Archer EP Matt Thompson Previews Season 6 and Talks Spies, Sex and Selfishness
Warning: Spoilers Ahead
I am so excited for this season. After a bit of a departure last season that saw the gang try to become drug kingpins, season 6 sees a return to form. Of course, they’re no longer called ISIS but everything else remains the same: they’re just a bunch of selfish assholes trying (and failing) to save the world while they undermine each other at every turn. Every once in a while they actually manage to save the day. But it’s so much funnier when they fail and that’s only one of the reasons I love this show.
TV Goodness participated in a press call with executive producer Matt Thompson earlier this week. He talked about what to expect this season, some of the guest stars he’s excited about and why they decided to do something so different for season 5.
On upcoming what to expect this season.
Matt: “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 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. We took a detour from what we usually do. They bungled their way around selling cocaine. If you go back and watch, nobody even dies in that season.
What weâ€™re doing now is getting back to what we do best. Archerâ€™s a spy. Heâ€™s a bad guy whoâ€™s a good guy whoâ€™s a bad guy. Weâ€™re going to go back to seeing his personal journey in this world. The main focus of the season is a lot about him, a lot about his relationship with Lana and how thatâ€™s changed when thereâ€™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 — constantly evolving without evolving. In fact, in the season premiere, we see heâ€™s run away from being a father altogether and heâ€™s off in the jungle somewhere fighting with Japanese soldiers. That is the main thing that I can see happening with this this year.”
On this season’s guest stars.
Matt: “A couple of things that Iâ€™m most excited about are some of the people that we have joining us for this season. This show doesnâ€™t really inform people about things that have happened in the past. Weâ€™re always moving forward and we expect or hope that the audience keeps up with us.
Thereâ€™s a great character from Season 1 of Archer named Conway Stern, who everybody loved because he was somebody who was just as good or better at everything that Archer is. [Stern] is played by Coby Bell and heâ€™s back early on in the season to see whatâ€™s happening with him.
Weâ€™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. Itâ€™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 couldnâ€™t foresee anybody else doing it. 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, meeting Lanaâ€™s parents played by C.C.H. Pounder and Keith David. It’s fun to see Lana in a slightly different role as the child. Lanaâ€™s always telling us what to do almost and being basically our collective conscience. To see her dealing with her parents, itâ€™s pretty fun.
One of my favorite things about that episode is theyâ€™re these Berkeley professors out in California and Archer, the baby and Lana go see them. Thereâ€™s a moment in the hot tub with Archer and Lanaâ€™s parents that pretty much defines who Archer is as a guy. I mean, you put him in the hot tub with Lanaâ€™s parents and things donâ€™t go well.
The people I missed the most in season 5 were Barry and Katya. Theyâ€™re both back this season. I just like the way that Conway Stern works well with Archer because Archer has somebody to play off of. Barryâ€™s the same way for Archer. He always seems to win and lose. I like it when there is that relationship where Archer can bounce off of somebody so hard.
Actually, the episode that Barry is in is one of our best that weâ€™ve done. Allison Tolman is playing Edie, Pamâ€™s sister and to have that come together with Barryâ€™s return and seeingâ€”thereâ€™s this TV troupe. Like Cheers did it really well with Normâ€™s wife. Norm would walk in and it would be like, “Oh, whatâ€™s up with your wife, Norm’ and heâ€™d say something awful.
I think Edie was that way for us. 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 weâ€™ve always thought is a super hilarious guy, is joining us. Thereâ€™s a movie from the â€˜70s called The Eiger Sanction with Clint Eastwood. Itâ€™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 isnâ€™t with guest stars. I think the show really works best when it is all of our characters just bitching at each other. Youâ€™ll see it when they all get on a blimp together, theyâ€™ll all get on a train together, theyâ€™ll all go down to Sealab together.
Thereâ€™s an episode this season where everybody just gets trapped in an elevator and then they just bitch at each other. Because these characters feel so real to me, I love just listening to them all sit there and bitch at each other. Itâ€™s great. It was a challenging episode for us because how do you make trapped in an elevator interesting? I really think we did it. I really like that one a lot.
On Lana’s mindset right now and what’s coming up for her.
Matt: “Sheâ€™s conflicted. She goes through times of wanting to quit, wanting to get away from it. Thereâ€™s times where weâ€™re trying to take a vacation from the baby. So, more than ever, Lana seems conflicted and she doesnâ€™t know what she wants to do.
She also will go on a mission and leave the baby in somebody elseâ€™s care, which is driving her crazy because Malory thinks that Lanaâ€™s breasts are filled with corn syrup or something and sheâ€™s constantly fattening up the baby. So Malory is feeding the baby ice chips to try and slim the baby down, or leaving Pam in charge of the baby and like, ‘Oh, my God. What happened to the baby? Whereâ€™s the baby?’
And so, it creates a lot of stress on Lana. She doesnâ€™t really have a good handle with how to deal with it. Sheâ€™s making it up as she goes along and sometimes sheâ€™s handling it well and sometimes sheâ€™s not.
I think that thereâ€™s a lot of times this season where weâ€™re taking a step back from Lana just yelling at people. Weâ€™re seeing her and weâ€™re seeing Aisha Tyler get really loving when sheâ€™s talking to her baby, or very protective, which is a different form of anger than just wagging your finger at people.
