is an animated, half-hour comedy that revolves around the spy agency
known as the International Secret Intelligence Service (ISIS) and
the lives of its employees.
Although their work of espionage, reconnaissance missions, wiretapping
and undercover surveillances is daunting and enigmatic, every covert
operation and global crisis are actually unmitigated occasions for
the ISIS staff to undermine, sabotage and betray each other for
personal gains, pleasures and prosperity.
Jessica Walter is the voice of Archer's domineering mother
and the rapacious CEO of ISIS, 'Malory Archer'.
PCM had a chance to speak with Jessia about Archer, Arrested Development,
and her long, amazing career!
Q: We were interested in hearing about how you initially
got involved with Archer.
JW: You know it was funny my agent told me, my voice over
agent, I was in New York and she was in L.A., and she said, "I
just got some copy here for people to audition for this new animated
show that's coming on FX. In the copy it says, the character's name,
Malory and it has in parenthesis, think Jessica Walter, Arrested
Development." So she said, "Are you interested?"
She sent me the whole overview of it and it looked great. The picture
actually, of the character it looked so much like me, it was a little
scary. I said, "Yes, I'm very interested." So she called,
she said, "I represent Jessica Walter," she called the
FX people, "and she'd love to do it," and that's how it
Q: Obviously there are similarities between Lucille Bluth
and Malory Archer. What attracts you to that kind of character?
JW: I don't know that I'm-well attracted to them because
they're juicy characters to play, but I don't know why I always
get those roles. I think it's interesting. However, I think it's
great because if plain is vanilla ice cream, your basic nice gal,
is really boring.
Q: Really since Arrested Development, you've had this resurgent,
but like Betty White always says, she never really went away. Do
you think Arrested Development really opened some new doors, another
side of you?
I definitely do. I had always been working before then, but something
about that show I think was a renaissance, as they say, for me and
for some other people too. For Jason Bateman, for instance, I think
it was totally renaissance for his career. He'd been doing so well,
but that part, sort of I think led him into the parts in films that
he's doing now.
Q: When reading the script for Archer and the things that
you have to say, do you ever think, "Are they really going
to let me say this and get it on the air?"
JW: Interesting you should bring that up because just today,
I had the recording session for number 12, Episode 12, and I did
say that. Adam, he reads the other parts with me by satellite. I
said, "Adam, where do you think up these things? Oh, my God."
There was only one time I had ever questioned it because we're there
to serve the writer.
It's not us, it's the character speaking, but there was one thing
I questioned once it was a thing with Jackie Kennedy and little
John John saluting at JFK's funeral. They were using that image
or something and I did question it and they assured me it was satirical,
etc. and I agreed when I finally understood it because I would never
do anything against the Kennedy's, ever. But that was the only thing
in all these episodes that I've ever questioned.
Q: What makes Malory different from other characters you've
played in the past? Specifically, what makes her different from
Lucille, I mean besides the whole running as spy agency thing?
JW: Well, first of all, this may sound trite but Lucille
would never let her hair go gray. Malory has gray hair. I don't
know how comfortable she is about herself, but she let her hair
grow gray and that says a lot about a person. They are very similar.
They really are very similar. They even sort of dress in a similar
fashion, with the suits, but I had nothing to do with that, the
little flowers and the broaches on the lapel and the suits.
What are your thoughts on Malory being a grandmother this season?
JW: Malory is not thrilled about being a grandmother and
I don't think it's going to go well, let's put it that way. I know
in one episode, last year I think it was, he broached the subject
or something and she said, "You cannot ever call me grandma."
So I don't think it's going to go well at all.
Q: Now the burning question with Archer is are we ever going
to find out who his father is or do you have an idea as maybe who
you'd might want it to be?
JW: Wow. I'm just trying to think because I know it seems
to come up in a lot of the script. She doesn't know who the father
is, that's the thing. It could be one of three or four people. I
don't know. In the first episode I think he goes-am I right Scott
about this?-or just the one that was shot today, we recorded today,
he's looking for his father in Russia somewhere. I don't know. I
guess you're going to find out, but probably, hopefully, not for
a season or two more, which means we'll be still there.
Q: Do you approach during the role as an animated character
any different than you would if it were a live action?
JW: Only in that we can be a lot more broad. We can be broader
with these characters than we would be if we were on stage or on
TV, meaning as people, but it comes from the same basis of what
is the story about, what is my intention in the scene. It comes
from a truth. Am I afraid, really, that my son is going to die?
Of course I'm afraid he's going to die, that was today's episode.
It's exactly how I would read the scripts for all the kinds of information
and intentions that I would if I were doing Retired at 35, let's
say. It's just that we can be a lot more broad in this kind of situation
because it's animated.
I shutter to think if Arrested Development had been on FX, what
would have it been, but actually, we probably would have still been
on the air.
Q: So there hasn't really been anything that you've read
that has really shocked you?
