This is not the first time Archer has drastically changed the format for a whole season. Season five was Archer Vice, a pastel, florescent spoof of Miami Vice. The series was back to the spying game for season six, but season seven will find the Archer team working as private detectives instead.
No matter what they do, we can be sure the Archer gang will make outrageous, inappropriate claims and shout over each other in exasperated cacophonous chaos. We got to speak with Archer creator Adam Reed as he was putting the finishing touches on season seven. Archer returns Thursday, March 31 at 10PM on FX.
Is the whole season going to be the Archer gang working as private detectives?
They have opened a detective agency in Los Angeles. At least in the ’70s and/or ’80s, to be a private eye in California, you have to have either 2,000 hours of investigative work or a law degree. Since Cyril has a law degree, it’s actually going to be the Figgis Agency and all the former field agents are now working under Cyril, which Archer more than anybody really hates.
Are detective stories a lot different than spy stories?
You know, surprisingly not very different. A lot of misadventure and bickering seems to be common for both professions.
Did you know this was where the season was going to go when you ended season six?
Yes, yes. The wheels were already sort of turning. I didn’t know early on in season six or I would’ve tried to sprinkle in some call forwards, but yes, by the time season six was over, I knew this was what they were going to be doing. I was already watching Rockford [Files] and Magnum [P.I.] and Simon & Simon, all my favorites from growing up.
Is it a season like Archer Vice where you get to do a really specific genre?
There are little tributes to a lot of the ’70s and ’80s detective series, a little bit the detective genre as a whole but for the most part, the cases I think are very analogous to missions. It’s not too much different from spying. They’re still spying on people, just domestically rather than internationally. Malory and FX were worried about the grubbiness of the private investigation profession. So early on Malory is insistent on positioning them as the detectives for the stars. They wind up in the elite circles of Hollywood.
You said Malory and FX were worried about that?
Malory and FX it turns out have very similar concerns.
Did something happen during season six where you thought they can’t keep being spies forever?
I was just worried about writer burnout and viewer burnout on spy stories. It seems like we had a little bit of a geopolitical lull for several seasons but now as the news is more dominated by global conflict, it was a little harder to escape as a writer into spy stuff when the news is all not great lately. Having them be detectives was a good way for me at least to shut out the bad news and have fun that didn’t involve terror cells.
Is this a permanent change in direction for Archer?
I’m not sure. I’m not sure. I don’t know what the future seasons will hold. I’m just trying to bring all the moving parts in season seven together in the last script.
Does Archer and Lana’s baby age between season six and seven?
Yes, yes. She’s now 26 years old, married. No, one of the episodes is them trying to get her into an elite private preschool so she is essentially pre-pre-school. So yes, she is aging normally. I guess normally for real people, not normally for cartoon people.
Besides pre-school, are there new jokes you can do about their baby as she gets older?
One of the running jokes is just “where is the baby?” The baby is not going out on these cases really so trying to avoid older brother Chuck syndrome from Happy Days. The baby is not in every episode, I’ll say that.
Is Malory still the babysitter?
We have a nanny. There is now a nanny so Malory can now be shitty to the nanny.
That’s a new character?
We don’t actually meet the nanny. She is uncharitably off screen.
Do you ever worry about running out of inappropriate things for the characters to say?
No. If I run low, usually the voice actors have plenty of inappropriate ad libs in the booth.
Do you also come up with random distractions for them to lose focus on the main plot?
Yeah, usually we try to have a good B story. There are a couple sort of season long runners that are certainly distracting, like people settling into Los Angeles, and then the office dynamic has really changed since Cyril is now the boss. Pam and Cheryl have sort of been enlisted as helping with these investigations now so they’re not stuck back at the office. They turn out not to be great at investigative work.
Any new celebrity guest stars?
Yes, we have a great season of those. Patton Oswalt, J.K. Simmons, Keegan-Michael Key, Jons Daly and Glaser, John O’Hurley and Christian Slater is coming back as Slater.
What is Slater doing now that the lab is destroyed?
He comes back to enlist the detective agency to help him track down someone who the CIA can’t find.
It was really amazing how you made Slater look like him. Was that a unique challenge for the Archer animators?
Normally, with our main cast, we started with models and took hundreds, if not thousands of photographs of them with their face in every conceivable position and mouth positions and eyes and everything. With Christian Slater we couldn’t take 2,000 photographs of his head because he’s busy. So yeah, it was a lot more probably extrapolating what Christian Slater would look like angry.
Well, there’s certainly reference material for all of his expressions.
As far as I know, Michael Gray really looked like Michael Gray, but I don’t know what he looks like now.
Yeah, that does look a lot like Michael Gray.
What other characters are Simmons, Oswalt and the other guest stars playing?
Patton plays a lawyer, a recurring character who gets tied up with the detective agency. J.K. Simmons and Keegan-Michael Key play two homicide detectives, afoul of which the agency sometimes runs. Jon Daly and Jon Glaser play clients and people that Archer knew from his adolescence. John O’Hurley plays a very pompous movie director.
Do any of them look like the actual actors?
Yeah, I think they all are kind of pretty close.
Every season it seems you spring new backdrops on the animators. Do any of them ever stump the artists?
No, they’re so great. This season coming up, they’re in Los Angeles now so it’s an all new office. The backgrounds obviously are different. Everybody’s driving a new car. Everybody’s wearing new clothes. From a financial point, terrible idea to have everybody in new clothes. We sort of updated the wardrobes so they’re a little more into the late ’70s. Everybody’s got new cars. Archer is now driving a red Ferrari 308 just like Magnum P.I. So no, a lot of work but I don’t think you can stump these artists. They’re pretty talented.
One of the thing that strikes me about Archer’s style is the lines are really thick. Is there a reason, practically or aesthetically for that?
I think to make them pop out of the background. Our first season, we were concerned we had these really beautiful muted sort of watercolor backgrounds and we wanted to make sure that the characters popped out. So that was why that.
Is it surreal to you that you’ve done seven seasons of this now?
Yeah, it’s crazy. It’s gone by very fast.
Are you developing any new shows?
We are working on several things, a few things, three or four things that I can’t get into yet before I clear it with FX. We are working on other things.
Have they made a commitment to more Archer?
Not yet. I hope they will.
How long do you see it going?
I would like to do this as long as they’ll let me.
Archer returns March 31.