Later in the season, weâ€™re going to see a love interest come along and to see her in a very loving, romantic side of her. Thatâ€™s also interesting. Aisha took each one of those things very much in stride. She is really, really good at this. We’re so used to her in the yelling at us mode. Then to give her these opportunities this season to either act so loving to her baby or be in a romantic relationship is really wonderfully fun to see.”
On if Archer changes now that he’s a father.
Matt: “There are specific episodes when we see that he is either running away from being a dad, or that heâ€™s trying to get in Lanaâ€™s life a little bit more so he can be a father, or there are specific episodes that happen this season that the baby is threatened and we see what happens to Archer because of that.
Weâ€™re using the baby as a tool to tell Archer and Lanaâ€™s story and deepen their relationship and deepen their emotional standing. Itâ€™s not that weâ€™re going to see the baby all the time and like hereâ€™s this baby and whatâ€™s happening with the baby. Itâ€™s really about how that affects Archer and Lanaâ€™s emotional state. Itâ€™s one of the driving forces of the season.”
On if Malory being a grandmother changes her.
Matt: “Sheâ€™s still a hard ass. Thereâ€™s a couple of great scenes with her and how sheâ€™s dealing with the baby specifically. Iâ€™m going to try and remember the exact lines.
Abigene is the babyâ€™s name and itâ€™s named after Lanaâ€™s grandmother. In reality, Abigene is the name of Adam Reedâ€™s grandmother, but thereâ€™s a great scene where sheâ€™s trying to convince Lana by giving her large amounts of money to change the babyâ€™s name to Malory. I think at one point she says, ‘Have the baby christened’ with her name and ‘Iâ€™ll throw in another $5,000 if you do it in a white church,’ which is awful. Sorry, but it made me laugh.
Thereâ€™s a great part where she believes Lana is fattening the baby. I think specifically to a line about like, ‘Whatâ€™s in your breasts? Are they filled with corn syrup?’ Whenever sheâ€™s in charge of the baby, whenever sheâ€™s taking care of the baby, youâ€™ll see her giving the baby ice chips instead of food, or else sheâ€™ll be off camera and Archer will be out on a mission. Heâ€™ll be yelling back, talking to his mom, saying, ‘God damn it. You have to feed the God damn baby’ because sheâ€™s very concerned that the baby is getting overweight. So, no, she is not becoming nicer and trying to get into grandma heaven.”
On dropping the name ISIS.
Matt: “We watched it very closely for a long time and were just hoping that we would never to have to comment on it because we feel like any comment we make on it is justâ€” thereâ€™s no way to win that conversation. Itâ€™s just a terrible, awful, awful, f*cking horrendous situation. We finally bit the bullet and were like, ‘All right. We got to go. Weâ€™ve got to change.’
This is something weâ€™veÂ been working towards because of our love of Christian Slater. Youâ€™re going to see him a lot more this season as our CIA handler. We decided, ‘Okay, thatâ€™s it. ISIS is done. Weâ€™re going to be contractors for the CIA.’ Right when we did that, all that stuff went down with the CIA now and weâ€™re like, ‘Oh, God damn it.’
The best joke that I think Jon Benjaminâ€™s made in a long time, somebody asked him this question the other day and they go, ‘Are you going to change your name from ISIS?’ and theyâ€™re like, ‘Yes.’ Jon said, ‘After a lot of thought, weâ€™ve decided to change it to something that hopefully people will hate less. Weâ€™re going to have the spy agency now called AIDS.’ We decided not to do that, but we are basically contractors for the CIA now for better or for worse.”
On doing something different in season 5.
Matt: “I think it was most important for the people who sit around and think about what the show should do. We needed like 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 itâ€™s some of our strongest work if you can sit back and watch it on the face of it.
At the same time, thereâ€™s a reason why shows donâ€™t change their standard formula too hard because it does upset the apple cart a little bit. It was never designed as, ‘Hey, this is what weâ€™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 isnâ€™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 Iâ€™m really glad we did. At the same time, Iâ€™m just as excited now to get back to doing what it is that we do best.”
On continuity and recurring jokes and themes.
Matt: “We try really hard on our continuity and we fail sometimes. We try not to let our failures leave the house, but thereâ€™s been many episodes that weâ€™ve corrected like on the day that weâ€™ve turned them in. Mostly those are visual mistakes where we will forget a tattoo or weâ€™ll forget that somebodyâ€™s hair had changed.
Last season, Cherylâ€™s tits got huge because of whatever she was doing with this country music thing. I mean weâ€™re going back to normal size. The number one thing that we couldnâ€™t do visually was we couldnâ€™t track Archerâ€™s bullet holes because heâ€™s had over 40 bullet holes. So, we had to just let that go. Everything else visually; you should see like small changes in hair style thatâ€™ll stick and then theyâ€™ll change, or be it in clothes or whatever.
The things that have happened to a character are sometimes more difficult and weâ€™ll forget. We recorded an episode this season of where everybodyâ€™s trapped in an elevator together. We recorded it, edited it, started animating it, and realized there was a mistake in the episode. We had to go back and re-record something. It was about the number of people in the elevator that had seen Lanaâ€™s vagina and we were mistaken that there was only one of them in the elevator that hadnâ€™t because we had forgotten about Cheryl saw it while she was giving birth. Pam saw her vagina when they had sex.”
Edited for space and content.
“The Holdout” synopsis, from FX:
Archer must salvage a crashed plane in a jungle filled with relics from World War II.
Season 6 of Archer premieres Thursday, January 8th at 10/9c on FX.
Season 6 Teaser:
“The Holdout” Clip:
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