FXX’s animated hit show Archer is so many things to its fans. Chock-full of action, yet character-driven, and completely NSFW (unless you have the coolest workplace EVER), it defies definition (and sometimes the imagination, you’d think) to supersede the spoof comedy, surpass a simple homage to spy action films, and redefine the genre of serialized thrillers altogether.
TV Goodness had the opportunity to chat with actress Amber Nash, the voice of drift racer, Wisconsin farm girl, HR director, cocaine addict, and all-round ass-kicker, Pam Poovey, and the first thing we learned was that our favorite omni-sexual bear-claw lover has been reset in Season 8: Dreamland as Detective Sergeant Poovey, a gender-neutral thug cop, partnered with Cyril Figgus, in 1947 Los Angeles.
TV Goodness: So Pam is now “Poovey” and gender-neutral… can you tell me a bit about that?
Amber Nash: Yeah, so, when we first got the information about what was going to happen for this season, Adam Reed, who is the creator and pretty much the sole writer of the show …. called everybody to kind of let them know what was going on and that he had this plan and that FX said it was okay which is crazy because this season is just crazy. I don’t think he knew quite yet that that’s where he was going with Poovey but he had an idea and then later on,… he told me that the character was kind of loosely based on Russell Crowe’s character from L.A. Confidential. So I went back and watched the movie and was blown away and really excited and then when I started to see a little bit of the artwork for what the season was going to look like, I was SO stoked because everybody looks so good. All the animation every year just gets better. The backgrounds are so rich, exciting, so it’s just going to be so much fun.
For those of us who have voraciously gobbled up every episode of Archer (and maybe even bought the country music album “Cherlene” they put out after Season 5’s Archer: Vice), Reed’s penchant for reinventing the show is no longer (as much) a surprise since turning the New York City-based spy agency into a drug cartel, then a CIA contractor, then moving it to L.A. to become a private detective agency. But Archer’s signature move is to leave the viewers jaws gaping with completely WTF moments right before rolling the episode’s end credits. Honestly, it’s one of the reasons we keep tuning in.
TV Goodness: How do you guys keep up? For viewers, we’re like “Okay, THAT just happened.” [When you get the scripts] does it take you a moment to process or are you at that point, going into your eighth season, where you’re just like “All right, let’s go”?
Nash: There’s a little bit of both. If there’s something really big, Adam will usually call us or give us an email and let us know “Hey, be prepared for this.” Like when we did Season 5, we did Vice, we definitely knew. [And] he was really excited when Pam and Archer were going to have sex for the first time so he told me about that because he knew I’d be excited about that, too. So I think if he gets really stoked about something and he feels like it’s enough out of the ordinary that he’s really excited about it, he’ll call us and let us know. But other than that, we’ll just kind of get the scripts and then be like ‘Oh my god’… When I get my episode, it’s usually about two days before I go in to record and I’m always so excited. I can’t wait to read it, I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen. I couldn’t wait to read the last episode of season eight to see how it all ended up. And also, everybody’s always afraid that they’re going to be dead. It’s like working on a soap opera.
The evolution of Pam (now Poovey) is a fascinating study in character development. In the beginning, she was the director of Human Resources for International Secret Intelligence Service (ISIS, yeah but not *that* ISIS), armed with the Communication Dolphin hand puppet and indulging in large amounts of alcohol and inappropriate gossip at the office. Since then, things have changed significantly. She’s proven herself the equal (or better) than most of the company’s field agents in combat, in alcohol consumption, and in sexual prowess with skills that often straddle more than one arena.
TV Goodness: Going back to when the series started, did you have any idea Pam was going to be the alt-superhero that she is?
Nash: No, I had no idea actually. I went back and read the pilot episode recently and I think that I was kind of a throwaway character. I think they just needed Pam to be a little bit of a punching bag, somebody for people to make fun of. When Pam is first introduced in the pilot, it says ‘Pam, the mousy director of HR’ which is so crazy to think about now. Mousy is not a word anybody would ever to use to describe that character. And I think that after a while, Adam had needs: he was like ‘I need a character that can do this or I need a character that can do this’ and then he just kept giving these random things to Pam and now she has this huge skill set of crazy, badass things and over time, too, I think that Adam got to know us all better as actors and …. I think he’s like,’Okay, this person’s capable of this’ until it started to bleed into the character a little bit… not that I’m anywhere near as badass as Pam.
TV Goodness: Did you have any idea when you started that [you would still be here] eight, nine years later?
Nash: I had no idea. I mean I was really just a gigging actor. I was just doing theatre and I’d done a show with these guys before for Adult Swim. I worked on Frisky Dingo. There was only two seasons of that show so I kind of assumed “yeah, they’ll hire me every once in a while to do some work” and then, lo and behold… Actually, right before [Archer‘s] season two, I got offered a gig on a cruise ship for Second City and they were like ‘Okay, it’s four months out at sea. Do you want the job?’ and at the time, I was ‘Yeah, that’s a super awesome job’ and so I called the executive producer, Matt Thompson, and [the conversation went something like:]
AN: Hey, I’m going to take this cruise ship job because I need money and I’m just an actor and I’m going to go be out at sea for four months.
