Toonzone Presents: A Roundtable Interview with Adam Reed & Aisha Tyler on "Archer"
Toonzone News was able to participate in an hourlong roundtable interview over the phone with Adam Reed, creator of Sealab 2021 and Frisky Dingo, about his new show Archer, premiering on FX on January 14, 2010. With him was Aisha Tyler, actor and comedian who plays Agent Lana Kane.
AHMAD CHILDRESS/CRAVE ONLINE: I was wondering with the cast you’ve selected full of performers and comedians whether it was difficult to manage that with the inflexibility of working with animation in general.
AISHA TYLER: With all those drunks, it’s difficult. (Laughs)
ADAM REED: Sullen, and needy. (Laughter).
AISHA TYLER: All the time. I’m the most needy.
ADAM REED: No, actually, we record the voices first and animate to that, so our process is all centered around the voice-actor’s performance. It’s not like we have them read to picture, and that gives us the opportunity to do some ad-libs and goof around in the booth and come up with new stuff. So then we put the voice track against the storyboard cut and we don’t animate anything until the end.
AHMAD: Aisha, I have a quick one for you. What attracted you to the project? Were you surprised at how edgy it was, not so much given some of Adam’s past work, but considering that it’s FX?
AISHA TYLER: Well, first of all, I love animation. I’m a fangirl. I grew up collecting graphic novels and comic books and I love cartoons. If you don’t know the life of a stand-up comedian, generally I’ll be sleeping until 1, watching Nickelodeon until 9, working for 10 minutes, and then going home and watching Adult Swim. I was already a huge fan of Adam’s when I was on Talk Soup. I was just obsessed with Sealab 2021. I could talk about it all the time. So, when I got the script and I knew it was from him, reading the script was just kind of a formality. I loved the script, and I thought it was insanely funny.
I guess I was surprised at how edgy it was only in light of the fact that I felt like a kid who was drinking their dad’s vodka and replacing it with water: “I can’t believe I’m getting away with this!” That’s how I feel like when we make this show. “Really? We get to say that? Really?” But it’s been thrilling. I’m a stand-up comedian and I believe in the concept of comedy as an adult artform and being for grown-ups, so the juxtaposition of this really beautifully animated show, which people do think of as an art form for the young, being contrasted with these incredibly inappropriate things that the characters are doing and saying is just delicious to me and I love it. And I’ve already worked with FX, I guest-starred on Nip/Tuck, so I already knew that their goal is to push as hard as they can and do radical television. So I was just stoked, and I’m glad that we’ve been able to do as much as we have so far.
NANCY BASILE/ABOUT.COM: A lot of new animated shows have come on that are just trying to shock people without having much of a story or humor, whereas Archer has lots of story, lots of character, and lots of intelligent humor, not just pre-pubescent humor. How do you know where to draw the line between funny and too-far?
AISHA TYLER: Do you know where to draw that line, Adam? (Laughing)
ADAM REED: They actually have a whole department at FX that tells me where that line is (laughing). When I write a script, I think I self-edit a little bit, and then we have script meetings with the producers. All the guys on the show have worked with me since Sealab, so we’ll sort of redo the script, and those guys are the dirtiest people I’ve ever met. They’ll always add a whole other layer and I’m like, “Oh. OOOH! OK, let’s do that!” So then that goes to a Defcon 4, and then FX S&P will say, “Let’s tamp that down to a 3.” So if we make those guys blanch, we know we’ve gone too far because they’re just awful, awful human beings.
AISHA TYLER: I also think that part of the point is to push as hard as you can and then get pared back rather than draw your own line comedically. You never want someone to walk out of a comedic performance or away from a funny show going, “Meh, I wasn’t amused.” You want people to go, “Holy crap!” You don’t want them to, then, puke a little bit, but you want people to walk away not being able to not talk about your show.
ADAM REED: And five percent of them should be just offended.
AISHA TYLER: Yes. We haven’t done our job if somebody doesn’t start writing a letter.
NANCY: Aisha, some of the funniest parts of the show are actually the silence, the pauses between the dialogue, and I was wondering how much of that comes from the ad libbing, or how much of that comes from editing later on.
AISHA TYLER: Where does all that silence come from, Adam? I’m never silent. (Laughter) I’m a screaming banshee. That’s when Adam will sit there going, “Why? Why is this happening to me?” Well, you know, we go into the booth alone, so we don’t interact at all. That was one of my contractural demands when I signed onto the show, that I wouldn’t have to touch people, or talk to them (laughs).