JW: Oh, a lot of this stuff shocks me; oh, a lot of it.
I mean I couldn't even pick out one thing, but that's me and that's
not the character. I have to draw the line.
Q: Now, Malory Archer has a very interesting mother and
son relationship. What were some of your favorite mother and son
moments from Season 1 and what do we have to look forward to from
JW: I had a lot of good mother and son moments there with
him in Season 1, I'm trying to think. There was a whole episode
actually towards the end there. I'm trying to think of the title.
It has something to do with Mother, oh, "Dial M for Mother."
As if, obviously, an analogy to Dial M for Murder. We had a lot
of-he goes crazy because he's wired up with some weird things and
he shoots through the door.
We somehow come to-I realize he's gone crazy and how much I love
him. We're sitting on the floor and he wants to have like his cereal,
like he was a baby again. I should cook him like a pancake with
cheese on it, or whatever. It's like Archer's version of Leave it
to Beaver. Everybody, in their own way, we do love each other. There
were so many moments that I can't really think specifically. We
don't have that many moments that we're crazy about each other but
down deep, we are.
Q: What is it like to work with such an interesting cast
of characters with Adam and Aisha and Judy. I mean that has to be
an incredible experience for you. Can you tell us a little bit about
JW: First of all, to work with Adam and his partner Matt
Thompson and his gang that are do the recordings with us is beyond
fabulous. Adam is really a good actor and he reads all the other
parts for me, so it's like doing a little scene. We never get to
see each other, the actors. We all do it separately. I have, however,
seen them at these FX parties and we've had a wonderful time, but
we record separately.
Q: what do you think your relationship with Archer-there
seems to be this disassociation as if you're my son but you're not.
JW: Well, she wants to make that business successful, the
spy agency that she's running. If anybody gets in the way or threatens
that even her own son, business is business. Her priorities, let's
put it this way, are not the usual. Like today, as a matter of fact,
in this session there was something where Archer was greatly threatened.
His life is threatened and I say to Lana, "Please, please,
please, you've got to go over there and help, whatever, to free
him." She says, and I quote, "Oh, but he's such a douche
bag." I say, "I know, dear, but he's my son." I mean
her priorities are let's say, certainly not mine where my daughter
comes before anything.
I'm wondering is there anyone good enough for Sterling. Does Malory
think any woman is good enough for him to spend the rest of his
life with and is Lana one of them?
JW: There is no one that's good enough for my son, no one.
That's Malory speaking. There's no one good enough for him. Lana
would probably come close because she is gorgeous and bright, but
no, there's nobody good enough.
Q: Since we're in New York and your schedule is so busy
all the time, where are some of your favorite places in the city
to relax and unwind? Do you have a favorite restaurant or spa?
JW: We have a house in the country in Pound Ridge, my husband
and I, and on weekends that's where we go. We go to our little country
house which is not so little with three acres. We take the dog and
we really chill, as my daughter would say.
Places that we like here, restaurants that we like: Gabriel's,
which is West 60th. We like Café Luxembourg. Joe Allen, we
love Joe Allen because we see our pals there. What else? They closed
two of our favorites. They closed O'Neals', the O'Neals' across
from Lincoln Center area. They closed it and there was another one
that closed that we liked. In L.A., they just closed two of my favorite
Q: You kind of impressed a roster of guest voices so far
on the show. Who would be some of your ideal guests that you haven't
had yet, guest voices on Archer?
JW: I would love Joan Rivers. Could you imagine her on Archer
with that voice? Oh, I'd love Colin Firth. Colin Firth the guy,
the English actor who's in The King's Speech, he played King George.
I'd love him in anything; let's put it that way. Who else would
we love in Archer? Wow, my co-star George Segal in Retired at 35.
This is the TV Land series I'm doing right now. I'd love for him
to be in it. My husband Ron Leibman, a wonderful actor. You know
who would be good is Christine Ebersole. She's also in the big Broadway
musical Diva. She's in Retired at 35, too as a recurring character,
she great, very special. You know that great kind of musical comedy
voice. She'd be great.
Q: You have been a serious actress on television. Forever,
you've been on everything. I wanted to ask what's it like to act
by yourself without an ensemble cast or people around you are doing
the voices for the show. What's your approach for the morning and
it must be sweet getting in without worrying about makeup?
JW: Oh, one of the most positive things about this kind
of job is no makeup, no hair, and no wardrobe.
Q:I wanted to know about your approach to it. On a set,
you've got a little bit of input from actors. You can change the
nuances. Here, you're just working with your own voice.
JW: That's a good question and actually, I was explaining
to someone before. I've … this before. I did a show called Dinosaurs.
It was in the '90s, Jim Henson's. There we animatronics, huge big
puppets. It was on ABC. It was the same situation, even harder,
because they had real bodies in the puppets. The animatronics, like
ninja turtle type puppets, except they were dinosaurs and those
people did the mouths. So we then how to do a voice all by ourselves
and had to match the bad acting that was in these puppets.
