Interview: Jessica Walter From ‘Archer’

We had the pleasure of chatting with Jessica Walter about the return of Archer tonight on FX at 10pm. In addition to voicing Malory on the hit FX series, she also is getting ready for a revival of the Broadway musical Anything Goes and she just did filmed a guest spot on CBS’ The Big Bang Theory. Check out our interview below!

How did you initially grt involved with Archer?

J. Walter: 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 came about.

Obviously there are similarities between Lucille Bluth and Malory Archer. What attracts you to that kind of character?

J. Walter: 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.

S. Seomin [FX Publicist]: Something I learned just last week, everyone – and I don’t even know if Jessica knows this – Jessica, you were the very first one cast. Did you know that?

J. Walter: I did not.

S. Seomin: I did not either. Adam Reed got to go around town saying, “We’re doing this show called Archer and Jessica Walter signed on,” which made the rest of the casting process very easy.

Really since Arrested Development, you’ve had this resurgent, but like Betty White always says, she never really went away.

J. Walter: Yes. I absolutely agree. I have never gone away. Never, ever gone away and I don’t intend to.

Do you think Arrested Development really opened some new doors … another side of you?

J. Walter: 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.

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?”

J. Walter: 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.

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?

J. Walter: 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.

S. Seomin: There’s a lot of ambiguity and I think something that’s certainly underlined about Malory this season is just how friendly she’s been with many gentlemen throughout her life. It’s always been that way. Thus, there are several candidates for who the papa is.

J. Walter: I just said today in the recording session – I’m not giving anything away by saying this, but – I just said today, some Russian bad guys catch Archer. I appealed to my friend Jackov – spelled Jackov, but it’s pronounced Jack off – Nikolai who I’ve had an affair with in Episode 1 actually last season. And he wants to know if he’s the father and he asks me what the odds are and I say, “Well, one out of three – actually it’s probably like one out of ten,” … feelings. So, he’s a possible, Nikolai Jackov.

Are we going to see more of her back story as a secret agent because I know it’s often alluded to but we don’t get to see it.

J. Walter: Yes. First of all, we’re going to see how and when I hired Lana Kane for my agency. I’m trying to think – Scott, are we going to see more about how I came to – ?

S. Seomin: We see how you and Woodhouse met.

J. Walter: Yes. It was in a bar when I was pregnant, that I can tell you. When Malory was pregnant with Sterling that’s where I met Woodhouse.

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 Season 2?

J. Walter: 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.

What about in Season 2?

J. Walter: Season 2, now let’s see.

S. Seomin: Jess, keeping an eye on him, Malory keeping an eye on him when you’re in Switzerland with the underage gal.

J. Walter: Oh, yes, we had a thing where – I think she’s 17. Actually, we thought she was 16 and he got very insulted and said she was 17. I had to keep an eye on him but he didn’t go too far with her, which actually he didn’t. I’m always keeping an eye on him because I love him.

How would you describe Archer to someone that hasn’t never seen it?

J. Walter: I would say, if you want to have a lot of laughs and fun, watch this show because it’s far, far out. It’s beyond spoofdom. We’re spoofing obviously James Bond, but I would describe it as a very dysfunctional group of people. It’s almost like The Office meets I would say like Arrested Development. I mean if it were to be what’s on right now, but way far out, on cable. If The Office were on cable and Arrested were onto cable this is what you’d find and you’d laugh.

Speaking of James Bond, do you think Archer is more Roger Moore or Sean Connery?

J. Walter: Oh, Sean Connery, definitely. I mean even the picture, to me, of him. Don’t you agree?

I do.

J. Walter: Yes and Sean Connery, oh my God, he’s a prototype for any of these kind of spy guys. All of our fantasy spy people would look like him.

What was 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 that?

J. Walter: 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.

Well I asked Adam on Friday when I spoke to him about what goes on in that crazy little mind of his and he says he’s being channeled.

J. Walter: Yes. Probably, he’s amazing.

… kind of disturbing because it makes you wonder channeled with what and who.

J. Walter: I know and in real life, I’ve had lunch with him and seen him at affairs and things. He’s like a normal, really well brought up southern gentleman. He’s from Atlanta. He’s a real – you’d want your daughter to be with a guy like this.

So it’s equally disturbing to know then.

J. Walter: I know that makes it more interesting, isn’t it? Wow.

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?

J. Walter: 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.

Who would be some of your ideal guests that you haven’t had yet, guest voices on Archer?

J. Walter: 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.

S. Seomin: Tony Award winner.

J. Walter: Tony Award winner, yes. What woman would we like? 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.

Do you have any Arrested Development movie news for us?

J. Walter: 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. Have you?

I haven’t heard of anything since last year sometime.

J. Walter: I know. Maybe it’s not going to be. I don’t know, but anyway, I hope it will be.


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