ADAM REED: Or wear pants.
AISHA TYLER: (laughter) Yeah, wear pants. Drive. No, so, there’s a very strongly drawn architecture for each episode. Adam is an incredible writer, and the show is so, so funny when we get the script. We do a lot of stuff in the moment, which is great, because Adam just loves comedy and loves funny and we really enjoy the time that we’re in the booth trying to find moments and find things and play around, but there’s a really strong structure to the show. You’ve seen it — the characters are really strong, the arcs are there, and then I do think things are revealed when we lay the tracks down. I love that Adam and the guys on the show are judicious about deciding what it’s about. When it’s about the joke, when it’s about the visual, when it’s about the silence. You’re right, some of those awkward pauses and uncomfortable moments are just as funny as when I’m screaming.
APRIL MACINTYRE/MONSTERS & CRITICS: I especially like the “Dane Cook of martial arts” throwaway line. Aisha, I was wondering if there were any other comics that were going to be lauded in any of their…
ADAM REED: Any other bridges you want to burn Aisha?
AISHA TYLER: (Laughing) Oh, wow. I should pick an easy target…should we just rip Jeff Dunham a new one? (laughter) No, I can’t think of anybody else specifically that we’re going to take a piss on (laughter) but now you’ve opened up a whole new magical wormhole of joy. Adam, maybe in the next episode, we could just start saying it about…well, we’ll have to find somebody new. It can’t be Carrot Top. Let’s go after Louis C.K.
ADAM REED: Yeah, he needs to be taken down a peg or two! Lording it over everybody!
AISHA TYLER: Dressing like a UPS officer when he doesn’t actually work for UPS, what’s up with that? Uh, yeah, I have no idea.
APRIL: Are you expecting any backlash from the Indian community over the curry/Indira Gandhi thong comment?
ADAM REED: Yeah.
AISHA TYLER: You know, Indians aren’t violent. They just take our money. It’ll be a long, slow revenge, and in 30 years, it’ll be, “Who’s got all our nukes?!?” I’m going to write Adam a letter: “Thanks, Adam! We’re no longer a superpower.”
ADAM REED: Setting this in motion.
AISHA TYLER: I’m sure that there will be backlash from everyone.
APRIL: And I actually wrote down “ball-slappiest” in one of your quotes, Aisha, and I thought that was hilarious.
ADAM REED: Ms. Tyler coined that phrase in the booth.
AISHA TYLER: Yes, that was on the day.
ADAM REED: It sprang from her head, fully-formed.
AISHA TYLER: I have to tell you that that part of that session…we got the whole show done in, like, 20 minutes, and then that line took us 45 minutes because we were laughing so hard. The booth engineer had to call his wife and apologize for not making it home for dinner because Adam and I were just making like two little girls trying to come up with the most offensive choice of words for that phrase. It was ridiculous. We had this long discussion over whether “slappiest” or “slappingest” was a funnier word.
ADAM REED: And it was “slappiest.” We did, we went on a tangent about that.
AISHA TYLER: Oh, yeah. We had a long, semantic discussion. I got out my whiteboard, it was awesome.
ADAM REED: Got a linguist from Stanford.
APRIL: Serious question, do you have a favorite line so far?
ADAM REED: I’m a pretty big fan of that Johnny Bench line. He catches his mom masturbating and she tells him to get out, and he says, “Johnny Bench called.” That actually just got blurted out in the booth apropos of nothing, and then the people in the fan forums started the whole conspiracy theory over what it might have meant. It turns out that Johnny Bench was famous for having these gigantic fingers (laughter) which I didn’t know when we recorded it. We just put it in because it made no sense, but now …
AISHA TYLER: Now, it’s recurring, right? It’s come back a couple of times.
ADAM REED: As much as possible. I’m waiting for some blowback from Mr. Bench. Cease and desist order from his people.
APRIL: There’s a look to it, too, like Jonny Quest, was that intentional? It has a very Jonny Quest look to it in the animation.
ADAM REED: We wanted it to look sort of like a non-defined period some time during the 60’s, but we didn’t want to be locked down to a specific year, so we could have cool clothes from 1960’s and cars from 1972, but then they also have cell phones. I do like that it sort of is evocative of those 60’s action cartoons, and then it’s got a realistic feel with the backgrounds. We actually take real models and dress them in vintage clothes and then take hundreds of photographs of them, and then our character illustrators then use that as a reference.
