I got the chance to enter the “danger zone” at Comic-Con with the cast of FX’s hit animated comedy, “Archer”, the quirky show which follows the adventures of an arrogant spy, Archer (H. Jon Benjamin), as he deals with his fellow spy and on-again/off-again girlfriend, Lana (Aisha Tyler), his controlling mother, Malory (Jessica Walter), and his oddball assortment of co-workers. In the earlier seasons, “Archer” was set at a fictional spy agency known as ISIS, until Season 5, when “Archer” became “Archer Vice”. The sixth season saw the group join forces with the CIA, which is where the seventh season will be set and will premiere sometime next year.
The cast (minus for H. Jon Benjamin, who sadly was not present), as well as the creator/writer/producer/voice actor Adam Reed and co-executive producer Casey Willis, gave me a sneak peek into Season 7, what they hope for their characters, and how they think their characters would handle Comic-Con:
AMBER NASH (Pam Poovey)
YH: What’s new with Pam this season?
AN: Well, we can’t talk a lot about what’s happening this season, because it’s a giant surprise. It’s so much so that we aren’t even playing an episode at Comic-Con, which we usually do. Let’s just say some $#!t’s going down! We have recorded two episodes so far -- and I always say this, but I swear to god it’s true -- it gets funnier this season. I think that Adam is really charged up to write this season because it’s different and fun. So... Pam is still Pam. She’s always going to be crazy and crass and getting into trouble.
YH: Are you still having fun playing her?
AN: Oh my god, it’s the best thing ever. I think what’s so cool about Pam is that she’s changed so much. I went back and read the pilot script for “Archer”, and the first time that Pam’s introduced in the script, it says, “Pam sits behind a desk. She’s the mousy HR director.” I was like, "Mousy?!" She’s totally not that anymore! It’s still so much fun, and I’ll do it forever, as long as they will let me.
YH: Is there anything that they [Adam Reed and Casey Willis] have written that made you think, “I just can’t do that line!”?
AN: No, because the lines are all pretty fun, and I can’t believe that I get to say that line. But the one that got me was “masturbate until my fingers bleed.” I was like, “Oh my god! How horrifying!” The fact that your fingers would bleed first is the really terrifying part!
YH: Where did the voice of Pam come from?
AN: The voice came from when I tell stories about my mom talking to me about something; that’s the voice I always use, like “Really? You’re going to wear that?” My mom doesn’t sound like that at all, she’s actually Southern, but that’s the voice I use and that’s where Pam came from.
YH: Do you ever miss cocaine-addled Pam?
AN: I really liked cocaine-addled Pam. I liked that she was pin-up hot for a little while, but a lot of people hated it! They wanted old Pam back. I’m glad that I got to do that, but I’m glad that old Pam is back to what we love.
LUCKY YATES (Krieger)
YH: How does “Archer” keep topping itself?
LY: It’s all Adam Reed, that’s the guy to ask. I don’t know, I’m just happy to be involved. I think because, at the core of it, it’s about that group and their relationships. And like any relationship, it keeps developing over time. This season, some status roles are shifting around, so there are some cool new dynamics this season.
YH: How do you prepare for the role?
LY: It’s Krieger, I love the guy so much that it’s just a joy to say his words. I really don’t prepare that much, I just read the scripts so that I know what I’m talking about. I don’t really ad-lib, because the writing is so good. We really only ad-lib when the script says, “group reacts to”, and we all just chuck out lines.
YH: Do the scripts still surprise you?
LY: Oh yeah, I’m so excited every time I get one. I just can’t wait to read them. Whenever I do get one, I drop everything I am doing and read it, because it’s so funny.
YH: What do you think Krieger would think of Comic-Con?
LY: He would be the best cosplayer ever here! Are you kidding me? He would rule. He would build something gigantic and mechanical. He would be that villain thing from Biosphere. He would be something dangerous and terrifying. His girlfriend would rock it out, because he could just change programming every 15 minutes so that she just changes her outfit. If there was a ball at the end of it, they would win King and Queen.
CASEY WILLIS (co-executive producer)
YH: There are a lot of changes this season. Are you allowed to talk about it?
CW: No, I’m not. I can say that maybe there are some power shifts in the relationships in “Archer”. I think that’s vague enough but gives you something. As for Wodehouse, I know there’s a plan, and if it goes off, it’s pretty hilarious. He’s been doing something this whole time, and it’s a pretty great joke, if and when we get to it. I might be able to say that Archer gets a new car this season that he’s really obsessed with.
