While attending the season two premiere event for FX animated series, Archer, at the Paley Center for Media in Los Angeles, Toonzone News was able to catch up with members of the cast and crew to speak about the show and the outrageous things in store for the ragtag band of ISIS spies this season:
CAST AND CREW INTERVIEWS
INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS PARNELL (VOICE OF CYRIL FIGGIS)
Prior to joining the prestigious sketch comedy show, Saturday Night Live, the comedian Chris Parnell was a member of The Groundlings improvisation comedy troupe. Parnell was part of the main cast of SNL for eight seasons from 1998-2006. In Archer, Parnell portrays ISIS comptroller, Cyril Figgis. In the first season, Cyril Figgis was the main squeeze of Lana Kane and Sterling Archer’s rival for Lana’s love.
TOONZONE NEWS: First of all, how could you cheat on Lana Kane with Cheryl/Carol?
CHRIS PARNELL: I know, right? It’s ridiculous, right? How could anybody? I mean she’s stunning. You’d have to be an idiot. I think [Cyril’s] really got a problem. I think sex addiction is real for him, because what other explanation is there? How could you screw around with that?
TZN: So do you think that’s a real disease?
CHRIS PARNELL: I think it is for him. I’m not familiar enough with it in the real world to say, but I think for Cyril, he believes it is.
TZN: At the end of the first season, things soured between Lana and Cyril, so where is Cyril now?
CHRIS PARNELL: Cyril and Lana have really gone their separate ways. They still work in the same office together, but their romance is dead at this point. I don’t know if it will ever come back.
TZN: And what about Cyril and Cheryl/Carol? Is there still a weird relationship going on between the two?
CHRIS PARNELL: You know, I honestly am not sure if Cheryl/Carol and I have had any more interactions. Nothing really comes to mind . . . so not sure.
TZN: So what brought you to the show?
CHRIS PARNELL: I originally auditioned for another part in the pilot and I didn’t get it. And out of the blue the offer for Cyril came through, and I was only too happy to do it because it was a really funny script and I would’ve been happy to be a part of it.
CHRIS PARNELL: Well I guess he’s sort of an insecure guy. He’s smart but he’s not quite always sure where he fits in. And he definitely always has a strong vulnerability to him and I guess I play up that most of the time. It all comes out in the voice hopefully, but I pitch it up in the voice a little bit. I guess try to make him vulnerable and likable.
TZN: Is there ever room for playing around or going bigger with the character’s voice to see how far it will go?
CHRIS PARNELL: There is always a lot of room for that in the recording studio. And it depends on the episode, you know. Some episodes I have a few lines, only a few little bits to do. But Adam [Reed], he’s very open to ad-libs and improv, and sometimes we’ll throw out suggestions for alternate ways to say things. For me it’s always about – and not to make it sound too “actor-y” – but to make it truthful and to make it believable and obviously to try and find the humor there. Or bring the humor to life, not undo the humor that’s already there.
TZN: What’s different about doing live comedy like in SNL as opposed to voice-over in an animated comedy such as this?
CHRIS PARNELL: You only really get one shot with SNL. You have some rehearsals but there’s really one moment where you got to make it count. Whereas with voice-over or film or anything else, you get the opportunity to make mistakes and take another attack at it. With voice-over, I’ll often do a line three times in a row, three different days, and obviously you can’t do that on SNL.
Chris Parnell will also appear later on Jon Benjamin Has A Van and Workaholics on Comedy Central, Mad Love on CBS, and Curb Your Enthusiasm on HBO.
INTERVIEW WITH AMBER NASH (VOICE OF PAM POOVEY)
Amber Nash is an Atlanta, Georgia native, and previously worked on the Adam Reed series, Frisky Dingo, as Val. In Archer, Amber returns as ISIS HR director and Lana Kane-obsessed Pam Poovey.
TOONZONE NEWS: So what is going on with Pam in season two of Archer?
AMBER NASH: She is getting into more trouble than ever, being more sexual than ever, but still managing to keep her job as the HR director of ISIS.
TZN: Did Pam manage to hook up with Lana at the end of last season?
AMBER NASH: No. No.
TZN: Ah, I feel so sorry for her.
AMBER NASH: I know. Everybody does. She’s a bit of an underdog. But she’s still so terrible in so many different qualities.
TZN: How did you get your role in Archer?