TROY ROGERS/ROTTEN TOMATOES: Is Archer ignorant, selfish, or just a master of misdirection?
ADAM REED: I think selfish. When we were working on the pilot with FX, I didn’t want to do the bumbling spy who gets it right accidentally, but I also thought it was important that Archer not win all the time, because he is handsome and he is apparently rich, and he is good at Krav Maga and he’s got six-pack abs. I thought if he won all the time, then you wouldn’t root for him, but rather than make him stupid and bumbling, we decided that the only way to have him fail was that he’d need to get in his own way, due 90% of the time to selfishness. So, I think selfish.
TROY: And Aisha, I wanted to know, is Lana with Cyril just to aggravate Archer, or because he’s well-endowed?
AISHA TYLER: (laughing) Yeah, nothing like a big old cartoon…uh, tool. Um, you know, I think she’s definitely not dating him just to aggravate Archer because she can do that on her own. I think Lana needs nobody to fight her battles for her. I think she’s just dating Cyril because he’s useful. Probably the instrument helps, but she can pretty much get anybody. I just think she wants someone who’s going to make her stir fry and stay out of her way. I think Lana does not need a relationship. She just needs someone she can dominate. Pick up her dry cleaning and pick all the brown M&M’s out of her candy bowl, and Cyril is that guy. And right now, he can’t believe his good fortune. We’ll see if that continues.
TROY: So would Cyril be her Woodhouse?
AISHA TYLER: Yeah, Cyril is definitely her Woodhouse. I bet you Woodhouse is probably pretty hung, too. Can you get that in a future episode? (laughing)
ADAM REED: We actually draw these characters anatomically correct, and then we draw clothes over-top of that, so they’re all naked underneath those clothes.
AISHA TYLER: Method animation. Authenticity.
ADAM REED: It costs a lot more, but that’s the way I want it.
TROY: Fair enough. You guys just mentioned laughing in the booth. How long does it take to get one of these episodes actually done?
ADAM REED: About three weeks from script to the final mix. We’re making them pretty fast, I think.
AISHA TYLER: I think it’s hugely fast, because I’ve done a bunch of other…well, not a bunch. I don’t want to make Adam feel like he’s sloppy seconds, but Boondocks, they send over to Korea on, like, a clipper schooner, and then a basement of Oompa Loompas works on it for seven months and sends it back, and then they hate everything they’ve done and they have to send it back and go, “Please make them look American.” So this is pretty amazing, and I got to go visit the lab and…it’s pretty awesome. This show is made in America, man. All USA, to the core.
ADAM REED: These colors don’t run!
AISHA TYLER: That’s right, papa! Bring it! We’re fist-bumping right now, but in a very Caucasian way. You can’t see it.
TROY: One more quick thing. Will we see more of Jane?
ADAM REED: Jane does make some more appearances, actually. I just finished writing the last script of this season, and Jane comes back in for that. Things are not trending positively for Jane, though, during this season. I will say that.
TROY: I noticed that. She gets blamed a lot, but we don’t see her a lot.
ADAM REED: It gets worse. (Laughs)
TOM MCLEAN/ANIMATION MAGAZINE: Sure. First question is for Adam. Adam, I’d like to know what you think the biggest advantage is of working in animation, and why you feel attracted towards it and continue to work in this medium.
ADAM REED: The main thing is that I don’t know anything about live-action whatsoever. It’s been, like, seriously almost 15 years since I’ve done any live-action, and I’m not very good at it. I kick the cables out of the wall, I get bored waiting, and it’s a whole different bag. I didn’t know about cartoons when I started and I probably still don’t know as much as I should, but it’s all I know how to do. At least, I’m a little higher up on the learning curve, and I think it was easier for me to sell somebody on the idea of giving me money to make a cartoon than give me money to make a live-action show. And also, the stuff that we’re doing with Archer, they travel all over the world. We’ve got an episode set entirely on a blimp. Stuff like that I think would be cost-prohibitive to do live-action.
TOM: Do you feel like sort of you’re able to get away with more in terms of comedy with animation that you would with live-action?
ADAM REED: I think a little bit, you can. I think people cut animation some slack, and I think you can get away a little more with violence because it’s a little more divorced from reality. For example, Lana shoots Archer in about half the episodes (laughter in background), and by the next episode, he’s fine, whereas in live-action you would probably have to spend a three-episode arc dealing with the character’s physical therapy and surgeries.
