Interview with Maria Russell

TV Interview!

 

Maria Russell played Inez in the hit reality comedy "Jury Duty" on Freevee. (photo from her Instagram)

Interview with Maria Russell of “Jury Duty” on Freevee by Suzanne 1/25/24

It was lovely to speak with Maria. I binge-watched the show, which I hadn’t really heard of, for some reason, even though it was a big hit last spring. I’m so glad I did because it’s hilarious and unique. I hope you can watch it if you haven’t already. I really hope that they find a way to have a second season, too.¬† Please watch and enjoy the video, too. This is an audio-only video, but I’ve made it into¬† a video slideshow of photos of Maria.

This transcript still needs more editing!

Maria: Hi, Suzanne.

Suzanne: Hi, uh, I watched the show last night. I somehow missed it last spring when everyone else was, I don’t know. So many shows to watch,

Maria: I know,

Suzanne: but it was great. I loved it. I enjoyed it. So unique and it’s funny.

Maria: So funny. Thank you so much. It was a wild ride.

Suzanne: I’ll bet. uh, when the, the press release I got said, uh, docu series, similar to the office. I’m like, uh, not at all like that. It’s way back. Yeah, exactly. It’s very unique indeed. And who would have known it would become part of pop culture. It’s. Really bizarre and amazing. It’s really, the only thing I could think of that was similar is there was a reality show years ago.¬† I don’t think it lasted more. And it wasn’t that successful called Joe Schmo where it was like a reality show. But the joke, I was the only one who didn’t know that everyone else was actors. But it wasn’t.

Maria: Yes. I, I heard of it. I never got to see it though.

Suzanne: Yes. I never saw it. I never saw it either. I just saw like the ads for it and I thought,

Maria: Oh, got it.

Suzanne: This is again, way better. So, so, uh, tell us about your character, uh, Inez.

Maria: Yes. Inez de Leon is fabulous. She’s this self-proclaimed boss babe with a real passion for fashion. And when she finds out that, that there’s a position for, foreperson, that’s her goal. She wants to be foreperson. and then she sadly loses that role to Ronald, no hard feelings, but then she ends up finding her new purpose in this courtroom, this jury and being the lunch-ordering queen, and also, the point-person to coordinate all of the outings like going to Margaritaville.

Suzanne: Right. And, uh, but you’re not, I mean, you’re playing the character, but….

Maria: Yes, that’s what’s weird about this show.¬† It’s like you’re playing the character, but then you’re really you. So it’s strange.

It is strange. And, and honestly, we have, I have this conversation many times that I always say that we’re all kind of like our characters in a way. And the beautiful thing about this show and even starting out with it is that the producers and directors and everybody involved really gave us carte blanche to really, create this, these, give us creative freedom to create these, these characters from the ground up.

Suzanne: Well, that’s good.

Maria: Yeah, no, it was wonderful because, one thing that they did say was that be careful of going way too far off because then we’re going to have to remember everything because, this went on for three and a half weeks. So what I, I had to, what I did was every night I would go home and write down everything that Ronald and Inez spoke about because I had to keep track of the lies. Or the not truth or what I told him, so I had to just be very wary of that because he caught on, he was really smart, he was really sharp, so he would remember a lot of things.¬† And I was, Inez and Ronald were very close, so I had to remember everything, like, on the show at the time I was married and in real life, Maria. And on the show, I was divorced, but I still had my wedding ring on because I, Maria couldn’t get it off because Maria gained weight during COVID. So I kind of use that as also as part of my, uh, part of my backstory.

Suzanne: Well, that’s cool. I noticed that in the last episode when they did a lot of flashbacks and talking about stuff that there were scenes we didn’t get to see in the show, and I hope that maybe they’ll do a DVD if they haven’t already, so that we can see a lot of the stuff that they cut out, because I’m sure there’s lots they cut out, because it’s a lot.

Maria: Oh my gosh. I think we were, yeah, I think we were saying it’s probably like more than 50 hours.

Suzanne: Yeah, when he wants to see the boring courtroom scenes that you had just to throw off the scent,

Maria: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah.

Suzanne: I read a good article yesterday. An interview with James Marsden.  So there was a lot of information there that I enjoyed reading. so was it, was it nerve wracking at all? Uh, I know you got to create your character and there was a lot of improv involved, right?

