Aisha Tyler Dishes About Her Sexy Role On FX’s Archer

Aisha Tyler Dishes About Her Sexy Role On FX’s Archer
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Archer promo clip for tonight’s episode: “Skytanic”

I want to know just kind of in general on Archer, how do you get some of these lines out without just busting up, like, “My vulva is smoother than a veal cutlet.”  How do you say that line?

Aisha Tyler: I was just talking to somebody about this, and I was saying that this show is in some ways just a series of out-of-body experiences because I feel so much confusion and joy every time I go into the sound booth to record this stuff because it’s just such extraordinary language that I’ve never been able to use in television.  My background is in stand-up comedy where I’m very free to choose the words and ideas that I express, but when I’m acting, obviously, and especially when you’re doing network television, there are a lot of constraints.  So this show is just a joy to do.

I laugh constantly.  I’m incredibly undisciplined.  I fall all over the place.  I spit into the microphone.  I cackle.  Luckily for me Adam Reed (Archer‘s creator) is as much of a doof as I am, and so we kind of just crack each other up.  The session takes too long and the sound engineer in the booth is tapping his watch, and we don’t care.  We just lay on our backs like turtles and wave our legs in the air.  It’s a joy.  It’s a joy to make the show.

You’re so good at comedy, but I’ve also seen some of your dramatic work, like I saw the movie .45 that I thought you were so good in.  I wanted to know which muscle is more difficult for you, drama or comedy?

I’ll say two things about it.  Comedy is the muscle that I’ve trained probably the longest and the most intensively.  It’s how I got started in entertainment, and because I do stand-up and that’s really my own…. I’m on stage for an hour plus at a time, and it’s just me, and there are no lights and no do-overs.  It’s very strenuous, but it’s the muscle that’s most well trained.

I love doing drama, and when I started I was very lucky.  I did an episode of nip/tuck several years ago that was just an extraordinary role, and I was really fortunate to get it.  I was able to do something that I was really proud of with the role, and I started to get a lot of drama offers.  A lot of people are like, are you leaving comedy behind to do drama, and to me the transition’s been very natural and easy.  I enjoy drama.  It uses different parts of my brain.

I think if you look at some of the most celebrated dramatic actors right now, they came out of really strong and big, broad comedic backgrounds and Tom Hanks is a perfect example.  Everybody thinks about him as being this Oscar-winning actor with this incredible gravitas, but his first job on television Bosom Buddies.  For me I enjoy the challenge of drama because it’s a little bit outside of my wheelhouse.  I really love it.  It’s a different set of problems to solve, but comedy is definitely tougher.

When are you coming back to Chicago?

I’m booked at the Chicago Improv in May, my friend, May.  Let me look at my Google calendar and give you the exact, let’s see, I think it’s at the end of May, yes, 27th through the 30th.

What did you love about Lana, and is the sketch, is how she looks after you, or did you see the sketch first?

They created Lana’s look before they hired me.  I think they definitely had an idea in their head.  Whether they were thinking about me when they drew her, I don’t know because she does look like me, but they created just mad genius and…

It’s her personality that I love.  I love that she’s a beautiful person and she’s obviously a sexual person, but I don’t think that she’s precious with it, and that’s what I like about her.  It’s just an aspect of who she is.  She’s never trying to be cute.  She obviously knows that occasionally her sexuality is a weapon, but unlike Archer, who I think is a slave to his look, I think Lana is so badass that she would be attractive even if she wasn’t as stacked as she is, and by the way, she gets more and more stacked every episode.  She’s getting extraordinarily top-heavy.  At some point she’s just going to tip over onto her back, never be able to get up again, and just her lungs will crush under the weight of her chest like a lame horse.

Do you think you could get away with doing a live-action version of her?

If I had a penny for every fan that has already written me and asked me dress up like Lana, so…good Lord, people.  There’s porn on the Internet.  It’s free.  Don’t look at me.  I don’t know.  Adam and I have talked a lot about this, and Adam feels pretty strongly that part of the joy and the compulsion of the show is that it’s animated.  It allows us to be a little bit edgier and crazier than we could be if we were a live-action show.

Somehow some of these ridiculous things feel a little less ridiculous and a little less barbed coming out of a cartoon mouth.

I was wondering as an actress how do you prepare for you role in Archer, and is your method different from a live-action series?