TOM: Aisha, I’d like to ask you about getting into your character…what seeing the visual for the character and what the animation’s going to look like plays in your finding your character.
AISHA TYLER: Are you talking about my boobs? (Laughter)
TOM: Don’t tell my wife! (Laughter)
AISHA TYLER: So far as I know, Adam, Lana was drawn before I came on board, right? She had already been visually concepted. It was destiny that she already looks a little bit like me, but I don’t know necessarily that the way that she looks has totally driven the character that we’ve created for her. I think in some ways, mentally who she is is in juxtaposition to how she looks. I think she uses her tools alternately and then discards them, depending on when it’s useful. I mean…you know what, ask your question again because I’m just thinking about my boobs. (Laughter)
ADAM REED: Are you just standing in front of a mirror? Turning around…
AISHA TYLER: No, I’m just thinking about Lana’s magical boobs. She’s MUCH more stacked than me. My husband has just taken to taping a picture of her above the bed.
ADAM REED: She’s going to run into back problems, Aisha. You don’t want to be her.
AISHA TYLER: Also, they get in the way of your holsters. I don’t know how she makes it work, really. I don’t know how she draws so quickly, all things considered. Anyway, go ahead and ask your question again? Does the way she looks, has that dictated the way we define her as a person?
TOM: Well, just what sort of impact the visuals have on the character. If you look at the images of her or you look at how the episodes are animated, does that change anything that you do for the voice performance?
AISHA TYLER: Well, again, the particulars of the story, the action elements of the story are what they are, but the animation is built on how we lay her down, so in a lot of ways, what they animate is driven by the choices that we make rather than the other way around. While the scripts are very funny when we get them and they’re very well-defined, there is a good amount of back and forth and play in the booth, and they go animate that. I think what’s great about that is that it gives these guys incredible comedic flexibility to say, “Well, this is funnier when we did it this way in the booth, and we’re going to animate to that rather than what we said we were going to do when we wrote the script.” Because the process is short, it gives us a lot of comedic flexibility. Because we lay so much stuff down in the booth, I think you guys have a lot of choices when you go to animate. We’ve only done ADR on the pilot.
You know, I think what makes Lana interesting, besides the way she looks, is because she is such a badass and she looks like a backup singer for Daddy Kane. That’s what’s funny about her. Someone was saying, “How much is she like you?” I wish I was more like Lana. I always wonder, “What would I do if there was an intruder in my bedroom in the middle of the night?” I would jump out the window in my long jammies and leave an Aisha-shaped hole in my wall. Lana would get up buck naked and beat the crap out of the guy with a toothbrush and a paper clip. And she wouldn’t care. “Yeah, you see my boobs, but now you don’t ‘cuz you’re dead!” That would be Lana’s approach to the situation. I think that her looks are in some ways in conflict with who she is as a person. I don’t think that they affect her or they drive her. I think her mind drives her, but occasionally it’s a great tool in the job that she has, which is espionage and subterfuge and obfuscation and dazzling people with her magical rack.
ADAM REED: There have been a couple of weird instances where Aisha knows things that I would think only Lana would know. They were in the Isis armory getting gear for a heist. They were going to break into some castle, and she was looking for mountain climbing equipment and I was getting ready to explain to Aisha what a jumar was and she goes, “Adam, I know what a jumar is.” (laughter)
AISHA TYLER: And then it turns out that YOU didn’t know…
ADAM REED: I am a certified, stage 4 mountain climber…
AISHA TYLER: …YOU didn’t know what it was!
ADAM REED: I didn’t know what one was. I had to look it up on Wikipedia.
AISHA TYLER: I guess I’m partially uniquely suited to play Lana in that I’m obsessed with video games and action movies and things of that nature. There’s this scene when Lana and Archer have to fight their way out of a yacht, and they’re both in their underpants and firing automatic weapons. That’s a childhood dream of mine. I was there in my tighty-whities with a toothbrush and a hairbrush saying, “This is my AK-47.” Some girls put a T-shirt on their head and dream about their wedding. I held up a hairbrush and thought of shooting my way through a $7 million yacht in my underpants. These are the dreams I had as a girl, and I’m living them out through the show, so in that way, Lana and I are alike.
KENDRA WHITE/SIDEREEL: Adam, I was reading the promotional materials that they’re kind of came to revelations about the show and the concept when you were traveling in Spain. Can you tell us a little bit about how all that happened?