That was not easy. But the thing is, with this show which is a
blessing, Adam Reed, the creator, our commander and chief, he reads
the scenes with you and I make a big stink that he has to record
me because he gives back so much when he reads the scenes. It's
like having another actor in the room, and we don't just do it line
by line we go scene by scene. So you really get a run on it.
Q: I have to go back in time and ask another question, regarding
the Dr. Strange film. When that came on, the next morning-I'm aging
myself here, I was in high school-it was the talk of the school
but we never heard anything else about it. How did they approach
you regarding that show? Did they say it's going to be a movie?
It's going to be a series or, there's very little information about
that out there.
JW: Well, it's interesting because it was just the movie
of the week. It was never meant to be a series, in those days they
did those two hour movies and I just got the offer to be in it and
was very happy to do so. We had a wonderful cast there John Mills
was in it, Sir John Mills. I'm trying to remember who else we had
some good people. It wasn't to be a series, to my knowledge, and
we did. We did it and that was it. It was on. It's interesting though
because people remember it. I'm so impressed.
Q: When you read a script for the first time, other than
interactions with Sterling, what characters interactions with Malory
do you enjoy the most and why?
JW: Well I enjoy Woodhouse because he's such a prig and
you know I just love to put him down and take him on. I enjoy them
all, but specifically, if I had to pick a couple, it would certainly
be Sterling because there's such a drama to a relationship and you
can go so crazy screaming and telling him that he's worth nothing,
et cetera. That's kind of fun. Nikolai Jackov, my ex-lover who could
possibly be Archer's father. That's another one because I love his
Russian accent, the way he talks to me. This is Malory speaking,
not me. I like them all, but I would have to say Woodhouse and I
love yelling at Pam. I yell at her a lot this year.
She's great. She is so great this woman, Amber Nash. They made
her a regular this year, which is so wonderful. She's just terrific,
terrific gal. So, I would say those people in particular, but everybody.
What are some things that happen to Malory this season.
JW: A lot. First of all, I'm having a romance with the head
ODIN, Len Drexler is who is voiced by my former co-star Arrested
Development's Jeffrey Tambor. I try to make ISIS a "green"
environmentally workplace, but I don't do it because I'm concerned
about the environment; I do it because of tax breaks.
Much drinking, like last season; she's not aware, but she's definitely
an alcoholic. Maybe they'll get into that someday, that'd be great.
I'm horrified when I learn that Sterling may be the father of a
baby with a prostitute making me a grandmother, but you will see
a bit of my maternal side underneath my tough exterior.
What else happened this season, wait a minute? Oh, Woodhouse, my
favorite. We learned that Woodhouse was a member of the Royal Flying
Corp during the First World War and we learned the circumstance
where I met him. As I said before, it was in a bar where I was pregnant
with Sterling. Oh, we're going to learn that Agent Roy Gillette,
voiced by our creator Adam Reed, was once a medal winning Olympic
skier. Let me see, I drag my team to Switzerland to secure funding
for ISIS from a billionaire. Oh this is with a promiscuous daughter,
I think this is Episode 1, am I correct?
The daughter has her eye on Sterling and, I'm going to tell you,
it's more racy than the previous episodes, if there can be such
a thing. There's a Ponzi scheme, we're wiped out, ISIS. We are wiped
out in a Ponzi scheme. So I attempt to sell the company to a rival
agency, ODIN. We have to see the mayhem that ensues with that, that
one I remember. You know when you do so many episodes it's hard
to specifically remember. Plus, if you're doing other jobs, all
the scripts kind of like-although I, comparison between Retired
at 35 and Archer.
Q: I was wondering if you have any Arrested Development
movie news for us?
JW: I wish. I have no news. Every year we hear we're going
to do it and that the script is being written, but I have yet to
see one. I only hope that Michael Cera does not become a grandfather
before this movie- But I haven't heard of anything. Maybe it's not
going to be. I don't know, but anyway, I hope it will be.
Q: Obviously, some of the comedy of Archer comes from the
vocal performances, but do you ever find yourself reading the script
and laughing out loud at the things that are written? If so, are
there any other series where you've laughed as you read them?
JW: Well I have to tell you with this, I do laugh out loud.
I really, really, honestly do. It's so far out and so out there.
Of course, Arrested Development I laughed out loud too when I read
the script. Sometimes IFC is having reruns of them here anyway and
I'll see something and I laugh even though I read the script and
I did it and I know what the story is. It's still funny. Funny is
Archer is truly funny, I think, and I guess it's not just me that
thinks so because we're getting some die-hard fans. People stop
me all the time, I'm always surprised because I'm just a voice,
"Oh, wow, when is it coming back on?" But I do laugh and
I just think it has a real special thing about it, don't you?