Nine months ago, Ronald Gladden was working a construction job in San Diego as word began to spread about a new genre-bending TV comedy that he didn't even know he was starring in as it was being filmed. Last week, all glowed up in powder blue tuxedo jacket, he was posing for photos with "The Last of Us" star Pedro Pascal at the Golden Globes and wishing his run-in with "Oppenheimer's" Cillian Murphy had slightly more thrilling.
"I was walking in the bathroom, he was leaving. I didn't want to strike up a conversation as he's trying to leave the restroom," Gladden says sheepishly.
Gladden hasn't grown any more used to these kind of experiences, he admits. As the accidental breakout star of Freevee's "Jury Duty," he had the internet charmed last spring as the juror with a heart of gold — and an endearing lack of awareness at the television ruse happening around him. The surprise hit revolves around Gladden, who thinks he's signed up to be in a documentary about jury duty. The catch? The trial is fake and everyone except him is an actor, including the most recognizable of the bunch: James Marsden, who plays an exaggerated, egomaniacal version of himself.
#JuryDuty star Ronald Gladden invited The L.A. Times along exclusively as he experienced his first #Emmys.
Check out the full diary from The Times’ @villarrealy, incl. exclusive 📸 by @JasonArmond + more best moments: https://t.co/4yn9LRpgrG pic.twitter.com/Raug73s1vC
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) January 17, 2024
In the time since, Gladden has fielded countless selfie requests with fans, filmed a commercial with Ryan Reynolds, hung out at events alongside Jennifer Lawrence and Kendall Jenner, and signed an overall deal with Amazon to produce and star in more projects. Gladden even moved to Los Angeles in October to take advantage of this moment of opportunity.
"We're working on a couple of things, but it's too early in the process to really give any kind of concrete ideas of what those may be," he says of his deal with Amazon. "I want to put out content that's going to be light-hearted, that feels good. I think people responded to 'Jury Duty' because they picked up on the humanity in it. And I would love to continue to make stuff like that.
"Quitting my job wasn't really like this big leap of faith that this was going to work out. I can always go back to being a contractor," he continues. "I was having so many opportunities brought to me that it just seemed foolish to not explore them."
The whirlwind of his unique rise to stardom continues Monday as he attends the 75th Emmy Awards in Los Angeles. "Jury Duty" received four nods: for comedy series, supporting actor in a comedy series for Marsden, casting and writing.
"'Surreal' is the best word I can use to describe all this," says Gladden. "I feel like I keep overusing that word, but that's how all these experiences are."
Gladden invited The Times along exclusively as he experienced his first Emmys. Follow our live-updating diary throughout the day to ride along:
#JuryDuty star Ronald Gladden invited the Times along exclusively as he experiences his first #Emmys.
Follow our live-updating diary throughout the day to ride along: https://t.co/4yn9LRpgrG pic.twitter.com/3xb6Lx6xDi
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) January 15, 2024
11:14 a.m. How does a former normie turned breakout TV star get ready for an event like the Emmys? After spending the morning snacking on a breakfast burrito from Chick-fil-A, Gladden made his way from his new pad in Santa Monica to the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, where he would spend the morning getting photo-ready. When I arrived to his room, he was brushing his teeth to “Splashin’” by Rich the Kid. (He swears there are no surprises in the toilet, though. “James isn’t around, so I think we’re good.”) “Normally, I’d be getting ready for the day dancing around with Meatball," his corgi, he says. “So you’re missing out.”
11:48 a.m. Groomer Desirae Cherman arrives to get started on Gladden. After giving her a peek at his Paul Smith tux jacket, a suede peacock teal color, he says: “I’m pretty low maintenance. It takes me maybe 15 minutes, at most, to get ready on a typical day. Got dressed at my place for the Globes. It took me 10 minutes. My hair — 30 seconds.” He marvels at the lip scrub she has him apply: “Wow, my lips were really dry.”
12:24 p.m. Stylist Warren Alfie Baker gets Gladden’s Paul Smith ensemble ready for showtime. “I think this is the most expensive thing I’m wearing,” Gladden says of the Omega watch he’s strapped on his wrist. As he changes into his outfit, Baker reveals he can keep the tuxedo: “Are you f— serious?" he replies. "This makes me so happy. No f— way. I know it’s hard to make my day on Emmy day, but you just made my day.”
12:41 p.m. As Gladden prepares to make his way out, he’s trying to get his snack game assembled. “Do you think I should bring these [mixed Cajun nuts] in the bag? Or is it just bulky?” Gladden asks an Amazon rep. She relays that another rep will have beef jerky on hand. “Sweet, perfect.” (When he arrived at the hotel earlier in the morning, he dined on filet mignon — after the morning’s Chick Fil-A burrito — because he heard it’d be a while before he’d eat again.)
12:58 p.m. “I should probably call my mom right now,” Gladden says. When they connect, and after she relays how proud she is of him, Gladden guides her through the process of how she can watch the Emmys on TV. “Your mom knows none of this stuff,” she says.
1:13 p.m. Hey, let’s FaceTime that guy from “The Notebook”! “I don’t think they could have cast a better person. James has been f— amazing,” Gladden says as he grabs his phone to call Marsden. “Oh wait, hold on! I need to charge this to the room. Sorry, Amazon.” He reaches into the mini bar and grabs a small bottle of champagne. “I need to have this in the shot.” When Marsden picks up on his end, he’s holding a shot of tequila. “Let’s have fun tonight,” Marsden tells Gladden.