ADAM REED: Yeah, I took 2008 off and just traveled, and for several months I just walked across Spain. About a thousand kilometers. So I had like 8 hours a day, just walking in the country or through farms, and your mind really sort of spirals into another world while you’re walking all day. I kept coming back to the spy genre as something I wanted to try for my next show, and then I would stop in big cities and take a few days and rest and go sightseeing. I spent a lot of time in cafes writing in my journal surrounded by beautiful Spanish women who I was too shy and nerdy to approach and talk to. I kept thinking, “James Bond would totally be over there with that Spanish girl right now, and they would be enjoying ceviche and laughing.” But I never did that, so I guess I was sort of trying to project my own gaping inadequacies onto a character who would totally walk over to the ceviche lady.
AISHA TYLER: I love that for you, ceviche is the dish of love. I don’t…what else can you eat in Spain? (laughing)
ADAM REED: Gazpacho. The cold soup of Spain. It’s much more romantic.
KENDRA: And for Aisha, what has been your favorite episode to work on?
AISHA TYLER: The yacht episode was super-fun. I mean, they’ve all been really fun, but the yacht episode was super-fun, and then the one where I got to say “ball-slappiest” — that was an especially fun day. I love comedy, and I love the process of creating funny things, and I’m a little bit of a comedy wonk, so I love that we had a long conversation about whether slappingest or slappiest was funny. That was just the most enjoyable part of that day. When I was on Talk Soup, we’d be in the writer’s room and we would argue for an hour over what was funnier, and I love that part of the process. I’m not going to blame it all on me, Adam, but I feel like Adam may end up just talking for the last 10 minutes of every session and the guy in the booth is saying, “You know, you could just pick up a phone. This is costing you money.”
ADAM REED: We need to just sit under a couple of hair dryers.
AISHA TYLER: Exactly (laughing).
ADAM REED: I don’t even want to know how much extra money we’ve spent on the VO sessions because we’ll finish and then just, “Oh, my God! WHAT is going on with Tiger?!?” And then we’ll be just going on for 20 minutes.
AISHA TYLER: What I’ve done is that I’ve started to do that in the middle of a session, so that way we end on a work note, but the process is just so enjoyable that maybe part of the lament is that it only takes about an hour to two hours to make each episode, vs. spending time on a set where you’re there every day all day with people. Yeah, we have a good time making that show.
JESSICA THE UNKNOWN REPORTER WITH THE LAST NAME I COULD NOT MAKE OUT ON THE RECORDING: Adam, is Archer how you wished all James Bond movies had been?
ADAM REED: No, I don’t. He’s not a good guy. I love James Bond as who he is, and I wouldn’t want to mess with those movies, but when I was doing research for this spy business, I watched everything from the Bourne movies to Johnny English, and read tons of spy novels all the way back to Greenmantle by John Buchan. I read a LOT of the James Bond novels, which are a lot darker than the movies. They really put a smile on that guy’s face. In the novels, he’s pretty misogynistic. There’s definitely some racist tones in those novels, and so that was part of the inspiration, trying to see how much of a jerk I could make this guy and still make him likable. I don’t know that “likable” is the right word, maybe sympathetic, even though he’s a total tool.
AISHA TYLER: Well, he’s kind of a jackass, so it’s like you don’t hate him. When we were watching it, we were going, “That guy is such a jackass,” but he’s not mean, he’s just kind of oblivious, and I think that’s kind of the line. It’s like, he’s a jerk, absolutely, but he never feels so mean-spirited or cruel that you just want to throw him out a window. You just think, “God, if this guy could just pull his head out of his ass,” you know? And I think that’s the line. That ad where he smokes around the pregnant woman and she says, “Do you mind?” That’s one of the most outrageous ads I’ve ever seen. We had it on the TV here, and we were just going “outrageous!” but we were laughing our heads off. So, there’s something about him that’s likeable because he’s…kind of a doof, right?
ADAM REED: He is a doof.
JESSICA: Well, we like the doof.
AISHA TYLER: I have a doof in my life that I’ve known since I was very young, and he’s such a doof that if I met him now, I would never be friends with him, but he’s just a cancer I can’t cut out now. It’s too late. That’s kind of like Archer (laughs)…it’s too late to cut him out.
ADAM REED: Like one of those friends you have to prep your other friends for 20 minutes before they meet him. “Here’s some things that are going to happen, and I want to prepare you for this. He is going to grab your butt.”
