They don’t come any more talented or tenacious than Adrianne Palicki. She’s been murdered by a demon, made love to aliens in outer space and saved the world from evil villains. Adrianne dominates in this world and beyond. She is most recognized for her role as Tyra Collette on Friday Night Lights, one of television’s greatest unsung feminist heroes. Her character started out as the stereotypical bad girl with a brazen attitude and affinity for low-rise jeans. However, by the end of the series, she transforms into one of the most ambitious women to ever leave the small town of Dillon, Texas. Adrianne was relentless in giving Tyra Collette depth and range, a superbly brave performance.
It comes as no surprise that Adrianne would continue to choose a kaleidoscope of compelling female characters. Most notably are her roles on Smallville, Supernatural, Legion, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, among many others. In 2011, Adrianne was set to play the ultimate accolade to feminism: Wonder Woman. Unfortunately, the series never aired, but she continues to do wonders on-screen. She currently stars on Seth MacFarlane’s The Orville, a remarkable and wonderfully subtle homage to Star Trek. Although it upholds the foreseeable posture of comedy expected from MacFarlane, the show provides an earnest and snarky take on social issues relevant in real life (only with aliens). Adrianne plays Commander Kelly Grayson, second-in command and ex-wife to MacFarlane. She is at her best here—because of the humor, her superb acting chops, fierce talent, and the simple fact that Adrianne Palicki is fearless.
Growing up in Ohio, did you always have your heart set on Hollywood?
Yes, since I was four years old I wanted to be a movie star, and it didn't stop me from wanting to be everything. When I watched Apollo 13, I was like I want to be an Aerospace engineer or when I write on the chalkboard I wanted to be a teacher. My best friend and I used to put on ridiculous plays for my parents that had no beginning or an end. God bless them for sitting through an hour long of this session of blubbering. Acting is my dream, and I didn’t want to go to college and be in debt for something I do not even care about, I realized If I'm going to work at anything, I was like “I’m just gonna move to Hollywood.” I know what that entails, and I was naive.
Tell us about your very first experience as an actor.
I had a lot of odd jobs at Togo’s, Baskin & Robins and a bar. My first somewhat big thing that I got paid to do was a pilot for WB with John Woo; he was directing a remake of The Robinsons: Lost In Space. I played Judy Robinson, which was kind of a big feat as I was working with a huge film director. From those features, I got Friday Night Lights, and it changed my life.
Most of us remember you as Tyra Collette from the hit television series Friday Night Lights. What was it like growing up on that show?
I did! It was an exceptional experience—to be on location, getting along with everybody, being in Austin, Texas which is actually where I to live now, as well as Los Angeles. To be able to have that experience is so amazing, and to get to work with Connie Britton who is a dear friend of mine. It was challenging, and it was the best kind of challenge, so magically humbling and it made me the actress I am today. I miss it!
You were on Friday Night Lights for a number of seasons and returned for the finale. How were you able to develop your character without getting bored of it?
Here’s the thing about Tyra, she is kind of this odd character from the beginning and no one knows what to do with her in terms of playing her. She was the ‘bad girl’ but that can be boring, and unlike all the other characters, she did not really have a story for quite a while. So I got along with the show’s writers, and it was Liz Heldens, one of the most amazing writers who are also one of the writers for Orville, and she developed Tyra with a backstory that brought her to life. She remains as one of my favorite characters.
The show developed somewhat of a cult following. What was it like having such a great fan-base?
The thing with this show is that it’s timeless. It’s about people, characters and talents surrounding football. It’s slightly different when we are shooting; there are times we would sit there waiting for the ratings of an episode and thank god we’re not working in this environment now because it would easily be canceled. So every episode was like “are we gonna get canceled?” Promoting it or what not, it wasn’t at full growth. It’s so funny because it’s so successful now, and it’s probably what I’m recognized for the most. It’s weird as it’s 12 years since it started. So it does have a huge cult following, it’s a show you can go back and watch every year.
We heard that you are quite the comic book fan. You also played some great characters in the genre as well. What does being a “superhero” mean to you?
Playing strong female characters is really important to me because I’m so influenced by my brother who I wanted to be like as he was the older sibling growing up. He is a comic book writer and was so into comic books. So the way I wanted to be like him was to start reading comics, such as Wonder Woman and Super Girl, and I wanted to be these beautiful women. And these women are smart, sexy, and strong, so for me to portray those characters on screen for young girls is important because it changed my life. It’s part of making the strong person that I am. You’ll be seeing more and more of that, which I’m thankful for.
Give us a rundown of your current show The Orville.
Orville, I love it so much. It’s so weird to be on a show that successful while I’m on it. But it’s doing so well, and I never been on a hit show while it was showing. But it’s wonderful; it has its own set of challenges. It has that sci-fi quality, set in space but really it is about the characters and what crazy situations they get themselves into per episode, a lot of it felt like it’s about dealing with social issues, right now which I think it’s so powerful. I had some of the best moments of my life on The Orville, such as beating the crap out of Charlize Theron. It’s been a fun experience.
Orville has such a fantastic cast. Share with us one of your favorite behind-the-scenes moments.
There are so many. Seth MacFarlane will start running through set screaming at the top of his lungs and break down crying and laughing. J. Lee will make up some superhero names such as Apple Box Man which is so stupid, but we have to be there at the moment because what it does is that it keeps us all going and keeps us present when it gets exhausting.
What is it like living in the future (and making out with aliens)?
The thing I love about what Seth McFarlane did here was he wanted to create an optimistic future. Which you know other movies and TV series doesn't really present that. So there’s kind of this weird optimistic view that I felt watching the pilot that I did when I watched shows as a kid—that light at a tunnel, wraps up at the end, you feel good, and you’re excited for the next one. Also, it’s now but just in the future. Social issues that are happening now are happening in the future, just that it’s with Aliens.
Speaking of the future, we are currently living in some turbulent times. What is one of the most important issues you find facing the world today?
Racism is one of the biggest issues we’re facing today. I can’t believe how much we have progressed with social issues, but we are also in a place where people not being treated equally. There are those out there saying that it’s okay to discriminate. It’s just horrifying to watch.
We love that you play such dynamic female characters. What attracts you to these roles?
It goes down to smart, interesting women. Kelly is really complex because she gets to be dramatic and have her emotional moments, but she’s also funny. It’s very challenging in the best possible way. I’m always attracted to the character, first. Usually, I would say in John Wick, when I first got the script and offered me the part, I read it, I was like “where’s my character?” Then I realized they didn’t change the name of the character yet, she was originally written as a guy. They kept everything the same and just changed it into a woman which I thought was really cool, and that’s probably the one where I was attracted to the movie first. Every other character has been about determining if it’s somebody that I can on any level empathize with. Also, I consider if it is going to be challenging, ultimately whether it’s physically, mentally or emotionally. That’s what I look for because that’s going to make me a better actor.
Is there a type of character or genre you are still dying to try out?
I miss theatre. I would love to go back and do a theatrical project because I learned there, I started there and it’s such a different way of acting that now it’s been 16 years since I stepped on a stage. So it really scares me. Coming from theatre, you have to completely unlearn everything you learned going into television. It’s the opposite.
Tell us about your most recent project Pretty Vacant.
My best friend Danielle Rene wrote this web series with her friend Avital, who is one of the producers. They believed in it and I 100% wanted to support it. I think it’s hilarious.
Last of all, do you believe this to be true? With clear eyes and full hearts, you can never lose?
I absolutely agree with that.