Archer‘s season six kicked off on January 8, 2015 on FX and executive producer Matt Thompson promises this new season will be loaded with guest stars yet it won’t forget about the characters audiences have come to love. Fans may have been split over the dramatic changes made to the series in season five, but the creative minds behind the animated series aimed at adult audiences are nothing if not a risk-takers. Chatting with journalists during a conference call, Thompson talked about what’s in store and why it’s important to shake things up every now and again.
Matt Thompson Archer Interview
Can you talk a little bit about what to expect this season and maybe give us a little tease about some upcoming guest stars?
Matt Thompson: “Yes, I would love to. This season, when Adam [Reed] and I sat down and talked about what we wanted to do, we wanted to get back to what we felt the show was at its core, which is a show about Archer and spying and what I would say is like more visceral action; people going out there and high stakes stuff and people dying and that sort of thing. Last season, we had a blast and we kind of took a detour from what we usually do. They kind of bungled their way around selling cocaine. If you go back and watch, nobody even dies in that season. And so what we’re doing now is getting back to what we do best.
Archer, he’s a spy. He’s a bad guy who’s a good guy who’s a bad guy, and we’re going to go back to seeing his personal journey in this world to which I think the main focus of the season is a lot about him, a lot about his relationship with Lana and how that’s changed when there’s a baby. We can see Archer taking one step towards being a better person and a better father and then maybe two steps backwards from being not wanting to do that, kind of constantly evolving without evolving. In fact, in the season premiere, we see he’s ran away from being a father all together and he’s off in the jungle somewhere fighting with Japanese soldiers. That is the main thing that I can see happening with this this year.
A couple of things that I’m most excited about are some of the people that we have joining us for this season. One of the things that this show does is it doesn’t really inform people about things that have happened in the past. We’re just kind of always moving forward and we like expect or hope that the audience keeps up with us. There’s a great character from Season one of Archer named Conway Stern who everybody loved because he was somebody who was just as good or better at everything than Archer is. The piece is played by Coby Bell and he’s back early on in the season to see what’s happening with him.
What I was saying is that that’s one of the things I think that the show does is like we’re not going to go back and tell you everything that happened in Season 1 with Conway Stern. We just hope that you know and can follow along. It’s not necessary to know what happened in Season 1, but it makes the episode more enjoyable.
Some other things that we have happening is we wrote a specific episode for Kumail Nanjiani as a Pakistani spy. We actually wanted to make sure before we wrote the part that he wanted to do it because we couldn’t foresee anybody else doing it. And, luckily, he agreed to do the part without a script being written, which was really super cool of him. The episode came out pretty great.
Also, [we’re] meeting Lana’s parents played by C.C.H. Pounder and Keith David, and it’s kind of fun to see Lana in a slightly different role as the child. Lana’s always telling us what to do almost and kind of being basically our collective conscious. And now to see her dealing with her parents, it’s pretty fun.
One of my favorite things about that episode is like they’re these Berkeley professors out in California and Archer and the baby and Lana go see them. There’s a moment in the hot tub with Archer and Lana’s parents that pretty much defines who Archer is as a guy. I mean, you put him in the hot tub with Lana’s parents and things don’t go well.
Also back this season, the people that I missed the most in Season 5 were Barry and Katya. Barry They’re both back in episodes this season. I just like the way that Conway Stern works will with Archer because Archer has somebody to play off of. Barry’s the same way for Archer. He always kind of seems to win and lose. I like it when there is that relationship where Archer can bounce off of somebody so hard. So, getting Barry back in an episode; getting Katya back… Actually, the episode that Barry is in is one of our best that we’ve done.
Allison Tolman is playing Edie, Pam’s sister, and to have that come together with Barry’s return and seeing there’s this TV troupe. Like Cheers did it really well with Norm’s wife. Norm would walk in and it would be like, ‘Oh, what’s up with your wife, Norm?’ and he’d say something awful. I think Edie was that way for us, Pam’s sister. We always talked about these terrible things that Edie did and we never had any intention of showing you Edie until we got drunk with Allison Tolman at a FX party and listened to her great Wisconsin accent that she did on Fargo and kind of convinced us to do it.
Also, Rob Huebel who we’ve always thought is a super hilarious guy is joining us. There’s a movie from the ‘70s called the The Eiger Sanction with Clint Eastwood. It’s basically our take on that old Clint Eastwood movie with Rob Huebel as a pretty funny mountain climbing guy.