Bottles in hand, James Marsden and Ronald Gladden FaceTime as each prepares to attend tonight’s #75thEmmys
Follow #JuryDuty star Ronald Gladden as he experiences his first #Emmys: https://t.co/4yn9LRpgrG pic.twitter.com/OIB1OE91Ue
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) January 15, 2024
1:25 p.m. Gladden reunites with some of his “Jury Duty” cast mates downstairs at the Four Seasons, including Ben Seaward, Ron Song and Brandon Loeser, pictured above. The rest of the cast is gathered here to make their way to the Emmys together. "Everybody has seen the show … Adam Scott, Nathan Fielder,” a wide-eyed Gladden tells Song about some of the admirers he’s met recently. “It’s crazy.” Gladden will be walking the carpet with Mekki Leeper, who played Noah on the series and is nominated for his writing on the series.
2:05 p.m. Asked about his run-ins at the Globes last week, Gladden shares: “The big one for me was Patrick J. Adams from ‘Suits.’ I started watching ‘Suits’ recently. I’m pissed I didn’t get to see Harvey [played by Gabriel Macht]. I know he was there. Running into him would have been amazing. It was cool meeting Patrick. I had done a commercial with a few of his old cast mates. And Pedro Pascal. That was the one that shocked me the most. It was cool running into him and also being like, ‘I know who YOU are.’ It’s always such a trip. I don’t know what to expect at the Emmys.”
2:44 p.m. Gladden arrives and meets Leeper in a talent-gathering tent before the red carpet’s entrance. “This is a luxury, I will never take this for granted,” Gladden tells Leeper. “I’m used to being up at 5 a.m. and watching concrete getting poured.” As they make their way to the carpet, Gladden quickly guides Leeper on how to download his Emmys ticket to his phone. “I don’t even know where I’m sitting,” Gladden says. “I might be sitting with the '[Marvelous Mrs.] Maisel' cast? Or 'Daisy Jones [& the Six]'? I have no idea.”
2:58 p.m. Gladden's first “can we take a selfie moment” from a fellow TV star comes from "The Bear" cast member /chef Matty Matheson. “You’re going to be getting that a lot tonight, Ronald,” Leeper says.
From the car, Ronald Gladden talks about some of his favorite shows for the #75thEmmys.
Follow our live-updating diary by @villarrealy throughout the day to ride along: https://t.co/4yn9LRpgrG pic.twitter.com/O1Oe4ttnzB
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) January 15, 2024
3:03 p.m. Gladden and Leeper make their way to the photo portion of the carpet. And no, Gladden insists, he hasn’t practiced any poses: “You just go with what feels organic in the moment.” As he waits in the line, he spots Jesse Eisenberg, who stars in FX’s “Fleishman Is in Trouble,” but can’t quite remember his name. “That’s my downfall, I always recognize people but don’t know their names in the moment.” See, James, you’re not alone!
3:29 p.m. “I love your show, a lot of my friends are on it,” says "The Bear" star and Emmy nominee Ayo Edebiri, who stops Gladden before being pulled into a video interview.
3:33 p.m. “That’s Monk! Tony Shalhoub!” Gladden points out as he makes his way through the crowd, conveniently able to spot more folks than most thanks to his height. “I need to meet him.” As Gladden does a video interview, his Amazon rep coordinates with the rep for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” to coordinate a run-in.
4:15 p.m.: Gladden slowly makes his way inside as the traffic jam of stars reaches its bottleneck near the venue’s entrance. Surrounded by folks like Jessica Chastain, Padma Lakshmi and J. Smith-Cameron, Gladden has his sights set on one last bathroom stop. As he shuffles through the crowded lobby, he checks his tux jacket to make sure his snacks are situated. An Amazon rep asks if he wants beef jerky. “Heck yeah,” he says as she slides him a couple sticks. After his bathroom stop, he gathers for some selfies with “Jury Duty” producers before making his way to his seat. He’ll be in Row E: “They’re telling me that’s close,” he says with a smile. “So that’s cool. I’m excited to see what this is like.”
6:30 p.m. Midway through the show, I ask for a check-in from Gladden about the night so far. Who is sitting around him that he’s spotted? What has he thought of the night so far? Has he gone through his snacks yet? I receive his response via text: He's met Daniel Radcliffe and spotted Jason Segel, "Weird Al" Yankovic and the casts of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" and "The White Lotus." His highlight is Paul Walter Hauser’s rapping acceptance speech for supporting actor in a limited series for "Black Bird." Gladden and Hauser have become friendly, catching up on the red carpet before the show.
10:23 p.m. As TV’s biggest night wound down, Gladden had this to say: “If I had to describe the night in one word: electrifying. Amazing to be around people of that caliber, just happy to be there.” He noted that he did snack on the peanuts he stashed in his pockets during the night, “but I didn’t eat the jerky because the guests around me were so hungry I didn’t want to eat it in front of them.” His favorite show reunion from the nostalgia-heavy ceremony? The cast of “Cheers.” But he was more interested in his own reunion: “I’m looking forward to reuniting with the 'Jury Duty' cast for a party.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.