AISHA TYLER: “He’s also going to be super-racist, he doesn’t mean it. He doesn’t understand what it means. He’s like a child.”
ADAM REED: It comes from an innocent place.
AISHA TYLER: “He may puke. He may poop. We don’t know. Just keep a perimeter. Give him a wide berth.”
JESSICA: Aisha, when you go to record, do you go in your pajamas, or anything, or do you ever find that you want to wear something special to get into Lana’s mindset?
AISHA TYLER: Um, no, depending on where I’m recording, I’m in various states of “I can’t believe she wore that”-on-TMZ.com dress. I’m very very lucky that the booth that we record in is down the street from my house, so I’m there usually in whatever I slept in that morning. (laughs) The sound technician, he’s not pleased, I don’t think. I think he has a picture in his head, and I just stumble in there looking like a hobo. So no, I never dress up to be Lana. Lana is never wearing any clothes anyway!
ADAM REED: Rarely!
AISHA TYLER: If I’m going to dress up like Lana, then I’m getting arrested. And I jump around a lot. I don’t know about the other actors on the show, but you have to make all these pictures in your head, so I do a lot of leaping and sweating and pulling my hair and jumping up and down. Doing that in what Lana is wearing would result in some kind of terrible injury, I’m sure.
JESSICA: So do you consider that your exercise for the day?
AISHA TYLER: Definitely been my exercise for the last few sessions I’ve been in. I’ve got to pull it together. But yeah, it’s really strenuous if I do it right. And also, Lana’s really intense. I do a lot of screaming. If I don’t leave with a sore throat, I didn’t do my job that day.
JESSICA: My favorite thing that you say is when you say, “Yooop!” I just love that.
AISHA TYLER: We were talking about that yesterday, weren’t we Adam?
ADAM REED: We were. I feel sort of guilty because I sort of co-opted Aisha’s real-life thing. (Laughter)
AISHA TYLER: I have lots of other things. I’ll come up with a new thing. I’m working on it now. And now it’s become a thing that she’s done in a bunch of episodes and we just put it down and laughed when we recorded it yesterday. It’s going to be my “Hey, now!” or “Hey-oooo!!!” I’m excited. I’ve coined a word.
JESSICA: It would be fun for ringtones and stuff.
ADAM REED: We made a ringtone for the show.
AISHA TYLER: Did you?
ADAM REED: And I think it’s going to be available on the website. It’s a rap song. Sort of a dirty rap song and Archer’s got the ringtone, and it’s “Mulatto Butt.”
AISHA TYLER: (laughing) Which, I’ll just point out, are pretty flat, I would like to say. It’s not the ass I would have chosen if I was going to land one.
KOFI OUTLAW/SCREEN RANT: Who came up with the concept of the character of Malory, Archer’s mom, and having her work with him in the office?
ADAM REED: When it clicked, it was literally a driveway moment, I was pulling into my house, and as I went to turn the car off, I thought, “Oh. His mom is the boss.” And then ran in and furiously started scribbling stuff down. Because up to then, it was just “how do we sort of turn the spy genre on its head a little bit?” but that’s when it really started coming together and then I couldn’t scribble stuff down fast enough. My own real life mother is not happy that that’s how it turned out. She’s like, “I just don’t know why you would write something about a horrible mother. I don’t think that’s funny at all.” But she was never around, so **** her.
AISHA TYLER: (Cackling Laughter)
ADAM REED: (Laughing) I’m kidding! My mother’s awesome! My mother’s wonderful, she’s nothing like Malory.
KOFI: My next question is for Aisha. You’re kind of killing it on the voice-over animation front, so would you let us in on your future plans for world animation domination? Doing voice work, is there anything that you have on the horizon? Or are you just going with the flow as it comes along?
AISHA TYLER: Like every serial marrier, I am hoping that this is my last and most successful marriage. I love the show. I mean, I’d love to do film, don’t get me wrong, but I really love ths show and I know that we’re talking about this show and the guy who created it is on here, so it sounds like I’m sucking up, which…that’s like 20% of it. But I love the show and other than a show like The Boondocks which I think is a radical show and feels really innovative and doing something different, I don’t know that there are a million other animated shows out there that can do what this show is doing for me. I’m hoping this show goes for the next…turns into the next Simpsons and we get to do a movie…oooh, we need to do a MOVIE.