MT: No, you can’t do that.
AN: What do you mean?
MT: Well, we’re making this TV show and you can’t be gone for four months
AN: I don’t know what to tell you, I need to work.
MT: “Okay, if you don’t leave, and you stay here and work on the show, then I will put you in the opening credits
…and so that’s how Pam got into the opening credits. Isn’t that crazy?
Crazy amazing! It’s no exaggeration to say that Archer would not be the show we know today without the Poovey-ness in the mix.
Animated shows are such interesting creations. Viewers see the final product – a cohesive combined product of dozens of talents – but what about the *magic* behind the scenes?
TV Goodness: I’d heard about was that during Vice, during Pam’s cocaine addiction, because she was constantly *eating* the cocaine, the story I heard was that you kept stealing, err… borrowing people’s snacks?
Nash: Yes, it was terrible because I’d get the script and sometimes it would say ‘Pam’s eating’ or ‘with a full mouth’ or whatever and I would forget that I needed to take a food item so that I could eat it in the booth. And the first time I had to eat was actually before Season Five, before I started eating cocaine and I needed to have a full mouth… cause it’s Pam [and] at the studio there was one of those giant things of cheese puffs, y’know those giant jars of them that are, like, three feet tall. And who knows how old they are, and so many hands have been in there, and so they got me a handful of these cheese balls and I recorded the scene with the cheese balls and at the end, I came out of the booth and my pages were orange, there was cheese ball crumbs all over the microphone… It was disgusting in there. Nothing like yelling with a full mouth of cheese balls. And so when we did Five, it was almost every single episode, ‘Oh, yeah, you need to be eating something’ so the poor engineer who packs his lunch and then comes to work was like ‘Well, I have a granola bar you can have.’ It happened so many times that I felt so bad because I kept stealing his lunch snacks in order to record….There have been times where it was a tissue, which is so gross to have a tissue in your mouth. We’ve tried everything… I’ve had so many things in my mouth during recording sessions.
TV Goodness: With recording sessions, how much of a cast dynamic can you get? [Or] is it all spliced together in post?
Nash: We are all totally separate. We make the show in Atlanta. Lucky and I live in Atlanta, so does Adam who does the voice of Gillette … Jon and Jessica are both in New York, then everybody else is in L.A. So we totally record separately. I think that even if we did all live in the same city, we’d still record separately. It’s faster and it’s more cost-effective. I know that for Bob’s Burgers, they all do table reads and get together and record and they’re in the booth for hours because they’re also improvising and throwing stuff off of each other… and we don’t do that. We just get in there and do our own thing so it doesn’t take nearly as long. When I record an episode, I’m usually in the booth for, maximum, forty-five minutes. Lots of times, it’s under thirty minutes. So, yeah, it’s all editing. The guy that edits the show is incredible. The first season, I didn’t meet any of the cast until… we were almost done recording season two before I met anybody… and I met them all at Comic-Con. In the beginning it was kind of hard because I didn’t know what anybody sounded like. Before the first season aired, I didn’t really know what was going on with the show or what kind of job I had. Now, we’re all so familiar with each other and we kind of know what it’s going to sound like when someone delivers something or how they’re going to deliver it so it’s easier to kind of imagine playing off of them… but in the beginning, it was totally different.
Every new season of Archer holds depths of hilarity and incredulity that fans have come to expect but can never predict. Considering where Season 7 – Archer: P.I. left off, Dreamland has a wide-open canvas to paint on and from what Amber was able to reveal, it’s going to be a crazy awesome landscape filled with the familiar and yet completely new.
TV Goodness: Is there something we should be watching out for [in Season 8], some specific thing you loved doing that you want us to look out for?
Nash: I can’t wait for fans to see it. I think that, of course it’s set in 1947, so just seeing that world… The thing that I’ve been telling people is that what’s cool about it is it’s definitely a reset. We’re all in different jobs. Pam is cop. Pam and Cyril are partners which is great because it’s a super fun partnership and everybody is kind of getting know each other again but at the end of the day, everybody still… the dynamics are not different so everybody still treats Pam the same way, everybody still is mean to Cyril. It’s kind of still there which is the fun of it so everything’s new but there’s still this familiarity of the show and we know how everybody treats each other and who, at the end of the day, all these people are, at their core, it hasn’t changed. So that’s really fun to watch.
TV Goodness: [Now that you’ve finished recording Season 8] when do you guys get started again?
Nash: We’re on break for now. Adam usually goes on some vision quest like out in the woods somewhere to recharge and get new ideas. I think that’s happening right now. And we’ll probably start recording again in August and who knows what’s going to happen… I can’t wait for him to come back and tell us what’s going to happen in Season 9.
Archer Season 8: Dreamland premieres April 5th on FXX. Seriously. Sploosh.
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