The last – but certainly not least – of the New York Comic-Con press interview articles focuses on FX’s animated spy comedy Archer. And when Archer comes to town, they don’t just bring a sampling of their cast, they bring the entire lineup. Joined by series creator Adam Reed and producers Matt Thompson and Casey Willis, H. Jon Benjamin (Archer), Aisha Tyler (Lana), Jessica Walter (Malory), Chris Parnell (Cyril), Amber Nash (Pam), Judy Greer (Cheryl/Carol), Lucky Yates (Krieger), and Christian Slater (Slater) were all on-hand to answer each and every question thrown at them about the show, the characters, and pretty much anything else under the sun.
(By the way, as a sidebar: it was confirmed that references to the spy agency’s name, “ISIS,” have been almost completely removed from the show, given the fact that an ass-backward, totally insane, barbarically violent, real-life terrorist group is currently using that name. You may have heard of them.)
Anyway, having just wrapped a fifth season that was radically different from the previous four, fans likely have a lot of questions on their minds, and it was my job to find out the answers. Considering he is also the series’ sole writer, Adam Reed seemed like a logical person with which to start.
“We are back to business as usual, relatively,” Reed said. “They have the CIA as their parent company now, so they’re doing CIA-sponsored missions that Archer and company don’t always know the whole story; they just know their tiny bit of it. Which is not very different from when Malory sends them on missions; they often don’t know what her end game is about. So it’s all very much a return to form.”
This begs the question of whether or not individual characters will also be regressing to their former personalities. Like Pam and her little cocaine habit. “She gets off the coke,” Amber Nash said. “I think it’s just out of necessity. She doesn’t want to, it’s just that all the coke is gone. She just goes back to her old food addiction ways instead.”
Cherlene, in both name and profession, will also be ditching her season five role – although Judy Greer was tight-lipped on the details. “No, dude,” Greer said to me when asked if Cheryl will continue to be a country music star. “In fact, it’s handled in my favorite way possible. Not spoiling.”
Cyril will continue to develop a spine, actually maintaining his new trend of not letting Archer push him around as much. “We’ve only recorded seven or eight episodes thus far, and he’s probably stood up to him a couple times, but he also crumbles very quickly,” Parnell said. “So a little bit, but not a lot.”
Some things will stay completely the same, though, especially with Sterling. So if you were expecting him to grow up now that he’s a father (physically, not mentally) you will be sadly (but hilariously) disappointed.
“No, it gets worse,” Jon Benjamin said. “He got very emotional at the thought of having a child, and then when reality sets in and he actually has to see the child, he’s repulsed. I think he had an idealized version about being a dad, but he’s going to do the same thing he always does, which is: fuck up.”
How will Lana feel about the behavior of her baby daddy? Or better question: does she even care? “I think against her better judgment, she loves him,” Aisha Tyler said. “I think she had his baby because he has excellent genetic material, but I do think she loves him. I think they love each other. And now they have a child together. They obviously really care for each other. I think she wants him to be a better version of himself, and I think she’s pretty clear he’s not going to be. A big part of the dynamic of this season is trying to co-parent with someone who’s a douchebag, and a drunk, and a really reluctant adult. I don’t think she wants him to not be himself, I think she just wants him to be a more awesome himself than he’s been so far. It’ll be interesting to see how many times he disappoints her this season.”
Speaking of Archer being himself, one thing fans (and the character of Sterling) should get excited about is the return of phrasing jokes. “I feel like phrasing is pretty much part of the DNA of the show,” Benjamin said in response to my query. “So the answer is yes.”
Die-hards might also be interested to know an interesting tidbit about the character of Archer and the origin of his voice, which is Benjamin’s natural sound. “When I got cast as Archer, he did specifically say, ‘Use your voice.’ So I was hand-picked for that part,” he said. “I had planned to do something else, and I wouldn’t have gotten the part. Literally. I tried a British accent, and that was my plan. I mean, I heard it was a spy, so…”
As for fan-favorite Dr. Algernop Krieger, his Japanese hologram girlfriend will finally get a name this season: Mitzko. “Even in the scripts all this time, she was just referred to as Hologram Bride,” Matt Thompson said. “She’s actually going to get a name.”
But with Krieger himself, the question isn’t if he will change or not, but whether he is even the same person he was prior to the end of last season. For those who need a refresher, several Krieger clones battled with the real Doctor (who isn’t actually a real doctor) and only one person emerged victorious and alive. The true identity of this fellow was ambiguous at best. “It remains a question thus far in season six,” Lucky Yates teased. “We’re about to record the eighth episode and it’s still a question. There is no answer to what Krieger we ended up with. Adam Reed and I are the only two people that know the answer to that. I get a script two days before record and I’m excited to read every one of them.”
This is standard practice for all the actors, who have no idea how each week’s new episode will unfold, as they only receive the next script after recording the previous one. Still, the cast has total faith in Reed, who they are quick to praise as both a writer and a person.