YH: How many episodes have you worked on for the new season?
CW: I think we’ve recorded two so far, and we are working on the third. They’re pretty great. I think I can say that Patton Oswalt is going to be in the new season, and he’s doing a great job. He’s really great to work with. He’s an “Archer” fan, so that really helps.
YH: Has there been any celebrity where you said, “Hey, we want you on” and they said no?
CW: We’ve been really, really lucky to get everybody. I can’t really think of someone who has passed on the show.
YH: Are there characters that fans have latched onto that you didn’t expect them to, and have now become a more integral part of the story?
CW: I think the thing that surprised me the most were the people who cosplayed as Krieger and the anime bride. The anime bride was just named “bride” or “manga bride” -- she didn’t have a name for the longest time. Then, in one script, Adam said, “Let’s call her Mitsouko from now on. That’s going to be her name.” But then in the next script, she was listed as “anime bride”. No one has ever said her name. I’m surprised by the fan following that she has, because she’s just a hologram.
YH: Is there anything on the show that you have wanted to do but never had the chance to?
CW: Well, after Archer Vice, since they were all selling drugs, there was a plan to have them all go to prison, and that would be the next season. But as we were making Season 5, “Orange is the New Black” hit, and we couldn’t make it because it’s such a good prison show. We also didn’t know how we could get all of our characters in one prison.
CHRIS PARNELL (Cyril Figgis)
YH: How is voicing Jerry on “Rick and Morty” different from voicing Cyril?
CP: I think that Jerry is a lot sadder, in a way, than Cyril. Cyril has some responsibility in the agency. There are differences there. I think most of it is in the writing. They have slightly different voices... not that I do big character voices. I feel lucky to get to do Jerry too. I’m glad that the show is finally coming back.
YH: Do you have a favorite Cyril moment, or want Cyril to do something?
CP: I would love to see Cyril kick Archer’s ass. I think that would be really fun and exciting.
YH: Since Cyril gets dumped on all the time, is there a possibility that in one season he could become the baddie?
CP: I think it’s possible. I feel like he’s snapped in certain moments in the series, and in the new season, he will have some new responsibilities, but it’s mostly in name only. That’s about as much as I can say. He has a new title in the new season, and he expects everyone to respect that tile, and they only do somewhat.
YH: When you voice Cyril, is there a certain character or family member that you have in mind?
CP: No, it really just comes out of the script. I just think about who this person should be and what they want. Cyril is really just a slightly more nasal version of my voice. Basically, I don’t know what I’m doing.
JUDY GREER (Cheryl Tunt)
YH: Are you still having fun doing “Archer”?
JG: Yeah! I am a fan of the show in addition to being on it, so I get as excited to read the new scripts as I’m assuming as the audience gets to watch them. I can never predict what Adam Reed is going to come up with next, and that’s what makes it so fun.
YH: Have they ever given you anything to say that you felt you couldn’t?
JG: No, never. Sometimes I don’t understand some of the weird historical, political, or pop culture references, and I have to ask them what things mean, but for the most part, I will say anything. Doing things, though... if this show was live action, I don’t think I could play this role. [laughs] I probably wouldn’t have gotten cast, anyway.
YH: If Cheryl came to Comic-Con, who do you think she would cosplay as?
JG: I feel like I could see her going deep undercover in a full make-up situation... like a werewolf. Maybe as a she-wolf. Maybe that’s just what I would like to be. One time, I was in a movie as a werewolf, and Rick Baker did a full test of my werewolf make-up (he didn’t end up doing the movie), but it was so cool. I totally understand why people get so dressed up for cons. We took a lunch break and it was amazing to eat lunch as a werewolf and walk around the studio as a werewolf. It was awesome. It’s really fun to get all made up.
YH: Do you ever miss Cheryl’s country-singing alter ego, Cherlene?
JG: All the time. I really liked that version of her. I’m also a terrible singer, but a frustrated rock and roll country star. Two beers and some karaoke, forget it. I am singing!
ADAM REED (creator, executive producer, writer, Ray Gillete)
YH: How do you keep the series fresh?
AR: I don’t know. [laughs] No, I think, every once and a while, we do these episodes that end up being backstory about the characters. I think that helps us a lot, and it gets us out of that “mission-of-the-week” temptation. I think that each cast member likes when we spend time with various characters' families and whatnot. But other than that, I don’t know.
YH: Has there been any difference to how you write now to when you first started?
