Aisha Tyler and Adam Reed On ‘Archer’

The lead actress and creator from FX's subversive animated spy comedy tell us what's in store for season two.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Aisha Tyler and Adam Reed On 'Archer'

Tonight, the FX animated comedy series "Archer" returns for a second season, once again completely written by series creator Adam Reed. "Archer" takes place in its own alternate world where its title character, Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin) is both an amazing secret agent and possibly the world’s biggest douchebag. In addition to his writing duties, Reed also voices Agent Ray Gillette, one of Archer’s favorite foils.

Recently, Reed teamed up with actress and comedian Aisha Tyler ("Talk Soup") for a special press conference to discuss the series’ second season. Along the way, Tyler gives us insight into her character, Lana Kane and whether she can eventually tame Archer, before she and Reed drop several hints about what’s coming up in the new batch of 13 episodes.

 

Q: Aisha, how did you started in comedy? And how did that lead you to "Archer"?

Aisha Tyler: The way that I got started in the entertainment business was first in high school, college doing sketch and improve and then right after that doing stand-up comedian. Comedy is my first love. She broke my heart and she continues to. I love her so.

I don’t know how Adam Reed found me, but I got the script for the pilot for "Archer" and I read literally maybe ten pages of it and I was like “I have to do this show.” It is a delight to make. I sensed that when I read the script because it was just for me such a wonderful combination of real mature, thoughtful, smart writing that’s referential—not with a “v”, but with an “f.” It’s definitely — there’s no “v” in that word.

It’s incredibly smart and ties in with so many things that are happening in the world. Then, it is so delightfully bawdy and dirty. It is just a joy. It’s just like… I can’t wait to see these words. I have so many stories, but I only like to tell three of them because I’m trying to burnish them to a fine hue. I’ve told this story a million times, but it was that maybe two or three episodes into Season 1. No, it was two; it was “Training Day.” Was that the first episode that we did or the second one? Second one, maybe.

Adam Reed: I think it was the second one, but it aired first.

Aisha Tyler: So, it was the second episode that we recorded for Season 1. It was called “Training Day.” It’s the one where they’re trying to turn Cyril into more of a [man] trying to give him some virility by [teaching him] how to be an agent. I got to say a million amazing things in that script. I got to say that I don’t care if there’s a million dead hookers in your trunk. I don’t remember what the end of that line was, but million dead hookers was all I really needed to hear. You had me at million dead hookers, Adam.

But, Adam—you know you got me right there. I ran the writers in a…, so I like having semantic conversations about comedy. Adam and I had this conversation for a good amount of time, cackling hysterically over whether the word ball-slappiest or ball-slappinest was funnier. I just thought, “Oh, I found my home. I’ve come home. This is my home.”

So, I love it. It’s just an incredibly funny, unabashedly, and unapologetically for grown-ups, that it takes a lot of risks.  Also, it looks very elegant. It’s a beautifully drawn show. There’s nothing like it on television. Those are all the reasons why I decided to do it.  It’s definitely not that when I visited Adam in Atlanta they had Snicker bars in the recording studio. That didn’t have anything to do with it because I can buy my own Snicker bars.

Q: What episode in season 2 are you most excited for people to see?

Adam Reed: I’m excited for people to see the explosive season finale, which I’m just writing today, hopefully by lunch.  Now, I’ll have my weekend free. 

Aisha Tyler: He’s going to bring in a team—

Adam Reed: I think the season opener is pretty good.

Aisha Tyler: That’s fantastic.

Adam Reed: Then, I don’t remember any other ones until the explosive finale.

Aisha Tyler: Me neither. Yes, I would agree with Adam that the opening, the season opener “Swiss Miss” is a pretty — It’s really wonderful because I think it’s a classic Archer episode, but it’s also just really — reminiscent is probably too light a word. It’s like smack dab in the middle of all the great espionage movies, all the great — the whole Bond…. It really feels very “spy-y” and it’s “action-y.” Adam, you said something about the fact that it was great, that the show is animated, because you know we could never afford to shoot ten seconds of this amazing kind of… chasing in the middle of the show. You can draw trees for days for nobody ….

Adam Reed: Or one tree.

