Ronald Gladden, 30, is the type of guy often described as a golden retriever. But he might be better likened to a corgi, observing the world with a light smile, no matter what life throws at him. (Also, he is a dad to a corgi, Meatball.) And the producers of Amazon Freevee’s Jury Duty—the quasi-reality show that planted an unsuspecting Gladden on a fake jury for a fake trial—threw quite a lot at him. There was the alternate juror played by James Marsden, a conceited, petty, and somewhat smarmy version of himself. And Todd, a juror played by David Brown who, among other things, showed up to court wearing “chair pants,” an invention of his own making that are exactly what they sound like. And not even when juror Noah, played by Mekki Leeper, asked Gladden to jump on the bed while he he and fellow juror Jeannie (Edy Modica) had sex, in an act known as “soaking,” did Gladden respond with anything other than kindness and understanding. He simply said no, he wouldn’t do that. (James Marsden did instead.)
“Corgi” is one word for Gladden. Social media commenters have suggested a few others:
“RONALD IS AMERICA’S SWEETHEART.”
“Ronald is the definition of Baby Girl.”
“RONALD NEEDS TO BE THE NEXT BACHELOR.”
The show has blown up on TikTok, largely thanks to Gladden’s likeability, which transforms the prank concept, which could otherwise be cruel or difficult to watch, into delightful, wholesome entertainment. The hashtag #JuryDutyOnFreevee earned 47.9 million views in the days after the first four episodes premiered on April 7, and the show has become the second most-popular series on Freevee.
On Friday, April 21 the show drops its final two episodes, in which the trial comes to a close. But the real verdict—that the whole thing has been an elaborate trick—is one not even foreperson Gladden could have anticipated. There were no real losers in this case, but Gladden, now a project manager at Home Depot, was certainly the winner. And now he’s finally able to break his silence about the show, which was completed a year ago, and bask—somewhat uncomfortably—in his newfound fame.
Before we get to the interview, watch Ronald prepare to lead the jury’s deliberations in this exclusive clip from the first of the final two episodes of the show, streaming April 21.
In 2021, you applied for what you thought was a documentary about jury duty. Why was that something that was of interest to you?
It was for a few different reasons. My current position was ending. I knew probably two or three months in advance that I was gonna need to be looking for something else. So I was basically looking online anywhere and everywhere for just something else. I was looking on ZipRecruiter, LinkedIn, Indeed, Facebook, you name it. I didn’t really have a preference. And so when I stumbled upon this, what intrigued me was it was an opportunity to have an experience I’d never had before. They were gonna pay for everything: hotel, food, lodging, travel expenses. They were gonna pay me for my time there as well, too. So I was viewing it as like, this is an opportunity for me to get paid for an experience I’d never had before. I figured it’d just be interesting in general. Plus I figured in my free time I could still continue the job search.
Pretty early on, you get sequestered because James Marsden calls the paparazzi on himself. What did your friends and family think was going on?
They didn’t know anything. I’ve seen this confusion online a lot lately. And honestly I’d be confused, too, because I had never heard of sequestration before. But no, I was on lockdown for three-plus weeks. I don’t think people understand that. I had no access to the outside world, no phone, no laptop, no internet. I couldn’t watch TV. Like the only things I could do in my spare time were read a book, or—production got us a Switch, so I could play some video games every once in a while. I didn’t even like contacting [friends and family] because not only was a bailiff standing in the room with you the whole time, they’re listening to the entire conversation. So it’s like I had zero privacy.
When you got the news that you were being sequestered, you seemed genuinely excited that everyone was going to get to know each other and become friends. Has that always been your personality?
Yes and no. Obviously there are times when I don’t really feel like being around other people or being cordial or making small talk. But when I signed up for this, I knew that I was going into a situation where I was going to be put with a dozen strangers at least. And so I was expecting to get to know some people. And when the judge told us we were gonna be sequestered, that night I was Googling, I was doing my own research, and I was looking things up and that’s when I was like, “Oh man, I might actually have to give up my phone.” So I mentally was prepared for that going into it.
You were upbeat and positive the entire time, and quickly viewers became obsessed with you—they’re calling you things like a “walking green flag.” What has it been like to see everyone’s reaction?
