The man at the center of Amazon Freevee’s Jury Duty had no designs on fame before finding himself on camera. Ronald Gladden, a 30-year-old contractor from San Diego, answered a Craigslist ad to be in a supposed documentary about the judicial process because he was in between jobs and could use the cash. He didn’t realize at the time that he’d spend the next three weeks surrounded by actors, and unwittingly become a star.
Over the course of three weeks, Gladden served on what he thought was a real jury deciding the outcome of a real case. Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, who created this docu-spoof, filled the fake jury with characters like an intrepid inventor who brought his creations into the courtroom, a woman who turned to questionable methods to stay awake, and actor James Marsden, playing a heightened version of himself. The latter’s presence prompted the entire jury to be sequestered, keeping everyone together as a series of hidden cameras documented Gladden’s reactions to increasingly outrageous situations.
Each scenario had been carefully mapped out ahead of time and everyone involved knew mostly what to expect — everyone but Gladden. Throughout the series, he found himself in the position of de facto leader, becoming the go-to guy for advice and conflict resolution while also acting as jury foreman. Despite never having served on a jury before, Gladden more than rose to the occasion. Even as the details of the case and the actions of his peers became more and more bizarre, Gladden took it all in, reacting with empathy and kindness at every turn.
In the year since Jury Duty finished filming, not much has changed for Gladden. He’s still a project manager working in construction, and in the days leading up to the show’s premiere on April 7, he tells Primetimer that he still hasn’t even told anyone about his impending time in the spotlight.
“I’m not the type of person where I’m used to the focus being on me, so I didn’t want to bring it up weeks in advance and talk about it all the time,” Gladden says. “I didn’t tell anyone about it, I didn’t post about it, I’ve literally just kept living my life as if it didn’t happen.”
The biggest change is his relationships with the show’s cast. Since filming ended, Gladden has continued the friendships he built with his fellow “jurors,” though he’s now getting to know them without the façade of their characters. And because they’re all actors, he’s been getting out to more live performances to support them, too. Still, he doesn’t feel the call to pursue life in front of the camera — he’s happy to continue his career in construction and contracting.
Even as he’s been tapped for press interviews to promote the show, Gladden’s kept quiet about why he might be stepping away from his job, using some “fancy footwork” to make things work with his schedule. He’s been waiting instead to wait to share his experience until after the show streams, crossing his fingers that no one stumbled across a clip or promo in the meantime.
It’s been easy for him to lay low because he still hasn’t fully processed the experience himself.
“At one point it almost felt like a dream,” Gladden says. “So until it actually airs, I don’t think it will actually hit me.”
Jury Duty is now streaming on Amazon Freevee. New episodes stream Fridays through April 21. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.
Brianna Wellen is a TV Reporter at Primetimer who became obsessed with television when her parents let her stay up late to watch E.R.