Maria: Oh, oh yeah. 90 percent of it was. Improvised because and then the rest of it, there were suggested lines or scenarios.¬† But again, we were, we were at the mercy of Ronald because we didn’t know what he was going to say or do. So, Ronald goes to the left, we have to go to the left, so a lot of it was the unknown.

Suzanne: Wow.

Maria: So. Yeah. It was, it was quite scary at moments because you didn’t want to be the one to, to blow them up.¬† Yes. To blow up the whole thing.

Suzanne: Oh my gosh. I can’t imagine what they would have done if you, if somebody had done that, it’s like, or what if Ronald had turned out not to be the, such a nice guy, that would have been all different.

Maria: Yes. Yes. I mean, literally at any given moment, the gig could have been up, the jig would be up.

Suzanne: Yeah. Well, you lucked out that it wasn’t. So had you done some improv before?

Maria: Yeah. So my, I’ve done a lot of, hidden camera shows. I did a lot of sketch. I had a Broadway show that it was, Thought of bright autobiographical called little Tina Christmas special. So I had improv in my background, but is as far as long form improv.¬† I didn’t, more of a comedic actress. That’s my, that’s my background really. But, sketch and creating characters.

Suzanne: Yes.

Maria: That’s my, that’s my, my, my space.

Suzanne: So, Are you all still keeping in touch? Good friends? You get together? What?

Maria: We do. I’m actually going to see Ronald over the weekend. Yeah. And, and Tricia, we’re going to go play pickleball.¬† So yes, we all very much love each other. We’re on different group text, uh, texting chains, and we all very much love and support one another. It’s, it’s like this little family. It’s like this little club too, because, doing the show. We had to have such a level of trust for one another and that we’re going to have each other’s back because it was scary.¬† Like, I think more than anything initially, it was scary because it was, everything was just the unknown and you really, the pressure of, of messing it up, of blowing it up, that was, scary, but at the same time there had to be. This, this part of yourself to surrender to the moment and just be in the moment.¬† And then that’s when the nerves would go away.

Suzanne: Oh, that’s, you sort of got lost in your character a little bit.

Maria: Yes, exactly. Exactly.

Suzanne: Yeah. You hear about all the time. Actors say, Oh, we were like a family. I don’t think it’s true most of the time, but you had such a unique experience that I think it probably is true.

Maria: Oh, it’s really true. Yeah, it’s like this club because this, we had to really have each other’s backs like completely and implicitly because like I said at any moment. Ronald would find out or, or, or be curious about something or question something. And so we were always, there for each other.¬† And yeah, that’s why, it’s a little bit different than any other show, because this one was like, we had to have this complete surrender to one another as well.

Suzanne: Yeah. Yeah, that’s it’d be kind of like making a movie, except you were on more and together more.

Maria: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

Suzanne: So, besides the sort of working without a net aspect, what was the hardest part of working, uh, making the show?

Maria: Wow. I think there’s a few things I think. as much as I, it was. really one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I think the most difficult part was, is that what you guys don’t get to see is that, is that after the show, after I’m sorry, not after the show, after each day, after we wrapped each day, it’s exhausting because our call time, we would have to show up at the Huntington Park court at around five or six Hair and makeup ready.¬†¬† Okay camera ready So you couldn’t get ready there. We had to be ready, ready to rock and roll. And we would end around five or six, but it was, there was never a cut. There was never a break. So, not like in a regular show film where, there’s a break. Okay. Now you guys have, two hours for a break or whatever it is.¬† There’s no cuts. So it’s like you had to be completely present at all times. So I think that was the difficult time. Cause I remember I would be like. I don’t want to talk to anybody. I don’t want to see anybody and the weekends. I just want to go to sleep. I just want to like veg out because we would have to take notes.¬† What did Ronald say? Is there something important that we should know for the next day or we’re not, we’re no longer doing the scene because Ronald, Ronald. So we’re cutting this out and adding this. So it was literally, I mean, day to day, it would change.

Suzanne: That sounds very stressful and exhausting, but at least work paid off and you got a big successful show.¬† Very funny. And I don’t say that lightly because, although I do like to laugh, a lot of today’s comedies, I don’t find very funny. I’m older, so I like the old ones. I agree with you though. Very funny.

