaction to you?
Literally, never in a million years did I expect this. I went into this thinking that nobody was going to see this. Once I realized that James was going to be sequestered with us and he was part of the jury, I was thinking maybe a couple million people will see this because now we have a Hollywood superstar. Then after the reveal, and I found out it was Amazon, I was like, “Okay, maybe this is gonna be a little bit bigger than I was expecting.” I never would have imagined it would have not only gotten the attention, but the positive responses as well. If there’s one thing I’m happy about is that people are just responding to this so positively. And I hope that they just pay that forward, just being a good person in general. That’s the message. I hope that this spreads.
Have any people from your past reached out to you about your newfound fame?
Probably. But full disclosure, my Instagram has blown up. I cannot respond to every message, I’m literally getting thousands. And I love the love but I can’t get to them all, I literally can’t.
There were thousands of applicants to take part in this “documentary.” Why do you think you were chosen?
I ask myself that all the time. Alexis is the producer who interviewed me through this entire process. She watched my videos, we did phone calls, we did Zooms. I am beyond grateful. If I were to guess, though, I would just assume it was because I was just open and honest, I guess. Much like I was with James when we were talking about “Sonic” and I gave him an honest opinion of what I had heard. Like, that’s how I was with Alexis. Anything she asked me, I wasn’t hiding anything. I wasn’t trying to give her an answer I thought she would want to hear so I think that’s why.
Do you think having been on this show would eliminate you from being selected for real jury duty in the future?
I hope to God that eliminates me from jury selection. I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think it’s gonna have the reverse effect. If whoever is involved in that jury proceeding sees what I did, I think they’re actually gonne be like, “Hey, he did a pretty good job paying attention here. We probably want him on the jury.” So I think it’s actually going to work against my favor.
What do you plan to do with the $100k you won?
$100,000 is really not that much here in Southern California. Like, I’m gonna pay a third of that to taxes instantly. And then we’re talking student loans. Surviving down here, I’ve got this little Corgi puppy now as well, too. So it’s really not gonna go that far.
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