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Ed, that aptitude rating is through the roof. Aside from Isaac, John is the smartest officer on board."
"My god, he sure doesn't act like it.
Kelly Grayson and Ed Mercer.[1]
John LaMarr is the Human Lieutenant Commander and Chief Engineer of the USS Orville. According to Admiral Halsey, John served with the Orville under the previous captain as Lieutenant and Navigator prior to Ed Mercer assuming command.[2] He is promoted to Chief Engineer in early 2420, replacing Steve Newton.

Early historyEdit

John LaMarr grew up in a young colony on an unnamed planet. He later described the colonists of his youth as a " lot of farmers, lot of builders, [and] they didn't trust anyone who was too much of an egghead."[3] Deep-seated anti-intellectualism taught John to hide his brilliance from his peers. "You'd be surprised at how fast you can alienate people when you're always right," he later recalled.[3]
John LaMarr young

A photo of John LaMarr as a boy.

John attended the academy at Union Point where he earned some of the highest marks in the school's history, including scores in advanced engineering that were "off the charts," an achievement he keeps secret.[3] 

Early life Edit

After matriculation, his humble, guarded attitude led to a quiet career in the Planetary Union, though he did attain the advanced helmsman class of level eight early on.[2] He was assigned to the Orville where he served "for years" as a navigator under an unnamed captain.[2][4]

Career Edit

By September 2419, a new captain, Ed Mercer, and a new pilot at the helm, Gordon Malloy, arrive.[2] Gordon and John become friends in addition to co-workers: fighting in numerous battles as pilot and navigator and spending time together when off-duty.

In the Orville's first mission, John proves himself a crucial member of the ship's bridge crew. Forced into a battle with a heavier Krill destroyer, John assists Gordon maneuver the Orville in a difficult attack tactic called "Hugging the Donkey" to distract the Krill from capturing a shuttle holding the ground team, Doctor Aronov, and valuable time-accelerating technology.[2]

Perhaps John's most notable moment on the bridge came later that year. The Orville and an enemy Krill destroyer wage a protracted, vicious battle in which both vessels' hulls had severely weakened. The Orville in particular is vulnerable to even the slightest damage on the starboard side. With only minutes to spare, Second Officer Bortus, acting as commander, cedes weapons controls to the John, who targets the enemy's quantum engines. John knew that the Orville could not destroy the Krill's weapons fast enough; but the possibility that the enemy's engines were fatally damaged could save them if the plasma torpedoes could strike. The gambit works: the Orville's plasma torpedoes explode against the hull of the ship, destroying the engines inside and saving the Union ship.[5]

Imprisonment on Sargus 4 Edit

John LaMarr Willks Social Correction Final Vote Sargus 4

John is imprisoned on Sargus 4 and forced to undergo an apology tour.

In early 2420, John is assigned to a landing team on Sargus 4 to find two missing Union explorers. While teasing Chief of Security Alara Kitan, he simulates grind dancing on a statue of Mella Giffendon. His dance is witnessed by several passerby, one of whom records John's dance and uploads the video to the planet's Master Feed. John receives hundreds of thousands of "downvotes," public votes of disapproval, and John is arrested and forced to undergo an apology tour. Publicity Officer Willks explains:

You performed a disrespectful act on a statue commemorating frontier hero Mella Giffenden. It was caught on video and uploaded to the Master Feed. You received over one million downvotes from the public, which makes what you did a crime against the State.

The arrest creates a crisis for the Orville. Admiral Tucker forbids the Orville intervene by pulling John from Sargus 4 as it would contaminate the developing culture. John is sentenced to a final vote: if Sarguns cast over 10 million downvotes against John, he will be subjected to a drastic neurological treatment called social correction. Science Officer Isaac manipulates public opinion on the planet by uploading doctored videos of John in heart-warming situations to the Master Feed. The plan works and public opinion turns in time for John to avoid correction.

Promotion to Chief EngineerEdit

John Lamarr

"Now maybe people will believe me when I say I am not a commander." Academically-gifted Lieutenant LaMarr felt unready to accept command responsibility.

Aside from Isaac, John is the smartest officer on board."
"My God, he sure doesn't act like it. I heard about the Yaphit thing.
Kelly Grayson and Ed Mercer[6]
The Orville's commanding staff had still not discovered John's remarkable academic record: first, because John's relaxed work attitude struck others as immature; and second, because neither Captain Mercer nor Commander Kelly Grayson had cause to review it. That cause came in several months later with the departure of the ship's chief engineer, Steve Newton.

