The FX animated half-hour comedy Archer revolves around an international spy agency and the lives of its employees. Although their work of espionage, reconnaissance missions, wiretapping and undercover surveillance is daunting and dangerous, every covert operation and global crisis is just another excuse for the staff to undermine, sabotage and betray each other for personal gain.
During this recent interview with the press, to talk about the show’s current sixth season, actress Judy Greer (who voices Cheryl, Malory’s dingbat secretary) discussed how fresh Archer still feels, even after so many seasons, what she thinks it is that keeps people coming back to the show, her most interesting fan experience with the show, how crazy this season has been, how she still gets caught off guard, how much freedom she has with the lines, what she’d love to see happen next for her character, doing the voice recording wherever she’s on location, and all of the other projects she’s juggling, at the moment.
Question: So, does it feel like it’s really been six seasons?
JUDY GREER: I can’t really believe it’s been so long because – and I think all of the cast members would answer the same – none of us ever thought it was even going to get picked up in the first place. So, we’re always just thrilled, every year, when we get our pick-up. To me, it still feels as fresh. I still laugh out loud, every time I read a new script, and that’s really rare. I really think that they’ve managed to keep the level up. It stays as funny, and it doesn’t seem like they’re losing energy or steam, at all, when they’re writing. It feels just as fresh as the beginning, honestly.
Six seasons for an animated series on primetime television is pretty incredible. What do you think keeps people coming back to the show, in terms of the ever-growing fan base?
GREER: Well, I guess it all has to start with the writing, especially in an animated show. We’re not Pixar. It is what it is, and it’s meant to be that way. It’s supposed to be a throwback. The look of the show is specific and intentional, but we’re not breaking new ground with animation and computers, which is the idea. I think it really just all comes from the writing. It’s so funny. Adam Reed writes every single episode. One guy writes everything, which is pretty amazing. I feel like there’s a real sense of continuity within the show, even with Archer Vice. The voices of our characters, and I mean figuratively, really stay the same. There’s a ton of continuity in tone, character and character arc. I think that it’s just extremely rare to see any kind of TV show that’s completely written by one person, regardless of what any showrunner will tell you. I think that’s what keeps people coming back, and what keeps it so fresh and so funny. Adam still is just as excited about it, at episode whatever that we’re at. I think people keep coming back and the fans are so avid because Adam is still so into it and we’re still so into it. I feel like we’re just as fresh and funny as we started out being.
What’s been your most interesting fan experience?
GREER: It was a while ago. The first year that we went to Comic-Con, they put us in this ballroom. It was really great. They showed an episode, we did a Q&A panel, and it was really fun. There were about 500 people there. One year later, we went back to Comic-Con, after the second season, and there were 2,000 people there. To see, in one year, that our fan base grew in size so quickly, we had to get a bigger ballroom. That was a really cool fan moment that I remember. All of us stood up on our chairs and took pictures of all the people because we couldn’t believe it. When you’re recording a TV show, you really feel like you’re in a bubble. So, to see it grow and to see our fans multiply like that, it was really special. It made me really happy for the guys who make the show, too, because they’re in Atlanta. We get a lot of love here in L.A. for Archer, but in Atlanta, it seems like maybe they don’t get to see how great it is to be on Archer.
How much are you going to miss Cherlene, and are the producers making it up to you with something juicy for this season?
GREER: This season has been crazy. I’m going to miss Cherlene, but all good things must come to an end, I guess. I feel like they have definitely made it up to me, this season. This season has just been really fun because now we work for the CIA, so that changes everything. We have a boss. We never really had a boss before. We had Malory, but not a boss-boss. We were just our own thing. It’s fun to see how it’s changing all the. I loved Archer Vice so much but I’ve been really into this season because it’s just fun to go back to what we were doing, in the beginning.
Are there any scripts or storylines that still catch you off guard or surprise you a little bit, or are you just used to all of the madness?
GREER: It’s funny because there was one major thing that happened this season that blew me away. When I was reading it, I couldn’t believe it happened. It was because it was the opposite of a terrible thing. I don’t want to be a spoiler, but it was a nice, cool thing. Now, that’s what blows me away when I read the script. It’s never, “How can you say that? How can we do that?” But there’s this one particular thing that happened, towards the end of the season, where I was like, “What?!,” because it was awesome.
Everybody on Archer says some pretty wild stuff, but it seems like you get the majority of it. If we were seeing you and it wasn’t a cartoon but was live-action instead, there’s no way you could get away with it. Does it make it easier for you to say that stuff because it’s an animated series?
