Please, Hollywood, Don’t Corrupt ‘Jury Duty’s Ronald Gladden
The breakout comedy star of 2023 thus far is a guy who didn’t even know he was in a comedy. 29-year-old solar contractor Ronald Gladden is the unknowing protagonist of Jury Duty, a Truman Show meets The Office-style series in which Gladden and his 11 fellow jurors were tasked with deciding a peculiar civil trial while being filmed in what they were told was a documentary covering the legal system. There was one catch: everyone involved in the trial, from the judge to the parties to the jury themselves, was an actor — everyone except Ronald Gladden.
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Over the course of Jury Duty’s eight engrossing episodes, Gladden’s endearing earnestness in the face of total chaos — usually caused by James Marsden playing a theatrically narcissistic version of himself — gave the show a completely unexpected level of emotional depth. Gladden’s kindness and understanding towards the wackjobs who derailed the court proceedings at every turn slowly transformed Jury Duty from a reboot of The Joe Schmo Show with Borat producers into the story of world-class mensch who brings out the best of a bunch of lovable oddballs.
Now, with the jig up and a $100,000 reward in his pocket, Gladden is enjoying a level of public adoration that he couldn’t possibly have expected when he first answered a Craigslist ad to appear in a documentary about litigation last year. Since Jury Duty launched on Amazon Freevee on April 7th, Gladden has appeared on Good Morning America, he booked a commercial with Ryan Reynolds for the Deadpool star’s wireless company Mint Mobile, and, as of yesterday, Gladden has even signed with the Beverly Hills-based talent agency Artists First with the intent of pursuing more entertainment opportunities. To Gladden’s many new “friends” in showbusiness, let me say this — if you ruin him, we will burn Hollywood to the ground.
“Artists First is excited to guide this next chapter of Ronald’s professional career in the entertainment industry,” Gladden’s new representatives told Deadline, “We were drawn to Ronald due to his ‘good guy’ brand and think everyone needs a little more of that in their lives.”
Gladden said of his new agency, “I’m very excited and happy to announce that I’ll be partnering with Artists First, a company that understands me and shares the same vision.”
For someone who, early on in Jury Duty, claimed that he was uncomfortable with public speaking, Gladden’s promotional tour has had an abundance of stops — he’s appeared on numerous talk shows and podcasts across the media landscape, and every indication from the Oregon native points towards his public life growing even more public. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with Gladden capitalizing on his newfound “heat,” as his Hollywood friends would call it, it’s alarming to hear his new representatives refer to his “good guy brand” instead of just calling him — you know — a good guy.
The best part of Gladden’s non-performance in Jury Duty was how starkly earnest and empathetic he was when dealing with characters who were designed to throw him off or weird him out — when the socially awkward transhumanist Todd embarrasses himself and disrupts court proceedings by attempting to bring his newest invention, the chair pants (or chants, if you will), into court, Gladden doesn’t react with mockery — instead, he invites Todd into his adjoining hotel room to watch A Bug’s Life, a story about another misunderstood inventor who just wants to help out.
In the penultimate episode, Gladden’s heart-to-heart talk with the lonely and maritally estranged Ross earns the final “not liable” vote in the deliberation, and the group decides to spare the embattled and sympathetic defendant following a campaign of clemency led by Gladden himself.
These moments of barefaced kindness are what endeared Gladden to Jury Duty fans, specifically because they weren’t manufactured. Gladden’s humanity was completely organic despite the astoundingly fabricated circumstances, and it’s hard to see how another project could attempt reproduce that level of sincerity without cynically exploiting his “good guy brand.”
Artists First, if you make Gladden judge some asinine singing competition or pull some Queer Eye-level tearjerking crap with him, so help me God — I will see you in court.