Steve transfers assignment for the chance to design a new space station. At his farewell reception, John and Gordon play a practical joke on Lieutenant Yaphit and Bortus by hiding a piece of Yaphit's gelatinous body inside Bortus' Prawgus cake. The prank incenses Yaphit, who reports the two to Kelly. The Commander places letters of reprimand on their personnel files and sees that John boasts some of the strongest Union aptitude ratings and Union Point academic performance records of all time.

Kelly assigns John to assist Isaac and scanspatial anomaly that damaged the ship's quantum engines, replacing Yaphit. John is uninterested in a promotion and assuming more responsibilities, but assents. After the two pore over data recovered by the team, John realizes that the spatial anomaly is a pocket of two-dimensional space.

LaMarr Dann Malloy

John and Gordon Malloy's love for practical jokes got them in hot water when a prank on Yaphit goes too far.

Meanwhile, Krill are alerted of a cache of stolen Krill weapons resting near the Orville in space. With the Krill closing in from almost all sides and the spatial anomaly behind them, engineering needs to find a way to escape quickly. John conceives of a "quantum bubble" that would allow the ship to maintain three-dimensional form inside a bubble while traversing two-dimensional space.

John and Ed pilot a shuttle in front of the Orville that was modified to manifest a spatial conduit that permits the shuttle to enter two-dimensional space and towed the ship to a new exit to three-dimensional space. Sufficiently impressed by John's experience and new-found maturity, the Captain offers Steve's old position to John, leapfrogging Lieutenant Yaphit, who was next in line for promotion.

John's first day as Chief Engineer stands as the capstone of the episode New Dimensions:
LaMarr Yaphit Chief Engineer

John approaches Engineering as Chief Engineer for the first time.

Okay, everybody listen up. There's a new boss in town and his name is Lieutenant Commander John LaMarr. You guys ready to step it up? Okay, boom. Now, if we can increase engine efficiency to 97 percent by the end of the work week, we can all take off early and get wasted. Sound good? Well don't just stand there, snap to it.

Alternate timelineEdit

John alternate

John in an alternate timeline.

Personal life Edit

John is widely considered a guru in romance by the crew, advising both Gordon[7] and Isaac[8] on dating.

In 2419, John dated a female Keribex, an alien with two heads. He dated both women at the same time while managing to avoid each head finding out about the other. "It'd still be going on," John later recalled, "But the left head always wanted to go hiking, and that's just sort of a deal-breaker for me."[7]

In April 2420, John begins seeing his inferior officer, Ensign Jenny Turco, for late-night sexual dalliances and marijuana.[9] His ongoing relationship with Jenny becomes an open question by December with some officers believing the two are dating,[10] though Jenny and John are themselves unsure.[8]


Real quick, I just wanna say, all you all can suck ass, and I'm a spaceman.— John LaMarr after avoiding Social Correction[11]
John develops a reputation as laid-back but intelligent. Ed later describes him as "impulsive" but "fantastic at his job." When he appears on The Breakfast Show, John says that he likes soda, is a good driver, and can drink an entire bottle of tequila and say the alphabet.[12]

John gets along best with his bridgemate, Gordon; the two often disregard decorum. John frequently drinks soda on the bridge,[2][13] addresses other crew members as "man" or "dude," even to superior officers, and frequently makes openly critical or sarcastic remarks.[14] John jokes about Alara's inexperience after she demurred in the face of a decision. When Alara dares him to repeat his remark, he stands down and addresses her as "sir."[15]

Production Edit

John LaMarr promotional image

The first season character promotional image of John.

The character of John LaMarr is mostly unchanged from the initial development stages of the show of April, 2016. In the pilot script, John is introduced as "co-pilot" and "level eight helmsman" of the Orville; and the character is described simply as a black man in his 30s.[14] Creator Seth MacFarlane wrote John specifically for the actor J. Lee, who protrays John on the show.[16] Consequently, some of the personality traits and quirks of John on film are in fact extensions of Lee's personality off-camera.