It’s unreal. I mean, words can’t describe what I’m feeling. It’s surreal. Like I never would’ve imagined that I would ever have fans, let alone fans in different countries, people from Japan, Norway, Scotland, Ireland, all over the world. I’m thrilled obviously, but it’s a weird feeling that people all over the world can see my face.
Was there ever a part of you that was nervous about how people would react to you?
Not really, mainly because I really didn’t think a lot of people were gonna see this. That’s one of the reasons I was okay with doing this. And then while we were doing it, once I realized that James was gonna be in it, I was like, Okay, maybe a few million people might end up seeing this because we’ve got a Hollywood superstar now. But I never, I never imagined it’d be like this.
One of the first people you meet is James, who plays this, I assume, heightened, asshole-y version of himself. But you were always so nice to him. What was your honest impression of him then, before you found out it was fake?
I’m a huge fan of James. I’m not proud to admit it took me a little bit to realize who he really was, but it really did take everything in me to not fangirl over the guy. Part of the reason why I treated him the way I did was because everyone’s like, “Oh my God, how were you not just freaking out about James?” And in my mind I was like, “Well, if I have any chance of making any sort of connection with this guy, I just have to treat him like a regular person.” But towards the end when I really did truly believe that’s who James was, I was heartbroken. Then after, when I realized that that’s not who he was, I was just so relieved.
How much of an adjustment was it after the reveal to restart these friendships with people like James?
It wasn’t really a big adjustment for me. My favorite role of James’s, one of my top favorite roles of all time, is his role in Sex Drive, where he plays that d-bag older brother role. And so once I found out that he was playing a version of himself, I immediately tied it into that and I was like, I could see a lot of those mannerisms. So I was like, dude, that’s phenomenal. I love it.
Before you knew they were acting, who of the jurors would you say you were closest to?
Probably Inez, [played by] Maria [Russell].
When you realized that they were all acting, what was that like? Because some people would be heartbroken to find out that these people there thought they were friends with were actually just acting.
On the day of the reveal, there was so much that was going on, it was like sensory overload. I couldn’t process it all. I could barely even process small amounts of it. So on the day of the actual reveal, once I started realizing that what they were saying was true, and it wasn’t a joke, all I could do was accept my reality for what it was and just kind of just go throughout the day and just say, “Hey, this is happening.” I didn’t even begin to process stuff until the weekend after.
Which juror’s real personality surprised you the most, or is the most different from their character?
Ken (Ron Song), Noah, and Todd. They played characters that were complete 180 opposites of who they really are. The best way I can describe my relationship with those three [is] I’m fascinated by them, because I got to know them one way. Turns out they’re the complete opposite. And now it’s like, I just wanna know everything I can get to know about them.
Is there anyone that you’re still super close with or anyone who you’re closer with as a real person than you were when they were acting?
I love all of them. And it’s more than just the cast that you see on there. I’m talking about cameramen, PAs, technicians, all of ‘em. Dude, my girl Jennifer [Zhang], she mic’d me up every single day. Parker [Tolifson], the cameraman, Chris Darnell, another cameraman. I love all of these people. Jake [Szymanski], the showrunner, Cody [Heller], the eps, Nick [Hatton], Andrew [Weinberg], all these people are phenomenal.
Some of your fellow jurors had played other roles before this—Mekki, for example, is in The Sex Lives of College Girls. Have you watched any of their shows?
Absolutely. And honestly it’s been amazing. I found out that Maria was in Tacoma FD, so I started watching that [and] randomly stumbled upon the fact that Ben Seaward, who’s playing the defendant in [Jury Duty], also makes an appearance in Tacoma FD. So I’m watching that and then pausing like, “Oh my God, I know who that is.” It’s an amazing feeling just going back and seeing that and just recognizing them. It’s so cool.
Before the reveal, was there ever a moment when there were alarm bells going off in your head? Like, “Something’s not right here.”
In my gut I knew the entire time something wasn’t right. Like they 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.
When you think back, now that you know everything, what do you think are some red flags that you should have known?