AR: I don’t smoke cigarettes anymore. I used to be a tobacco user, but I quit about three seasons ago. I used to be pounding tobacco and staying up for days at a time, but I don’t do that anymore. I now write in the daytime.
YH: Will we ever find out the identity of Archer’s father?
AR: Yes, but probably not until the very last episode. I don’t know when that’s going to be. I was thinking about that on the flight here. Hopefully, that will be a long way off. I have given some thought to what the last episode would look like, but it’s not anytime soon, I hope.
YH: Do you have a favorite character to write for?
AR: All of them. I know it sounds dumb, but each one makes me laugh in their own way. I really like the origin story episodes, because you can dig in a little deeper about who they are. They’re all different, but they’re all enjoyable to write for.
YH: When the whole cast gets together at Comic-Con, do you get to do any bonding?
AR: FX always puts on a lovely dinner for us, and everyone drinks a bunch of wine and makes fun of each other. This is the only time really when we’re all together. This year is extra special because Jessica Walter is here. They’re all really great to hang out with.
AISHA TYLER (Lana Kane)
YH: Can you tell us anything about Season 7?
AT: We’re not really allowed to tease anything, which is really weird, because normally we show an entire episode at Comic-Con. We can’t talk about anything, so it’s been nice, guys! [pretends to leave the table] No, but there is a dynamic change for everybody, and there are a lot of power changes. Oh, and Abbiejean is now 17 years old and super slutty with seven boyfriends.[laughs] No, she’s still a baby. Archer and Lana had an interesting shift in their relationship last season, which was great to see. I don’t want them to be together, but it was fun to see what they were like the first time they dated.
YH: You wouldn’t want to see Lana get back together with Archer?
AT: I will put this delicately -- I like it when they f***, but I don’t think they should be dating. [laughs] You don’t want to get that guy to take out the trash or help you with a computer problem. He’sa useless human being for everything but sex. He’s not even that good of a spy; Lana is a much better spy. But he’s got an awesome body, and apparently he’s awesome in the sack. I don’t know, he’s a cartoon.
YH: From Season 1 to now, could you imagine how your character would progress?
AT: No, I mean, I didn’t even think this show would get on the air. The fact that we’re still going is a mystery. I knew Adam and Matt from “Sealab 2021”, and I got the script as an offer, and I recognized that it was from the “Sealab” guys. I read about 10 pages of it and thought that there was no way it would ever make it on the air, because it was way too smart and dirty. I figured I could go make a little bit of money, go to Atlanta, meet the “Sealab” guys, get a free flight and eat up all the chips in the mini-bar! But then Adam called me to say that the show had been picked up, and I was really surprised. Every year since then, it’s been a delight and a mystery. We’re so proud of it. I would love us to go as long as “The Simpsons”.
JESSICA WALTER (Malory Archer)
YH: Do these scripts still surprise you?
JW: Oh yes, they do. As you know from the other cast members, we’re not allowed to talk much about Season 7. We’ve recorded two episodes from Season 7, and I am always surprised at how smart and sophisticated the writing is. Adam writes about every single episode, and he never disappoints.
YH: Do you get to drink a martini while you record?
JW: No, just water. [chuckles] We drink a lot of water.
YH: Who do you think is a more despicable mother: Malory Archer or Lucille Bluth (from “Arrested Development”)?
JW: Wow... they are equally difficult. I think that they both love their children, they just don’t know how to show it. Archer is very dependent, even though he won’t admit it. He hasn’t totally cut her off. Buster is a little similar to Archer in many ways.
YH: How do you capture Malory’s anger?
JW: It’s all based on the characters that I play. If I were to play a sweet, Miss Vanilla Ice Cream kind of gal, then the anger wouldn’t be there. But I never get those kinds of roles. I think I’m lucky because I think the roles that I get are much more interesting than the little sweeties that see the husband off into the sunset with the horse. The roles require some research into why they are the way they are. I don’t think animation is that much different from human beings on camera. You still go through the process of, what does my character want, what’s the goal? It’s all just what the scene calls for.
YH: What would you like for Malory?
JW: I think a better relationship with her husband Ron. Ron Cadillac, who is actually played by my real-life husband, Ron Leibman.
YH: How has it been seeing all of the fans reactions at Comic-Con?
JW: Well, I have been to the New York one, and we see it there, but it’s on a much bigger scale here. The fans are so nice. It’s so gratifying to think that someone watches the show and you make them happy. It means a lot to me.