Aisha Tyler: One tree over and over again, varying heights and sizes. So, it’s really explosive. It’s fun. It’s really funny. I think it’s a perfect example of what we do best on the show, which is a combination of international elegance, high intellectualism, and dirty jokes.

Q: Can you tell us what happens in the season premiere?

Aisha Tyler: Yes. I never know how much I can give away, because the sniper has got his gun in the back of my neck… He hasn’t given instructions about when to shoot. In “Swiss Miss,” the whole group goes to Gstaad, ostensibly to protect the daughter of — what does he do? He’s like an international chief… or something.

Adam Reed: He’s a captain of industry.

Aisha Tyler: Captain of industry and that’s enough. He has this like insanely precocious daughter and we’re all there to protect her. There’s another group of evil doers from some unknown origin — are they Basque? I don’t know where Basque is.

Adam Reed: Their accents are a little hard to pin down.

Aisha Tyler: Yes, they just sound mean and European, as if they drink wine out of glasses with no stems. I mean really… lowlife. They are planning on kidnapping this young lady, and maybe we all just sleep with each other instead of… That’s the thing, there’s always time for sex on our show, in between the high intrigue, but, this young girl who’s underage becomes this albatross for poor Archer, who’s really not a very disciplined guy anyway. He, for the first time, displays some self-discipline. But, it just backfires. For once, Archer has it all together and none of us believe him because he’s kind of a DB. His normal MO is DB-ness. It’s hilarious. There’s a snowmobile race, dancing monkeys, live action—

Adam Reed: We invent a new drink.

Aisha Tyler: We invent a new drink, a Green Russian.

Adam Reed: The Green Russian, which is absinthe and milk.

Aisha Tyler: Which seems just unacceptable as a beverage or a housecleaning product, but wonderful things happen after people start drinking the Green Russians, wonderful things. Malory explodes. It’s awesome. It’s really great. Somebody catches on fire. Somebody has their wedding jewels in their tackle boxes. That’s a line. It’s just great. There’s nudity; there are dancing bears. Five minutes into the show, Adam Reed does this off-shoot. It’s really good. I’ve seen it maybe four or five times. We aired it at Comic-Con. I have never heard such thunderous laughter except in my own head at night before I go to bed.

 

 

Q: What else is coming up this season?

Adam Reed:  Malory has her ongoing financial troubles; thinks about selling ISIS to ODIN, which doesn’t fit well with all of the other ISIS employees.

Aisha Tyler: Oh, that’s such a great episode.

Adam Reed: Rachael [Harris] plays a movie star who comes to ISIS to shadow Lana to research a role, much to the chagrin of the ISIS employees. There’s a lot of chagrin this season.

Aisha Tyler: A lot of group chagrin. Somehow, in Season 1, we were chagrinless, but we’re taking—

Adam Reed: We really stepped up the chagrin.

Aisha Tyler: Lana’s the one who’s really about the work…  Lana’s like, “Hey, there’s a planet to save."

But, then she’s flattered. She’s baited. She’s baited and lured into letting this girl shadow her. That’s another hilarious episode. I never know how much I can say about what happens in any of the shows. But, it ends up being mainly what you would think, which is having this young, idiotic Hollywood numbskull bobbing around ISIS, just throwing wrenches into everybody’s ill-formed drunken plans. Then, something else happens, too. There’s a big twist in that episode. That’s a great episode.

Did I say that Season 2 is awesome?  It’s really funny.  I need to get out a thesaurus and look up awesome and come up with—

Adam Reed: I would say it’s easily 85% as good as Season 1.

Aisha Tyler: I’m going to go you one better and say it is 89% as good as Season 1. I actually think in some ways—

Adam Reed: I thought that.  I didn’t want to sound braggy.

Aisha Tyler: Okay, I’ll brag for you.  Adam Reed is on fire.  Because now it’s Season 2, so we’re able to range a little bit further afield.  I feel like there are more missions this season.  Is that right, Adam?  Does that feel like that to you?  We have more missions.  We spent a little bit more time out in the world.  There’s more… incredibly funny historical references. We get to learn more about the characters and their lives. Woodhouse — we learn more about Woodhouse.

