Exclusive: Adam Reed On The Origins Of FX’s ‘Archer’

Last week I had the chance to visit the production studios for FX’s Archer. I was able to sit down with creator Adam Reed and executive producer Matt Thompson and talk about what’s coming up on the remainder of the second season of the series as well as the evolution of Archer.

Adam Reed is a legend not to only Archer fans, but also fans of Frisky Dingo and Sealab 2021. But how did Reed, originally from Asheville, North Carolina, get his start in the industry. Not exactly as glamorously as you might expect…

“My sister got me a job at Turner. My older sister worked at Turner and after college I went and lived in France and, you know, ran out of money. And came home, and just showed up with a beard and a backpack… drunk from the flight.” Reed smiled, “And she worked at CNN center. It was all, you know, she’s got some ties and I staggered into the lobby and she was like, ‘Oh, good to see you! Let’s get you outta the lobby. You look terrible.’ And her boss walked by. And was like, ‘Who is this grubby person? Does he want a job?'”

Reed’s expectations weren’t high though. He’d been working a carpenter, and thought the job would be along the lines of painting his sister’s boss’ house. Instead, Reed was offered a PA (production assistant) position.

“I got asked to work on a Flintstones home video. My very first job that I did, I watched every episode of the Flintstones back-to-back and took notes. There are 161 of them. So it was 80 hours.” Reed explained, “It was two weeks straight, 9-5 Flintstones. And I had to log… I was looking at the episodes with the fewest dinosaurs in it. So because of my encyclopedic knowledge of the Flintstones, somebody asked me to write this Flintstones video. Then I got a job at Cartoon Network doing promos.”

One thing lead to another, he met Archer executive producer Matt Thompson, and the two of them left Cartoon Network to make the pilot for Sealab 2021. Reed and Thompson sent the pilot to Cartoon Network, and it just so happened that they were looking for content for Adult Swim, and that’s when it all began…

Fans of Sealab 2021 can definitely feel some similarities in animation style with Archer. The look of the series works so well with the content, so was it the Reed’s original idea to do a similar style?

“We wanted it to look sort of 60’s-ish. And so, Sealab, that stuff was already drawn for us. We just got those characters out and made them move across the backgrounds that we’d painted, but with Frisky Dingo, we started taking photographs of real people and doing them in Illustrator, so that they would pop out against the background.” Reed explained, “We sort of just built onto that. It was just the style that we knew how to do without reinventing the wheel. And FX really wanted something that looked more realistic so it worked out well.”

Reed doesn’t draw himself, he’s just the man behind the scripts. But he certainly admires the talent that his animation team has.

“They’re amazing. I don’t know how they do it. The character designs and the art directions and the background painting. It blows my mind! Just sitting down there and doing that, plus the animation. I just don’t know how they do it.” Reed smiles.

What makes Archer so addictive though is the characters, they make us laugh and cringe – sometimes at the same time. So where did the inspiration come from for the ISIS gang?

“Really just, James Bond obviously. The big influence. And while I was researching all the spies stuff, I’ve read a bunch of the James Bond novels, which are really dark. He’s kinda a dick in the books. He’s not charming or fantastic. He’s a bitter dude. So I thought that’d be interesting and I started thinking about how to make the worse guy possible that you still root for. And then it sorta clicked.” Reed explained.

What about Mallory voiced by the one and only Jessica Walter?

“I was watching the reboot of James Bond with Judy Dench as M. And for whatever reason, I thought, ‘What if she was his mom?’ And that’s when Mal kinda clicked, and then I thought it’d be great if his ex-girlfriend work there and was actually better at her job than he was.” Reed continued, “Then the other characters, like Cheryl, for example, she was gonna get killed off in the pilot, but then Judy Greer said she would do the part and we were like, ‘We can’t kill her off, she’s fantastic!’ They were all sort of in the pilot, I guess, much more 1-dimensional cause I didn’t know who the actors were going to be. But once all the actors signed on to do the show, they just got more and more flesh-out, because the actors are funny and I can start writing for those actors instead of these made-up characters.”

Want more with Adam Reed? Want more behind the scenes of Archer? Check back every Thursday for more of my exclusive interview and studio visit! Also check out our contest to win a Archer Season 2 poster signed by Adam Reed!

Archer airs Thursday nights at 10pm eastern on FX. Be sure to check it out if you haven’t already!

Interview/Article By: Emma Loggins


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  1. Definitely didn’t know he was from North Carolina [I’m from South]!I love that he came from the bottom to the top…I always admired the “backpackers” if France, Europe, etc. It’s always nice to know someone in the business, and it’s amazing how much of his life ties into mine [my grandfather is a carpenter too]! The colorful touch to the promo poster above just shows how animatedly gorgeous the show has to be. I have yet to check it out, but I think I’m going to have to now!