GREER: Yes. I don’t think I would do the stuff that my character does animated as live-action. I feel like that would make me really uncomfortable. It’s also really freeing to be able to do it the way that we do. It’s pretty amazing. It’s pretty cool to be able to be in something that’s so raunchy and so disgusting, but be able to get away with it and not be raunchy and disgusting. It’s a really nice treat, at least for me. I like it ‘cause I enjoy this kind of humor, but it probably wouldn’t be something I’d be comfortable doing in person.
Do you adopt a different attitude whenever you’re voicing one of your different personas?
GREER: Well, I probably should lie about this, but I really don’t do much. I think a lot of us just go in and say the words. I don’t have to do much because they really write the characters so well, and when I go in, it’s already right there. I felt like Cherlene was a mess. I don’t know. The way that they wrote her, she was enough different that it made it fun for me to do something a little different. But. I still thought Cheryl was in there.
Do people randomly come up to you in the street and ask you to scream, “You’re not my supervisor!”?
GREER: Yes, 100%. I’ve even done outgoing messages for people, which is so funny, screaming, “You’re not my supervisor!,” at a person’s cell phone. It’s really fun for me.
How much freedom do you have with the lines?
GREER: I would say that they will let me do whatever I want. That doesn’t always mean that they keep it in, but they’re so cool. They’re like, “Yes, say it!” Sometimes I’ll just try a million different things, and when they laugh out loud is when I know I’ve got it. Sometimes I’ll just keep saying the line over and over in a different way, until I get that laugh. Then, when I get the laugh, I’ll say it again exactly the same way, so they have it twice. They’re also so cool, if I want to ad-lib, change lines, add any sounds, or not say part of a line because it’s funnier to just say half of it or something. They’re so open to anything. They’re really chill people.
Is there anything you’ve had to do or say for the show that’s made you cringe?
GREER: I would have to say less, lately. Not because they’re making it any less cringe-worthy, but because I’m building up an immunity to all the sex and violence, and weird and terrible. There was actually a line in an episode that I recorded last week, which was part one of a two-part season finale. There was something that my character said where I was like, “Really guys?! That’s really dark.” But still, it’s always still a pleasure to say. I’m like, “Oh, yes, I’ll go there, but that’s a really dark place.”
Do you ever find that you share any character traits with Cheryl?
GREER: I find that I want to. I don’t think I do. I don’t have the balls that she does. I wish I did. She doesn’t really have any f inner editor, does she? She pretty much just says whatever she thinks. I don’t do that. I wish I was more like that. She’s a really intense person. I wonder if she even sleeps at night.
With all of the outrageous things on this show, do you ever wonder about what they could possibly come up with next?
GREER: Well, I did wonder that, after the fourth season, and then there was Archer Vice and I was like, “Oh, yes! That’s what they’re going to do. They’re going to make it totally different.” It was really fun.
Where do you see your character going, next season? Do you have any ideas for Cheryl?
GREER: I would love for her to maybe get to do some missions. She does get to help with one mission this season. I probably can’t really spoil anything for the season finale, or the guys will fly to L.A. from Atlanta and beat me up, but it really blew my mind when I read it. I’ve only read the first part. I haven’t read the second part yet. It’s mind-blowing. I don’t know. I’m really happy with where Cheryl is at. I think it would be fun to help out on a mission, but I know she’d just screw it up, so maybe that’s a bad idea. I like when Cheryl and Pam are up to no good. It makes me really happy when the two of them get an idea, and it’s so bad that it ruins everything. It makes me really happy.
How do you balance all of your other projects with the schedule of doing the voice-over for this series?
GREER: The guys at Archer make it really easy for all of us. I can record it anywhere I am, if there’s a recording studio, and that’s pretty cool. Wherever I am on location, I can usually, even in the weirdest little places, find a recording studio. So, we just work it out like that. I think one of the things that they liked about casting all of us is that we all work a lot and we all are very busy. They just make it really easy for us.
What else are you working on, at this very moment?
GREER: I’m going back to my new TV show, called Married, also on FX. I’ll start that in about a month, or maybe a month and a week. I have a movie at Sundance, called Grandma, that Lily Tomlin and Julia Garner star in, and Paul Weitz wrote and directed. Then, I’ve got a couple of movies coming out this summer, with Ant-Man and Jurassic World, which I’m really excited about, obviously. Married is so fun, but a pretty rigorous shooting schedule, so I like to get really prepared for that.
Archer airs on Thursday nights on FX.