In the high-concept comedy series 'Jury Duty,' 12 actors pretend to be sequestered for a trial—with one unknowing guest along for the ride.
By Jerry Portwood
Ronald Gladden is the unwitting star of 'Jury Duty,' the hit Amazon Freevee reality show.
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Note: May contain spoilers for Jury Duty.
Winner of the Week: Ronald Gladden
Show: Jury Duty
Episode: Episode 8, “The Verdict”
By now, we’ve grown so used to the mockumentary-style sitcom. From The Office, Parks and Rec and Modern Family to Reno 911, What We Do in the Shadows and Abbott Elementary—we’ve seen it all. Blurring the line between reality and fiction, viewers feel like they are in on the joke, while also getting more unvarnished insight into incredibly specific characters (including plenty of awkward, cringe-inducing antics). But it seemed impossible to make the gimmick feel fresh and inventive. That’s one reason why Jury Duty has become such a word-of-mouth sensation.
I first heard about it from a friend who said it was on his TikTok FYP. As he explained the Amazon Freevee series’ premise, it sounded like a quirky prank show. The concept? A documentary crew follows a group of jurors—including X-Men’s very own Cyclops, James Marsden—as they take part in a trial in California. The twist is everyone is an actor except for unsuspecting Ronald. That’s right: It’s an elaborate Truman Show-style situation where all of the actors are improvising around his responses to the increasingly bizarre trial—and the results are priceless.
Of course, since we’re all cynical know-it-alls, the first question is always: This has gotta be faked right? It even has an A-list Hollywood actor! How could he NOT KNOW IT WASN’T REAL???
Well, when 30-year-old Ronald Gladden responded to a Craigslist ad in 2021 to be a volunteer juror in a “documentary,” he bought the premise. So it seems like nice, adorable Ronald is just a pretty swell guy who is game for almost anything. Except he (thankfully) says no when he’s uncomfortable, without expressing judgment, like when juror Noah (played by Mekki Leeper from The Sex Lives of College Girls), asks Ronald to jump on the bed while he and fellow juror Jeannie (Edy Modica) participate in an act known as “soaking.”
I’m not going to spoil all the many zany things that happen, but let me just say, when one set-up includes Marsden clogging a hotel toilet and asking Ronald to take the blame (and he does!)—I was hooked.
Fans have praised the everyman for how he carried himself during the bizarro show, with one tweeting: "Right I think it’s fairly safe to say that Ronald Gladden from #JuryDuty is one of life's truly nice, genuine people. The way that he treats all of the weird characters with so much respect and kindness is so heartwarming to watch."
Gladden, now a project manager at Home Depot, is certainly the winner of the entire series (and not just for telling Marsden his favorite role of his of all time is not for The Notebook but rather the raunchy movie Sex Drive). And as he’s reiterated multiple times: No, he’s not an actor. As he explained in an interview with GQ:
[T]hey got me multiple times saying, like, ‘I'm on reality TV.’ Literally more than once I said that. But anytime that I would seriously start to entertain that idea, anytime I would start to go down that rabbit hole, I’d be like, well if that’s the case, all of this would be fake and it’s all about me. And it’s like, how conceited of a thought would that have to be? ‘Oh, this is all about me.’ The idea that it was fake was even crazier than what was happening. So I had to choose realities [based on] which one makes the most sense. Everything being fake sounded the most ludicrous.
Marsden told Access Hollywood that it was the “wildest experience” he’s ever done in his 30 years as a professional actor. “We created a hero's journey for this guy, we've surrounded him with a group of weirdos and hopefully by the end of the show, he becomes the leader and unites us all. And he did that because he's a great guy."
It’s what I liked most about this show: As a viewer, it restores my hope in humanity a little bit.
Interested in watching Jury Duty? Add it to your watchlist here! For more hilarious mockumentaries, check out the best streaming now!
Ronald is an American hero. May we all be like Ronald, forever. I’m jealous of everyone who got to be a part of this. It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. So insane and so well thought out. - Kimmy W.
Thanks to the brilliant, committed performances, this rockumentary seems completely real despite the absurdities. - Jane Young
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