ADAM REED: Yeaaah.
AISHA TYLER: A big Archer, action-y movie where we can do some full-frontal cartoon nudity.
ADAM REED: Alternative revenue streams.
AISHA TYLER: There you go. Hello! T-shirts! Who’s Team Lana? Who’s Team Archer?
ADAM REED: Plush!
AISHA TYLER: But no, I don’t have any immediate plans for more animation in the future. I have lots of other comedic projects in the hopper. But I do love doing animation. Actually, what I would love to do is voice an action character in a video game. I’m hoping that some couch potato geeks are going to watch the show and love Lana. I’m a gamer, and that would be it. I would retire if I could just voice some crazy, sword-wielding, plasma-rifle firing wench from the future. So that’s my short-term goal. Just put that out on the Interwebs: I’m dying to voice a video game character. They need to make Afro Samurai a chick. That’s what I need to do. I’ve been dying to do that.
ED LIU/TOON ZONE NEWS: Adam, how exactly are you animating the show?
ADAM REED: For the characters, we take photographs first, and then those are drawn in Illustrator. The backgrounds are built in 3-D first, I think it’s 3-D Max. This fantastic studio in Missouri does it for us, Trinity Animation, so they’ll build Malory’s office, for example, and that allows us to spin the camera around to whatever angle. Then we don’t have to draw it again, we just have to repaint it. Then our background painters will paint over that 3-D model in Photoshop and then the actual animation is After Effects.
TZN: Are you taking photos of the actors, or are they models?
ADAM REED: Models. I think wisely, famous people’s agents aren’t super-stoked about turning them into exact cartoons because we then make them do horrible, horrible things that the real life person would never let you do to them.
TZN: And then, for Aisha, how did you get cast for the part of Lana? Did you have to audition or did they approach you?
AISHA TYLER: Adam, do you want to answer that question?
ADAM REED: Yeah, I do. It was about 3 months of non-stop phone calls and e-mails from Aisha’s agent.
AISHA TYLER: (Laughs) No, no I don’t want you to answer that any more. (Laughing) I will tell you what happened on my end. I got the script and they said, “Do you want to do this show?” and I said, “Who’s making it?” They said, “Some guy named Adam Reed” and I said, “Never heard of him.”
ADAM REED: No Namath.
AISHA TYLER: No Namath, Junior. And they said, “Look, it’s this animated show and it’s done by this guy who did this cartoon called Frisky Dingo,” and I had never seen Frisky Dingo, but then they said, “And I think he did another one, something about a sealab,” and I went, “Whaooaahaoaaoaoahaoaoaaaat????” And then I couldn’t say “Yes” fast enough.
ADAM REED: On our end, it was basically the same. Here’s the character model for this person. Hey! Aisha Tyler’s funny!
AISHA TYLER: Also because you had to get somebody who fit somewhat the character, but also could be funny, and that list is so short. There’s one person on it and it’s ME! ME!!! Wait, did I say that out loud? No, I don’t think that there are many people who could do that role and be funny, too, so I think you were somewhat limited.
ADAM REED: Absolutely. Absolutely. And, you know, I hate to sound like a suck up, but I think we’re lucky to have you.
AISHA TYLER: Oh, you’re kind. You know, you are.
ADAM REED: I’m paying it sideways. (laughter)
AISHA TYLER: But, you know, we came in and I did it, I did that first episode and then we both felt like, “Wow, this is a great fit.” And that happened in the room when we really started to lay stuff down.
NICK SMITH: When you created the show, did you had certain actors in mind, and then did any of their looks change once you got the performers?
ADAM REED: When we first put out the call for these voices, the first one we sent out was Malory, and we said, “She’s this and this and this,” and then in parentheses said, “Think Jessica Walter,” never dreaming that she would know who we were and be interested. The next day, her agent called and asked, “How about the real Jessica Walter?” So then, we started dropping her name like an anvil to everybody else, and that allowed us to get Aisha and Chris Parnell and Judy Greer. Judy’s character was originally killed off in the pilot. She was just going to be a no-name secretary, but when she agreed to do it, we thought, “Well, not killing her off!” so that allowed us to spin Cheryl/Carol off into a bigger character. But no, they were all pretty much drawn first, except for Malory.
NICK: Do you write future episodes based on what they bring?
ADAM REED: I absolutely do. It’s so great now to have these actors, because I just listen to them talk and write that down. They’re much easier to write for now that it’s cast than the pilot, because I didn’t know who they were, but now I can hear Aisha when I’m writing, or Jessica or all of them.