How awesome is fricking Woodhouse? You never would say that Adam Reed isn’t bold, but we’ve been emboldened by the heady atmosphere of Season 2. Oh, we can take some risks here, not like we held back in Season 1. But, it’s just a little bit more wide ranging and you get to see the characters interact a little bit more.

Adam Reed: That one whole episode is Woodhouse’s experience in World War I… He’s pretty old.

Aisha Tyler: I was sure it was World War II.

Adam Reed: It’s basically the same war.

Q. Aisha, Do you think that Lana will ever get back together with Archer and tame him?

Aisha Tyler: Tame Archer. Well, I can tell you what I think. I bet you Adam will have a — Well, Adam will actually know, because he writes the show. I just show up and look around for cookies.

I think if there’s anybody who can equal Archer or kind of mollify him in any way, it’s Lana because she’s probably the only combination of — I mean, you know Archer is so driven by libido. That’s probably stronger than almost another impulse in his brain. But, most of the women that he sleeps with are kind of disposable and Lana’s the only one who kind of knows him as a person and is also super sexy, and also does what he does for a living and he actually can learn from. They often operate as a team.

So, I don’t know that she can ever tame him, but I think he finds himself drawn to her like kind of terribly, kind of this terrible attraction that he doesn’t understand and so he mocks it and he scorns it. The only person that can tame Archer is his terrible drunken mother, but he can run from her because in the end he doesn’t want to sleep with her.

But, Lana, there’s [a] lure [that] is very powerful. Literally, there’s like planetary gravity and then there’s the kind of invisible force that holds the atoms together. Then, there’s the lure of [being] at the top of that list in terms of powerful things in the universe. So, I think he circles her against his will. Whereas with his mom, he runs, he ultimately runs from her, and then spits in her drink.

But, I don’t know that he can ever be tamed. He’s just sprawling ID in a … suit. Trying to control ID is like trying to hold water in your palm. Why would you do that when there’s television?

Adam Reed: And cups.

Aisha Tyler: And cups. They’ve been invented, and mugs, out of which I’m drinking right now.  But, yes, would they ever get back in a relation—?  I don’t think so. They might have some terrible 12-day affair at a hotel where no one leaves and room service dishes pile up outside the door. That could happen—Adam, pitching.

Adam Reed: Four days of just crying and yelling.

Aisha Tyler: Crying and yelling, and then crazy sex that like makes all the other people in the hotel check out, right, like a Ming vase comes flying out the balcony. Were they fighting? Oh, no, that was sex actually. But, yes, will they ever be together? I doubt that, I really doubt that. I think Lana’s too smart. I think she’s the kind of woman who also is really driven by a libido, so would sleep with him as well because he’s pretty hot. Then wake up in the morning and slap herself and say, “What was I thinking.” Then sleep with him again and be like what a dumb-dumb. She’s definitely is the ying to his yang. I don’t know which one of those is the girl, yang—I don’t know. I don’t even—

Adam Reed: The one with the big boobs.

Aisha Tyler: The one with the big boobs.  In the … that little Chinese symbol, whichever one is stacked is the woman and that one is Lana.

Adam Reed: I always thought that was just two boobs anyway.

Q: Do Malory and Lana have any confrontations in season 2?

Adam Reed: We do have a showdown, a bit of one. There’s sort of a two-episode arc where a character on the show deals with a devastating illness. Malory and Lana get into a — they sort of have a showdown at the beginning of that two-episode arc. We find that Lana’s definitely not scared of Malory, and whatever deference she shows her is just by choice, I think.

Aisha Tyler: Just professional courtesy.

Adam Reed: Exactly.

Aisha Tyler: Well, I think one other thing we learn about Lana this year is that she thinks that she’s just kind of a pearl amongst really drunken, irresponsible swine, and that she has professional designs of her own. She’s very ambitious. She’s not afraid to mince words with Malory. She thinks that Malory probably needs to be put out to pasture at some point. You’re right. She’s respectful because she’s a professional, but I think she envisions herself behind that large, and dinged, and slightly damp desk at some point in her career. That happens.

Q: Adam, are there any more hints you can drop about season 2?

Adam Reed: Yes, there’s a character deal with a devastating illness over the course of a few episodes… The body count goes way up… What else happens? Archer continues his quest to find out who his father is. Archer falls in love for real, which leads to the explosive season finale.