Maria: Thank you. I appreciate that.

Suzanne: So besides the fact that it was successful and you made these friends, what was the best part of making the show?

Maria: Oh gosh. I think the best part of it was, I mean, it’s going to sound so like Pollyanna. The friendships made. With all these wonderful actors and I think it, it shows because there was such chemistry with all of us and we didn’t test together either, by the way.

Suzanne: Wow.

Maria: We didn’t, we didn’t test. We met for the first time during rehearsal day one.¬†¬† So it was, we, we all connected on so many levels and I think it’s, it’s such a rarity to have that, I mean, at least for me and I get along with everybody, but it’s just such, it’s such a deeper connection with, with your, with your cast mates just because of the nature of the show and, and it’s special.¬† So I would, and, and also I have to say with, with our producers and directors, they had our backs at all times. I mean, we were so lucky to have them so lucky to have them because we never felt like we were going to fall. whenever, I mean, we may not have known what we were doing at times. They’re like, do you know what you’re doing?¬† And they’re like, no, I’m like me too. I don’t know what, what are we doing? So, but we never felt like we weren’t taken care of. So that was really important. We didn’t feel alone.

Suzanne: Yeah. When they showed the people on behind the scenes, behind the cameras and everything, it looked like they were really had a tough job, but they were on the ball looked like,

Maria: Oh, 100%.¬† They were with us. 100%. So that was nice to know that there was. there. that you weren’t, you weren’t alone.

Suzanne: Yeah. Have you ever been in jury duty in real life?

Maria: No.

Suzanne: Wow.

Maria: I almost did. But then, so I got picked, but then they settled. Oh, so I never got to experience it.

Suzanne: Uh, yeah, you’re not missing much.

Maria: Yeah.

Suzanne: Well, I was unfortunately in a really bad experience. But the good thing about it is that now if they call me for jury duty, I just talk about how horrible it was. And they’re like, okay, you don’t have to. There you go. See, now you use my trauma.

Maria: Yes, I love it. I love it.

Suzanne: Do you think you might get a second season? You think they’ll be able to come up with something to do it?

Maria: Listen, the optimistic Maria says absolutely a hundred percent, but who knows, I know, part of me is like, yes, let’s do a second season. That would be amazing. And then the other side, the other part of me is like, We have something so special. I don’t know if we’d be able to recreate that again.¬† And I don’t know if I would want to, because it was so special. It was one of a kind and I don’t know.

Suzanne: Yeah. Yeah. It’s almost like I think in order to do a second season, they’d have to wait a while and then have a completely new group of people, because otherwise people would know.

Maria: And see, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t want that.¬† I wouldn’t want that. I would want it to be me. No second season if it’s not all the same cast. Forget about it.

Suzanne: Well, it’s like an anthology show. Let’s call it that.

Maria: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

Suzanne: So, are you, are you still in, Tacoma FD and are you working on season five yet?

Maria: So we did the fourth season. It’s now available on Netflix, which is really cool cause it was just on true TV.¬† Um, so fourth season we did. And is now airing and I didn’t, I haven’t heard anything about a season five yet. So I’m hoping, I’m hoping, but, I don’t know, right. Fingers crossed.

Suzanne: Yes. Now that’s a funny show, too. I haven’t had time to watch it very much, but the little bit I’ve seen of it, it’s been very good.

Maria: Oh, my God. It’s so fun. And it’s, oh, my God. Those guys are hilarious. My Lord.

Suzanne: So do you have anything else coming out that you’d like to tell us about?

Maria: Well, I can’t talk about it per se, but I am going to be working on a film in March, which is very exciting, but I’m not able to talk about it.

Suzanne: Yeah. But yeah, that’s good. I’m glad you have more, more to do.

Maria: Yes, it’s exciting. And, with the strike over, it’s kind of, it pushed everything. It kind of, with the award season too, it’s been, it’s been very busy on that front. So things are starting to pick up a little bit more now too, which is great because, the whole year basically was like,

Suzanne: Yeah, I know.¬† I didn’t have a lot of interviews. Yeah, you guys were all on strike.

Maria: We couldn’t talk about anything.