Honestly, there are too many examples to give you. ‘Cause in my gut I knew that something wasn’t right. Even small details. For example, one of my good friends, his dad is the chief of police in Bakersfield. So I know a little bit about what they can and can’t do, their attire, their facial hair, things like that. And so when I saw Officer Nikki [Rashida Olayiwola] with her really long fingernails, I’m like, “Oh, that seems weird.” But it’s just like, again, if I’m questioning it, if that’s fake [then] all of this is fake. Those small details, though, made me question.
Have you watched it back?
I’ve watched ‘em a couple times. Honestly the first time I viewed it, I was embarrassed to watch because kind of to your point, I knew something was up the whole time. So when I’m looking back and I’m watching this, I’m like, how did I not pick up on this? But anytime I start to feel like that, I really start thinking about what went into this and the level of professionalism that was involved. Like these are the same people that did the Borat movies, the Bad Trip movie with Tiffany Haddish and Eric Andre. They’ve fooled people a lot and so this shouldn’t have been that hard for them to do. If this was an amateur thing, it very easily could have been blown.
Watching back, do you have any favorite moments?
Some of my favorite moments are moments that didn’t even make it, which is what’s upsetting to me about it. Those moments that didn’t make it, nobody would’ve ever believed me if I would’ve told him, if this wouldn’t have all been filmed. Like the one that one that comes to my mind all the time is that when we were at the taco truck, when James offers to buy everybody lunch and then the judge walks by and obviously it doesn’t work, they ask him for his credit card—I don’t know why they didn’t include this—but he turned to me and he’s like, “Hey, do you wanna split this with me?” I was like, “No!” That was a hilarious moment to me.
Something fans have realized, too, is that the actors that you were with had to always be “on,” even during times like when you and Todd watched A Bug’s Life. What were those down moments like?
Well first of all, I want to say, Todd deserves an Oscar. He literally was in character the entire time. The other actors, they got their phones back obviously when I [wasn’t] around. Todd was so afraid of blowing this because we shared a door, he wouldn’t text, he wouldn’t do anything on his phone ‘cause he didn’t know if I could hear him or not. And he just didn’t wanna be the person to ruin it. So that guy was Todd the entire time.
My favorite Todd moment is when he passes you that note under the door with the knocking code, like a certain number of knocks to let each other know you were going to bed. Did you ever do the code?
[Laughs] There was no way I was doing that.
But you were so nice about it, even though it was never gonna happen. What has been your real life friends and family reaction to this? Did you have to keep it a secret the whole time?
I didn’t tell anybody, because I didn’t wanna risk being the one to blow this whole thing. But it’s been funny because I was jokingly telling them like, “Oh, hey you guys, I’m gonna be famous here pretty soon. You can’t talk to me like that.” I would kind of drop things like that. So it’s been great to see the reaction and I was like, “Dude, I told you so.”
If you end up getting called to jury duty for real, how do you think it will feel?
This ruined jury duty for me, but it’s ruined in the sense that it’s spoiled it because now I’m expecting so much more to come from it and I just feel like me sitting an actual jury is gonna be absolutely boring compared to this.
So boring. No one’s going to come in wearing chair pants. Now that the show is almost over, and you’ve also become such a beloved figure, has this changed anything about your life? Do you have any big plans or are you just gonna keep on being Ronald?
I’m definitely gonna keep on being Ronald, but as far as changes in my life, up until [the premiere], nothing had changed in my life because I was basically living like this [show] didn’t happen. I had to keep the whole thing a secret. Now that it’s out and it’s getting such a positive reaction, I don’t know where my life is gonna go. I’m not opposed to pursuing opportunities that come from this. I just never would’ve imagined that it would’ve gotten the attention it did.
The show is especially popular on TikTok. I went through all the comments on TikTok videos about the show to see what questions people had and three questions kept coming up for you. To finish, I’m just gonna rapid fire them at you right now. First, what is your star sign?
Second, are you single?
Ooh, it’s a solid question. You know, I’d love to love to answer as many as I can, but what’s the world without an enigma?
And third, how tall are you?
Well, I think you have to get on TikTok now.
I’m dreading it. I don’t want to do it, but I’m probably gonna end up biting the bullet.
Originally Appeared on GQ
A multi-lingual talent head, Allen is fluent in languages such as Spanish, Russian, Italian, and many more. He has a special curiosity for the events and stories revolving in and around US and caters an uncompromising form of journalistic standard for the audiences.