“Adam Reed is one of the nicest people I have ever met in my life,” Greer said. “He’s so generous and kind, and clearly weird and sick and funny and smart.”
That intelligence is something Chris Parnell highlighted as well. “People appreciate all [his] references to different pop culture things,” he said. “Often I learn something historical because he’ll reference something from history that I didn’t know about.”
Reed is such a knowledgeable and observant person, that he’ll actually write things about the actors that even they don’t know about themselves. “Krieger’s ‘Yup yup yup’ thing apparently is something that I do or did in real life, and I had no clue,” Yates said. “It was just a thing that I did; a little Lucky Yates quirk. And it was in the script, and so when we were recording I was like, ‘How do you want me to do these ‘yup’s?’ And [Reed] was like, ‘You know, how you do them in real life.’ So a couple of days later I actually did it and went: ‘Oh my god, it really happens! How long have I been doing this?!’ I think he picks things up from us, because we’re all buddies, and just puts them in. There’s a lot of things that end up as character traits.”
Amber Nash summed up her general feelings about Archer quite nicely, saying, “If I wasn’t on the show, I’d be a fan of the show. I feel like it gets better every season. The performances are better, the writing is better, everything keeps getting better.” Including the list of guest stars, which will include Jessica Walter’s real life husband, Ron Leibman, reprising his role as Ron Cadillac.
“He said yes,” Walter revealed. “Absolutely.”
This enthusiasm to appear on a cartoon is still a new concept for the show’s producers. “We’ve been making cartoons for a long time,” Matt Thompson said of himself, Casey Willis, and Reed. “On our other shows, you’d call people and ask them to be on it and they’d just hang up on you. It’s rare these days that if we want somebody to be in it, they say no.”
They even ask to be on the show themselves, Willis pointed out. “Christian Slater actually wanted to be on the show for quite a while,” he said. “It’s awesome now to have people that want to be on the show. When recording Christian Slater, he had so much knowledge of the show. He had a line and he goes, ‘Oh man, that was such a Krieger line.’ That’s really cool, this guy’s a fan of the show!”
“I started watching the show with my wife,” Slater said. “I watched the Burt Reynolds episode, and I just loved that episode so much, and I just thought I got to let [Adam Reed] know. This is a great show and I wanted to let the guy know. I just said if there’s every anything I can do, I’d love to. He wrote me back and had some other suggestions – he wanted me to use the name Slater – and I just kind of liked the idea of it possibly being me in this new line of work.”
So after a successful stint in some of season five’s episodes, Slater is coming back for more. “I’m an ingredient that is sprinkled throughout, I believe,” he said. “Adam was talking to me about future episodes, and things that are going to be happening, and directions that Slater is going to be going in, and problems that Slater is going to be causing for Archer, and I’m just exited. I’m such a huge fan of Adam’s work and the Archer character in general, it’s definitely thrilling to get to be a part of it.”
And why not? From the way everyone makes it sound, voice acting – especially on a show like this – is clearly where it’s at as far as careers go. “Doing voiceover gigs is one of the most wonderful jobs in the world because you just go into a studio, there’s no makeup person, there’s no hair person, you’re just in there, and do your lines, and you can get in and get out,” Slater said.
The others confirmed the enjoyment and ease that comes with their jobs. “I work for like 15 minutes an episode on Archer,” Greer said. “It’s pretty great.”
Same goes for Amber Nash. “I work like 30 minutes a week, every other week,” she said.
It’s safe to say that Archer has come a long way – be it in regard to the aforementioned plot changes, character changes, or guest actors’ enthusiasm toward being on the it. The show was a bit of an outcast at first, but now it’s one of the cool kids, which is ironic, considering how the premise was conceived. “To begin with, after my last show got canceled, I took a year off and traveled around. I went to the capitals of Europe and there were always these beautiful people going and doing beautiful things, and I was always just moping around and not going to these parties. So I was thinking a lot about James Bond as an international traveler, and how he would probably be going to the great parties and talking to the beautiful women in the cafes. So I started scribbling down ideas about a spy and out of that somehow Archer evolved. Because I wasn’t invited to parties.”
One thing Archer is known for, is its ability to push the envelope in regard to content. But we found out that viewers shouldn’t expect the jokes to get too much more offensive, and not because of any restrictions by the network. “Before I would run up against something FX wouldn’t allow, I would be terrified that my mom would see it,” Reed said. “I don’t think I’ve bumped up against their boundaries yet; I don’t know where those even are.”
So there you have it, folks. The mastermind behind Archer is apparently quite similar to the character of Archer: they’re both fueled by the desire to be one of the beautiful people, and they’re both concerned with pleasing their mommies. Seriously though, whatever the reason, and whatever variables are changed or not changed, it won’t matter. Archer is now a force to be reckoned with, and if the words of the cast and crew mean anything, season six might be its finest moment yet.
[Photos by Becca Green]