AMBER NASH: I worked with Matt [Thompson] and Adam [Reed] on a show they did on Cartoon Network called Frisky Dingo. They did it for Adult Swim. They had me come in and audition for a role in the very beginning before they settled on what the show was able to become. And I didn’t get that part but I got another part. And I worked with them on that [Frisky Dingo] as Val, and then they brought me in on Archer.
AMBER NASH: Yeah, yeah. Most of the lines I deliver are completely written by these amazing writers. And every once a while they are like go crazy do whatever you want. And then I’ll say something crazy. But most of the time, what happens is what they wrote.
TZN: Is Pam still pining for Lana this season?
AMBER NASH: I think Pam is pining for everybody, but yeah for sure she will sleep with Lana any time she gets the chance.
TZN: Will we learn more about Pam’s personal history?
AMBER NASH: We learn a little bit more about Pam’s background in the second season, so yeah.
TZN: Archer is so wild and edgy, do you ever look at some of your material and go, “I can’t say that!”
AMBER NASH: Oh yeah, of course. And then I say it anyway and it gets on the show . . . it’s not gratuitous. It’s crazy and it’s dirty, but they earn every bit of it. That’s why they get away with it, because they earn the jokes.
TZN: How do you like getting to watch the show with an audience at events such as this?
AMBER NASH: The hard part is that you can’t rewind it like on your TiVo to hear something you missed, but it’s cool to hear what audiences laugh at.
Amber Nash believes that Atlanta’s DragonCon is better than the now more corporate and Hollywood San Diego Comic-Con.
INTERVIEW WITH H. JON BENJAMIN (VOICE OF STERLING ARCHER )
This long-time comedian and voice actor has worked on many tremendous shows throughout the years, including voicing: Ben on Dr. Katz; Jason and McGuirk on Home Movies; the Master in Venture Bros.; Carl in Family Guy; and Bob in the new Fox animated series, Bob’s Burgers. Soon Benjamin will also get his own live action television series on Comedy Central, Jon Benjamin Has A Van. Benjamin voices the titular anti-hero of the FX animated series, Archer, as the voice of Sterling Archer and returns to voice the character in season 2. While speaking with Benjamin, it was extremely hard to keep a straight face and keep the interview going:
TOONZONE NEWS: So what is going on with Sterling Archer this season? Will he overcome his Oedipal complex with Malory?
H. JON BENJAMIN: Well, I don’t think anybody ever does. Do they? Until they finally consummate . . . the only way to get over an Oedipal complex is to fulfill it . . . I’ll say it for you. He has to have sex with his mother.
TZN: You are also voicing the lead role in Bob’s Burgers.
H. JON BENJAMIN: Yeah, yeah.
TZN: So everyone has to know, have you had the Bob’s Thanks A Brunch Burger? Fatburger is running a promotion with the show and serving cartoon themed burgers based on the series.
H. JON BENJAMIN: No. I heard about it and I like Fatburger. Fatburger is great, and I live on the East Coast so I don’t get to have a lot of Fatburger.
TZN: What do you think of that?
H. JON BENJAMIN: I think it will be high in calories. I’m a burger fan and I will want one when I’m out here.
TZN: How do you like Archer and getting to play and develop him?
H. JON BENJAMIN: I love the character. But there is not a lot of room to mess around with the script because the script is so good. And it’s very fun doing it.
TZN: Is there a character you ever felt really emotionally attached to or miss playing?
H. JON BENJAMIN: Well it’s weird because – I don’t mean to give a boring answer – but when you’re playing the character its more about the time than about me. So I don’t have a lot of wistful memories of the characters. With McGuirk it was more about what I was going through in my life when I played it. And I was very, very drunk . . . most of the time. So that, I don’t know, I have mixed feelings looking back. Like, “Oh my God, I was so drunk!” I was so stupid to be drunk and working like that. So now, [I think] I shouldn’t have done that.
H. JON BENJAMIN: I held my nose like this (Jon Benjamin puts a finger to his nose and puts pressure on a nostril and speaks in Jason’s voice). So I just went like this.
TZN: How many episodes will there be right now for Bob’s Burgers?
H. JON BENJAMIN: I believe there are thirteen with the possibility of more after. It’s a really good show and I hope it continues.
TZN: Have you ever thought about going to Comic-Con and cos-playing with Aisha Tyler as Archer and Lana?
H. JON BENJAMIN: Like doing a live action? *Laughs* That would be horrible.
TZN: And you have another new show coming up on Comedy Central?
H. JON BENJAMIN: Yeah. It’s called Jon Benjamin Has A Van, and it’s coming up hopefully in the summer and it’s pretty crazy. Yeah.