Suzanne: Yeah, no, I was, I had like directors and, and, uh, producers, writers. I mean, it was interesting. Don’t get me wrong, but I have very many. So, yeah. Okay. I’ve had enough of you. No, it’s just, I like, actually, I wish I got to speak with more writers because they’re the ones that like create the show and they know more about the stuff going on.¬† But, but I like to talk to actors. So it’s hard.

Maria: I know. I know. I know.

Suzanne: Well, I really appreciate you talking to me today

Maria: and of course it was so nice talking to you, Suzanne.

MORE INFO: Official Site  Trailer

"Jury Duty" key artMaria¬†Russell (Mexican/Lithuanian descent) stands out in the comedic realm, gaining prominence through her role as the self-proclaimed boss babe ‘Inez De Leon’ in the acclaimed series “Jury Duty” on Amazon Freevee/Amazon¬†Prime.¬†Vying for the role of foreperson, she sadly loses to Ronald, but finds her purpose as the lunch ordering queen and coordinating all the fun outings for the jury.

This documentary-style show, a runaway hit starring James Marsden, offers a behind-the-scenes look into the American jury trial system.¬†The series has garnered significant acclaim, earning numerous¬†award nominations,¬†including recognition at¬†the Golden Globes¬†(Best Musical/Comedy Series),¬†Emmys¬†(4 nominations),¬†Independent Spirit Awards¬†(Best New Scripted Series), and the prestigious honor of Best Ensemble Cast in a New Scripted Series. Additionally,¬†the AFI Awards¬†have recognized “Jury Duty” by including it in their top 10 television series of 2023 and winner of a 2023¬†TV Critics Award.

Maria¬†has built an illustrious career in both television and film, earning her international acclaim, while establishing a solid foundation in Hollywood. On the television front, her versatile talent has graced hit series such as MTV’s “Teen Wolf,” ABC’s “Grey‚Äôs Anatomy,” CBS‚Äô “Criminal Minds,” “It‚Äôs Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” and recurring roles in the award-winning soap operas ‚ÄúGeneral Hospital‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúThe Bold and the Beautiful,‚ÄĚ among others. Recently,¬†Maria¬†showcased her comedic prowess in HBO Max‚Äôs ‚ÄúTacoma FD,‚ÄĚ portraying the loveable, yet assertive ‘Lt. Salazar’

In the film realm,¬†Maria¬†is best known for her role in the Warner Bros. award-winning horror film ‚ÄúLights Out,‚ÄĚ produced by James Wan. In this chilling production, she shared the screen with acclaimed actors Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, and¬†Maria¬†Bello. Up next,¬†Maria¬†stars in the film ‚ÄúIn Flight,‚ÄĚ alongside Cristo Fern√°ndez (Ted Lasso) and Tiffany Smith (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3). Additionally, she has left her mark in the independent film circuit.

Annually,¬†Maria¬†graces the stage in the Off Broadway sensation, “The Latina Christmas Special,” a production she co-wrote and stars in at The Soho Playhouse in New York. Her captivating performance and the show itself have garnered widespread acclaim, earning Critics Choice recognition from the Los Angeles Times for five consecutive years.

Maria showcases a diverse array of talents, highlighting an acting range that spans from lighthearted and unconventional comedy to fearless, unapologetic humor, as well as compelling and intense dramatic performances. Throughout her career, Maria has consistently aimed to forge connections with people. Looking ahead, she aspires to extend her impact by venturing into producing and directing, driven by a passion for crafting characters intricately woven into meaningful stories, with a particular emphasis on narratives centered around redemption.

With a foundation in classical ballet, Maria brings a wealth of professional dancing experience that spans various genres, including ballet, jazz, Latin/salsa, and hip hop. Beyond the dance floor, she passionately engages in diverse forms of fitness, such as kickboxing, Bar Method, and pickleball. An avid globetrotter, Maria is on a mission to explore the world, having already visited 16 countries. As a bilingual (Spanish/English) actress, she not only expresses her love for the performing arts but also extends her affection to animals.

Maria currently calls Los Angeles home, sharing her space with her beloved Maltipoo and Schnoodle, affectionately named Boris and Natasha.

 

Transcript by Descript and video by Clideo

Maria Russell played Inez in the hit reality comedy "Jury Duty" on Freevee. (photo from her Instagram)

Proofread and Edited by Brenda

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