BACK IN BLACK
‘Archer’ Season 6 Preview: Cast and Crew on Rebranding and Dropping ISIS
The entire cast and crew of the FX spy-comedy series Archer sat down with Marlow Stern to discuss the Vice deviation and upcoming sixth season, which will air in January.
A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of hosting the Archer panel at New York Comic-Con. It marked the first time that the entire cast and crew of the hilarious FX spy series were assembled in the same place, like the voice-acting Avengers. Prior to the panel, The Daily Beast spoke exclusively with creator Adam Reed, executive producer Matt Thompson, producer Casey Willis, and the whole cast, from matriarch Mallory (Jessica Walter) and Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin) to guest star Christian Slater, a.k.a. Slater, who will return in Season 6 for a 4-episode arc.
One of the big reveals was that, due to recent events, the show would be dumping the name ISIS (International Secret Intelligence Service)—the highly illegal New York City-based spy organization where Archer and Co. worked. The Season 6 pilot episode, which aired prior to our Comic-Con panel, shows a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it scene featuring a group of movers rolling out the circular ISIS sign while Mallory complains to Archer over the phone about how the CIA are now their overlords.
According to Reed and Thompson, they’d shot a different version of the pilot that aired in July at San Diego Comic-Con, but reached a decision to alter it to remove all ISIS signs and mentions of the acronym, which required Walter to re-record a few scenes where she’d dropped the name “ISIS.” Since ISIS is, as Thompson says, “the most awful thing,” and since Archer exists in a fantasy universe with ‘70s-era trappings, it would have proved too strange to address the bizarre name dispute in a self-referential fashion, which is the approach that a show filled with more contemporary riffs like South Park would take. “We didn’t want to call attention to it,” says Reed. “A lot of people said, ‘Hey, let’s talk about ISIS and this real-world thing,’ but I didn’t want to mix the real and the cartoon.”
Another hurdle for the Archer creative team was where to go after Vice, the Season 5 deviation that saw Archer and the rest of his spy gang form a makeshift drug cartel to move a literal tonne of cocaine.
“We had a document about how much cocaine we needed to see as their supply dwindled down,” says producer Willis. “We kept very close track of that.”
“They made me eat so many things in that sound booth,” says Amber Nash, who voices Pam Poovey, the gang’s cocaine-gobbling HR director. “I kept eating the sound guy’s granola bars from his lunch, and I felt so bad.”
While critics felt the season was inspired, some fans voiced their disapproval.
“A lot of people complained and wanted Pam to be more in the background and to have it be back to the mission-of-the-week format, but we don’t want to just be mission-of-the-week,” says EP Thompson. “We even thought about keeping Vice going and putting everyone in jail for next season, but it didn’t help that Orange is the New Black became a giant show.”
“Superfans were thrown-off a bit by the change of scenery, but as far as the fifth season goes, I thought it was the most complete, thought-out season of the show and had a complete arc,” adds Benjamin.
Despite the mild backlash, Season 5 saw Archer get nominated for its very first (and long-deserved) Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program. Sadly, it lost to H. Jon Benjamin’s other show, Fox’s Bob’s Burgers.
“That was bullshit!” jokes Benjamin about the Emmy loss. “We should’ve given more blowjobs, but that’s just my general opinion,” adds Tyler, who plays badass agent Lana Kane.
Tyler then displayed her hands against Benjamin’s to prove that, unlike Lana, hers aren’t gigantic “man-hands.” They still, however, dwarf Benjamin’s.
“I have nice, delicate feminine hands!” she says in her defense. “They’re huge compared to me, but I’m a tiny Jew,” adds Benjamin.
The Season 6 pilot is definitely a return to the tried-and-true Archer format. Sterling finds himself marooned on a private island with a Japanese soldier from World War II who hasn’t been in contact with anyone since the war. He’s given a rude awakening when Archer brings him up to speed.
“It’s our apology to the Japanese for World War II,” jokes Benjamin.
Here are a literal tonne of other fascinating reveals from the Archer gang:
The Bob’s Burger’s Crossover Episode… Returning the Favor?
According to Aisha Tyler, this came to fruition after a long, heavy night of drinking on Sunset Boulevard following the Critic’s Choice Awards a few years back. “Now, Bob’s Burgers is really getting pressed to return the favor, but they can’t figure out how to do it,” adds Benjamin.