But I will say that my very favorite episode of the season isn’t with guest stars. I think the show really works best when it is all of our characters just bitching at each other. You’ll see it like when they all get on a blimp together, they’ll all get on a train together, they’ll all go down to Sealab together. There’s an episode this season where everybody just gets trapped in an elevator and then they just bitch at each other. I love, because these characters feel so real to me, just listening to them all sit there and bitch at each other. It’s great. It was kind of a challenging episode for us because how do you make trapped in an elevator interesting, and I really think we did it. I really like that one a lot.”
Is there any chance we’re going to see the baby go on any missions?
Matt Thompson: “The baby’s out there, yes. There’s some things that happen with the baby. Like Everybody Loves Raymond, it was never a story about Raymond’s kids. So, this series is not suddenly going to become Archer and Lana’s baby series, but there is parts where the emotion of Archer and Lana especially is heightened because there are parts when the baby is in danger. There’s specifically…I think about the Kumail Nanjiani episode and there’s danger for the baby, or even the episode for Lana’s parents and meeting them.”
Do you do a lot of casting based on who you meet at parties?
Matt Thompson: “I was at another Fox party and I was having a drink with Jessica Walter and she saw Keith David and evidently they’ve known each other for a long time. She grabbed me by my arm and she pulled me over to him and she said, ‘If Keith David isn’t Lana’s father, I will never speak to you again.’ I said, ‘Yes, ma’am. Yes, ma’am. Let me write this down. Nice to meet you, Keith. Looking forward to making that happen because I don’t care to have Jessica mad at me.'”[…] We did find something for Matthew Rhys this year. It’s because he’s one of my very favorite people to have a beer with. So, I went to the Super Bowl – Adam Reed and I went to this past Super Bowl that Seattle laid it on them and we sat next to Matthew and we got a little lit. Matthew is from Wales and he told us a story. He kind of entertained this whole bus load of people with a story about a true thing from history about these Wales separatists who were battling the English in the ‘70s and they blew things up with a couple of bombs and stuff like that.
It was such a good tale that he told that we went back and wrote an episode based on his tale. And so, for the very first time, there’s going to be a credit in the episode that says, ‘Written by Adam Reed from a rousing tale by Matthew Rhys.’
Matthew plays the part of the Wales separatist, and there’s this really cool The Americans couple of jokes in there, which is this Wales separatist terrorist keeps going in between like, ‘Hey, can do you an American accent?’ and he’ll put on this really silly wig and glasses and then he’ll talk in his American accent. We kind of just like sh*thouse him about your accent is terrible or whatever, but that’s us kind of joking around with Matthew Rhys about how he’s always putting on a wig and then doing some sort of accent and the whole time, he’s really a guy from Wales, but it’s pretty funny.”
What is Lana’s mindset going to be? Does the baby act like more of a wild card for her now? How does she balance being a mother and being a spy agent?
Matt Thompson: “She’s conflicted. She goes through times of wanting to quit, wanting to get away from it. There’s times where we’re trying to take a vacation from the baby. And so I think more than ever, Lana seems conflicted and she doesn’t know what she wants to do. She also will go on a mission and leave the baby in somebody else’s care, which is driving her crazy because, one, Malory thinks that Lana’s breasts are filled with corn syrup or something and she’s constantly fattening up the baby. So, Malory is like feeding the baby ice chips to try and slim the baby down. Or else like leaving Pam in charge of the baby and like, ‘Oh, my god, what happened to the baby?! Where’s the baby?!’
It creates a lot of stress on Lana. She doesn’t really have a good handle with how to deal with it. She’s kind of making it up as she goes along and sometimes she’s handling it well and sometimes she’s not handling it well.”
How important was it to completely change things up the way you did last season?
Matt Thompson: “I think it was most important for the people who sit around and think about what the show should do. We needed to clear our brains out. We wanted to take a step sideways that was still inside of our universe, but do it. More than anything else, it was just like a palate cleanser almost.
Internally, we love it. We loved what that season was. We love that we made a Country music album. We love that we did something very different without doing something different. I think it’s some of our strongest work if you can sit back and watch it on the face of it. At the same time, there’s a reason why shows don’t change their standard formula too hard because it does upset the apple cart a little bit. And so, it was never designed as, ‘Hey, this is what we’re doing from now on.’ It was never even thought of that way. It was just thought of as, ‘We want to go and take this small break from ourselves that isn’t really even truly a break and then go back to doing what we do best.’
We do realize what we do best is stories about Sterling Archer, him being a dick, but also being a somewhat good guy and some sort of spy, intrigue, people are going to die, and then insert jokes along the way. We do realize that is when the show is working at its best. We went away from that formula last season, but I’m really glad we did. At the same time, I’m just as excited now to get back to doing what it is that we do best.”
-By Rebecca Murray
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