INTERVIEW WITH PRODUCER, WRITER, AND VOICE ACTOR ADAM REED
Adam Reed along with Matt Thompson co-created Archer and previously Sealab 2021 and Frisky Dingo for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block. In addition to writing the show, Reed also voices ISIS agent Ray Gillette and previously voiced lead characters Killface, Xander Cruise, and Wendell on Frisky Dingo:
TOONZONE NEWS: What’s the process like, writing an animated show in a fifteen minute format compared to a half hour format like Archer?
ADAM REED: In a way it’s much more fun. It’s more liberating and you can write more. I think it’s really hard to tell a good story in eleven minutes, so in a lot of ways this is liberating. And you can tell a more mature, well crafted story I think in half an hour. On the other hand, it’s twice as much work. And that was sort of a shock, like just the actual typing. There’s a lot of typing.
TZN: How do you also like getting to voice Ray Gillette and getting to play around with him in the booth?
ADAM REED: I like him a lot. I think he’s one of the few voices of reason in the show. Like he’s an actual nice person, slightly catty, but definitely I think, probably deep down a better person than ninety percent of the other people at ISIS.
TZN: Of the other characters you have voiced in Sealab 2021 and Frisky Dingo, do you have a personal favorite?
ADAM REED: I like Killface and Xander Cruise a lot because they are both just so childish and they said whatever they wanted and they did whatever they wanted. It was fun to have a frustrating day and then go into the VO booth and say what you wish you had said to the guy who jumped in front of you at the grocery store.
TZN: Will Jeffrey Tambor’s character Len Drexler and ODIN be returning later in Archer?
ADAM REED: Jeffrey Tambor comes back. Dave Willis from Aqua Teen Hunger Force comes back as Barry Dillon, the handsome blonde agent from ODIN. They feature pretty heavily in a couple of episodes.
TZN: How can you sleep at night having killed baby Lamont the penguin in Frisky Dingo? It was horrible!
ADAM REED: It was horrible! That was hard to do actually. It was hard to watch [Lamont] in the edit with his tiny little fuzzy neck broken. I’ll probably think about that. I haven’t thought about that in years. But I probably won’t sleep tonight!
ADAM REED: I think it’s sort of tangential and I don’t think we do it extremely well. I think we do it ok, but it’s not as well done as a bunch of other people do it. But it is sort of something vague you can gather the characters around to do the jokes I think.
TZN: What were your comedic inspirations growing up?
ADAM REED: Growing up – still today – far and away my favorite sitcom ever is The Andy Griffith Show. And I can sit down and watch eight of them in a row. I think it holds up and it’s so well done, especially for its time. It’s mature even today. And I think very few shows come anywhere close to that.
TZN: What was the plan for season three of Frisky Dingo had it been made?
ADAM REED: The whole thing would’ve been set on Killface’s home planet. He would’ve gone home and taken Xander Cruise with him and spent a year a on Killface’s planet. Killface is the Henry IV character, the heir to the throne who was mis-spending his youth basically.
TZN: It seemed like there were so many great comedic possibilities with his mother showing up.
ADAM REED: Yeah! I was excited about that.
ADAM REED: Well, I was pretty burned out on making it. The network wanted to take a wait and see attitude with DVD sales after season two. And they said, “We’re going to take a wait and see attitude if we are going to pick it up.” And I said, “Well. You don’t sound too excited about it. I’m pretty beat. Let’s just end it now.” So it ended amicably rather than being dragged out. Canceled is a little too strong a word. Me quitting is a little too strong. It was mutually like, “Eh, let’s see other people.”
TZN: Did you see The Xtacles, and what did you think?
ADAM REED: I did. I did. I had some initial thoughts just reading the script and giving Matt [Thompson] my thoughts. It was good. I was sad to see their helmets come off, but I can see why that was greatly necessary.
TZN: I like that in Frisky Dingo you gave all these paramilitary soldiers all this personality and they became my favorite characters.
ADAM REED: I loved them on Frisky Dingo. I think they lost a little bit when they were given human faces.
TZN: I started saying “Boosh” a lot in my everyday life.
ADAM REED: I say it a lot. It almost gets into Archer scripts and I realize we are not supposed to say that. I think Adult Swim owns all the intellectual property of Frisky Dingo [and terms like Boosh].
New episodes of Archer air Thursday nights on the FX Network. Toonzone News would like to thank the Paley Center, FX Network, and all our interview subjects for having us at the event. Don’t forget to check out our review of season 2 of Archer.