We Can Thank Judy Greer For Cheryl’s Continued Existence
Judy Greer voices Cheryl Tunt, the office heiress/secretary/sadomasochist. “My character was only intended to be in the pilot, and started out very weepy and pining for Archer,” says Greer. “Then, when they cast me, they told me they wanted to keep me around.” Greer also hinted that her character’s country music alter ego, Cherlene, might make an appearance in Season 6.
Only Lucky Yates and Adam Reed Know If Krieger Is Evil
During the Season 5 finale, it’s suggested that Krieger, the gang’s gonzo scientist/doctor/inventor voiced by Lucky Yates, may have been swapped with an evil clone—another Boy From Brazil. And in the Season 6 premiere, “Krieger” can’t even remember Pam’s name. “Now, Krieger might be evil. Only Adam and I know the answer of whether or not he’s the original Krieger or the real Krieger,” says Yates. Furthermore, Yates tells us that Krieger’s anime bride will return, and her name will finally be revealed.
Ray Gillette is Modeled After Lucky Yates
“I’m the model for Gillette, so I know what I look like as a blond,” says Yates. “They took 8 million pictures of me. So, in Krieger vs. Gillette scenes, it’s me talking to me, so it totally freaks me out. Our dream is to have me cosplay as Ray and have Adam Reed [who voices Gillette] push me around in a wheelchair while he talks and I just move my mouth like a puppet.”
Pam’s Interesting Pubic Hair
In addition to Pam’s back art from her underground fight club days, it’s also revealed that her pubic hair is styled as an ode to Elvis—with the letters TCB, or Takin’ Care of Business, accompanied by a lightning bolt. “Adam and I rented a pink Cadillac and spent a super drunken weekend at Graceland about 20 years ago,” says Thompson. “Ever since then, there’s been an affinity for the TCB logo. And for years, I had a pillow in my office with TCB and the lightning logo.”
The Two Best Season 6 Episodes
According to the producers and Reed, one of the best episodes of the upcoming season involves the gang visiting Poovey Farms to attend the wedding of Pam’s crazy sister, Edie, who will be voiced by Allison Tolman from FX’s Fargo. Cyborg Barry will crash the wedding. Another episode, which is far and away Thompson and Willis’s favorite, involves the entire gang (sans Mallory) getting stuck in an elevator for an entire episode. “They think it’s a team-building exercise by Mallory,” says Reed.
Other Season 6 Reveals...
“They go to the Alps in ‘The Archer Sanction’ because there’s an assassination,” says Reed, adding, “They go to Buenos Aires and Conway Stern comes back for that one. Christian Slater’s character, Slater, pops in once in a while now that they’re working for the CIA. We also meet Lana’s parents.”
Reed revealed that Archer and Lana’s baby’s name, Abijean, is the name of his grandmother. Meanwhile, his grandfather was named Marion—also the birth name of John Wayne. “With the baby, not a lot has changed. Sometimes, the baby will accidentally get brought along on missions, or be stuck in a car seat during a car chase,” says Reed.
Archer Was Originally Going to Be Called Duchess
“Remember in the way beginning of Archer, that it was going to be called Duchess after Mallory’s dog?” says Walter, to which Reed says, “Yup. Way back when I thought I ran FX, I demanded that the show be called Duchess, but then [FX CEO] John Landgraf said, ‘Look, we hopefully want to have a long relationship with you here. It’s going to be called Archer.’”
Christian Slater is A HUGE Archer Fan
Slater plays “Slater,” a CIA operative who was introduced in the Season 5 finale and now serves as the gang’s boss during Season 6. “I was dating her at the time, but my now-wife and I watched the show and bonded over it and realized we had the same sense of humor,” says Slater. “I really got into it after the Burt Reynold’s episode. I thought it was so great, so I thought, ‘Fuck it,’ and wrote Adam a note and told him how great I thought the show was, and how I had a Dodge Charger like Archer so I was clearly a fan.”
Mallory is Based On Arrested Development’s Lucille Bluth
Reed tells me a funny story about how he and the Archer team basically tricked Walter’s agent into having her sign onto the show thinking they had a big-name cast lined up, while Walter says she was attracted to it because of a little note on the pilot script. “My agent got me the first script and next to the character of Mallory it said, ‘Think: Jessica Walter in Arrested Development.’”