According to Scott Grimes, the show's writers promoted John to Engineering because they felt that Gordon and John's personalities were too similar for television audiences. By changing John's position, rank, and work station, they thought they could separate the two as distinct characters.[17] Lee later said that he did not know of the impending promotion of his character until he got the episode script.[18]

Actor J. Lee explains John's casual attitude during introductions in Old Wounds as John's way to assess Captain Mercer: "When I first meet Ed, the new captain of the ship, I sort of take him in and size him up a little but then quickly shows how great of a captain he really is."[19]

John often functions as a writer's tool to explain the story through metaphors that audiences will understand. For example, Isaac says that the Orville can enter Calivon space because Isaac is Kaylon. John summarizes: "White guy can go to Compton if black dude says it's cool."[15]

For The World of the Orville, Lee said that John is "a straight shooter and a great navigator/pilot. He's got a dry sense of humor and someone you would always want to have your back. Whether that's in a battle with the Krill or in a joke session in the Mess Hall."[20] Science consultant André Bormanis added that "he's somebody who likes to have a good time, is incredibly good at what he does, but kind of downplays his intelligence and his real potential, and there's something interesting about that."[20]


  • He requests permission from Ed to drink soda on the bridge as long as he does not spill it. Later, during the Orville's first departure from Earth, John can be seen drinking soda on the bridge.[2]
    • In the original script, John spills his drink once Gordon "hugs the donkey."[14]
  • He finds blue jeans to be uncomfortably tight and to look ridiculous.[12]
  • He loathes the music of Barry Manilow, which the rest of Engineering loves.[21]
  • He has a crippling fear of clowns (coulrophobia), and considers "hobo clowns" to be the scariest of all. His phobia is so strong even the mention of the word "clown" causes him to grow noticeably uncomfortable.[22]
    John LaMarr Pria Lavesque Gordon Malloy

    John congratulates Pria Lavesque with a fist bump for successfully navigating a dark matter storm and saving their ship.

  • He has one of the highest academic records from Union Point, and after Isaac is considered the most intelligent member of the Orville.[3]
  • He experiences motion sickness when entering two-dimensional space, vomiting in front of the Captain.[3]
  • John's character parallels Geordi LaForge of Star Trek: The Next Generation. LaForge and John started on the bridge and later were promoted to Chief Engineers.
  • According to Lee, "Seth wrote the character with me in mind so we both say 'boom.'" [16]
  • The button sequences that John and Gordon press while at the helm are not arbitrary. Both Lee and Grimes had to learn actual button patterns.[23]
  • He hates hiking, and it is a deal-breaker in relationships.[7]
  • John is the only human character confirmed to have not been born on Earth


References Edit

  1. Episode 1x11: New Dimensions
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Episode 1x01: Old Wounds.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Episode 1x11: New Dimensions
  4. John tells Yaphit that they served together on the Orville for years. Episode 2x14: The Road Not Taken
  5. Episode 1x04: If the Stars Should Appear
  6. New Dimensions
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Episode 2x01: Ja'loja
  8. 8.0 8.1 Episode 2x06: A Happy Refrain
  9. Episode 1x12: Mad Idolatry
  10. Isaac believes this in A Happy Refrain.
  11. Episode 1x07: Majority Rule
  12. 12.0 12.1 Episode 1x07: Majority Rule.
  13. Episode 1x05: Pria
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 MacFarlane, Seth. Orville 1x01 - PilotFox Broadcasting Co.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Episode 1x02: Command Performance.
  16. 16.0 16.1 LaPalme, Kevin. "THE ORVILLE’S J LEE AND HIS LEAP OF FAITH". LaPalme Magazine. Dec. 6, 2017.
  17. "THE ORVILLE PODCAST EP 14 - THE SCOTT GRIMES INTERVIEW". The Orville Podcast. Dec. 8, 2017.
  18. Seat42F. "Scott Grimes J. Lee THE ORVILLE Comic Con 2018 Interview". YouTube. July 23, 2018.
  19. Mayo, Lauren. "Actor J Lee talks artistry and new Fox series ‘The Orville’". Rolling Out. August 24, 2017.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Bond, Jeff. The World of the Orville. Titan Books. 2018. Pg. 40.
  21. Episode 1x08: Into the Fold.
  22. Episode 1x10: Firestorm.
  23. Bernstein, Abby. "THE ORVILLE: Scott Grimes beams up for Season 1 of new space trek – Exclusive Interview". AssignmentX. Dec. 1, 2017.
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