AHMAD: Adam, I was just wondering if your work on daytime TV helped inform Archer’s dumb-assery?
ADAM REED: I wasn’t in daytime TV all that long, but just long enough to realize that people on TV aren’t necessarily as funny as they seem because they’re joke writers in the wings. I would say that Archer’s probably an amalgam of 20 guys I’ve known in my life and did not like. You know, like the lacrosse player who pushed me down in the quad in college. There’s a little bit of him in there. Ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriends, there’s that handsomeness that makes you sick. So, yeah, he’s just an amalgam of people I maybe wouldn’t hang out with.
AHMAD: Aisha, I was kind of wondering what was your inspiration for Lana in your portrayal of her.
AISHA TYLER: I think what I was saying earlier, she’s the girl that, at least in my head, I would like to be. My parents separated when I was pretty young and I was raised by a single dad. My family’s very close, but my father was in charge of taking care of me and he was a great dad, but he was a dude, and he was single, so his idea of taking my daughter out to the movies was, “Hey, let’s go see Die Hard! That’s a great movie for an 8-year old to see!” The first movie my father took me out to see with me was Mad Max. He was just like, “Honey, just cover your eyes when the guy’s hand gets ripped off.” (laughing) And he also was a dad where if you were scared at night, he was a “walk it off” dad. He’d be in the door going, “Ain’t nobody going to kill you! I’ll kill you if you don’t stop crying!”
So, I grew up in that world and I love those things, and all my friends want to see a movie where a girl tricks a guy into marrying her by sneaking around his office and setting things on fire, and I want to see something where things blow up. That’s just who I am, so Lana is definitely in me. I love her, I love her love of guns, I find her obsession with odd forms of porn hilarious. I don’t need a lot of inspiring because I really like her, I think she’s really funny and I think that she’s the girl that we would all like to be. We’d all like to be that girl that walks in the office in a super-short skirt and puts a gun in the face of anybody who tells her that it’s inappropriate. She’s a badass. I just go in and I try to be as balls-out as I can and play around, and find time for her to be vulnerable and time for her to be scary and time for her to be ridiculous, and she’s just a blast. When they’re shooting their way out of the yacht, and they’re telling each other that they’re going to change their insurance plans to make the other person not be their beneficiary any more. I don’t know why, but that’s one of my favorite conversations. They’re both in their underwear, they both just had terrible three-way sex with a fat Russian spy. That could be chocolate on the wall, or it could be something else. (laughs).
ADAM REED: “Just the tip!”
AISHA TYLER: (Laughing) And now they’re telling each other that they’re going to remove each other from the beneficiary lines on their insurance policies. She’s the person who could have a deep conversation with you about life insurance while she was shooting the heads off of spies in her La Perla nether-thingies. She’s the girl we all want to be, deep inside.
And I just love the fact that she’s always got the double holsters. I mean, wouldn’t you just love to go like hit the Mayfair with double holsters on? Just going down to the supermarket, rocking double holsters, no jacket? She’s just terrifying. The sea parts in front of her. I’d really love to be that person.
AHMAD: She’s really just fashion forward, I think.
AISHA TYLER: I think she just doesn’t give a crap. In that way, I think she’s very much like me. I’ve stopped worrying about people snapping terrible cell phone pictures of me and then sending them out. This is how all of our sessions devolve as I start telling a story. But so now you know what it’s like to be in the booth with me. I went to the supermarket at Christmas to get groceries, and the lady said, “Are you OK? Did you have a good holiday?” And I was like, “Oh, yeah, my nieces are here, and they ate up all my food, so I have to buy more food and I’m exhausted.” And she said, “Oh. Well, I wondered what was going on” because apparently I went to the store looking so crappy that they were worried that there was some kind of domestic incident. So, I’m like Lana in that way. She’s got a job to do, she’s going to do it, and if you can see her underpants while she’s doing it, then you know what? Go screw yourself. Get a nice gander and move on. She’s got people to kill.
Toonzone would like to thank Adam Reed and Aisha Tyler for taking the time to talk with us and for a hilarious hour-long interview, and also Kristy Silvernail and Erika Bouso from FX and Alan Meier of M80 for setting the whole thing up. Archer premieres on January 14, 2010, at 10:00 PM (Eastern/Pacific). Read Toonzone’s review of the first five episodes here.