Well, I could tell you the truth which is I don’t prepare at all.  I just kind of show up and see what happens.  Luckily for me this is such a well-written show and the lines are so fun to say that I don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure out what my internal process is or what my character is thinking.  I feel like she’s really strongly drawn.  Adam and I spent some time really crafting her in the early episodes, and so I know how she thinks and feels, and so my main goal is just to try to say the line in the funniest way possible.

One nice thing about doing animation is you get to go in and do the line over and over again until you say it the funniest possible way you think you can, and then we play sometimes.  We change words around.  I ad lib.  Adam says we’ve done it, now go nuts.  What would you say here?  What would Lana say, and so we really get to play a lot.  I like it to just be organic and in the moment versus when you’re doing live action and you’ve got to hit a mark and you’ve got to react to the other actor’s lines and how they’re looking at you.  Those things can constrain in some ways how you perform and deliver lines.

We just try to get in there and just be funny, and we’ve got the luxury of time.  We don’t have 200 people waiting to light the next scene, so we just go until something great happens.  Sometimes it happens right away, and sometimes we just hammer at it until we either get something awesome or Adam gives up on me.  Most of the time we find really fun ways to deliver the lines, and we’ve got the freedom just to go nuts until it happens.

How has working on an animated series affected your standup routine?

I will say that the tenor of my audience is changing in a great way.  I have very old school fans who…Talk Soup and everything like that, but I have a lot of fans who know me from things like The Ghost Whisperer and 24 and CSI.  Sometimes those people are sampling my show because they don’t know me as a comic, but now I have fans who know me again, who’ve met me as a comedic actress, and they’re coming because they’re fans of Archer.

My show is very edgy, especially if you’re a fan of The Ghost Whisperer.  You might not be prepared for my live show.  It’s a little bit…it’s got a little bit more of a razor on it than my role on The Ghost Whisperer.  I get up and I do what I do, and it’s really high-energy, and it’s intense, and it’s definitely for grownups, and I’m getting new fans from Archer for whom that is a perfect, perfect fit, so that’s been wonderful.  I’ve been doing stand-up for 16 years now, so my stand-up tends to influence my other work and not the other way around.

Following up on that last question, if you had an opportunity to guest cast Archer and you could invite a handful of your favorite female comics as sort of a Mata Hari kind of guest star on Archer, who would they be and why?  Who do love?  Who would you invite to the party?

Well, the person that I think is most interesting and unusual and wonderful right now is Maria Bamford, and I don’t think that people know her well enough.  She’s so odd and so wonderful and so perfect for animation.  People might know her best from maybe Comedians of Comedy.  She just did a really funny, great multiple character ad campaign for Target I think over the holidays.  She’s just weird and awesome, and I love her.

Another comedian who I think is really funny and dry and razor sharp is Sue Murphy.  Again, she’s probably somebody that people don’t know that well, but she’s somebody I really idolized when I was a baby comedian.  I’m sure she would hate me to say that out loud because it makes her sound like she’s a million which she’s not, but she’s someone who I think is really funny and dry and sarcastic and wonderful.  Yes, those are two people I think are pretty cool.

If I could just flip it for the guys, is there a small group of male comedians that kind of … the same way?

He’s not a comedian, but I just want Jason Bateman to do the show because I think he’s like the funniest thing in the whole world, and I stalk him kind of professionally on a regular basis.  This is probably starting to creep him out.  I’m sure he’s like, please, stop having your agents call me.  I think he’s rad, and we already have almost the entire cast of Arrested Development involved in this show in some way, so he’s just like, he’s the linchpin of Adam and my, really Adam’s mad plan, but I’ve inserted myself into his plan.

Archer is one of  a trend of shows where none of the characters are particularly relatable, and there’s sort of a remove in terms of their sheer reprehensibility.  What I’m wondering is, like most comics, you probably find doing stand-up therapeutic.  Is there a similar kind of thing going on with playing Lana?

For sure, absolutely.  First of all, one thing I really love about Lana is that she’s very self-actualized.  She rarely has self-doubt which we’d all love to be in that position where you know who you are, and you say what you think, and you don’t fear consequences.  Because there are a million times in our life where we would like to tell some jackass to get away from us, and Lana’s the person that would do it and maybe shoot him if he didn’t back off quick enough, so it’s incredibly enjoyable to play her.  Does she have issues?  Of course she has issues.  She just doesn’t care, and that’s another thing.  I think we’re all affected by our submerged psychic scars, and Lana has buried them that she cares not to ever unearth, so she’s incredibly fun to play.

They’re all reprehensible in their own way, but there’s a purity I think in how id all the characters are.  It’s just like all the affectations and the kind of modern day social courtesies, and especially the kind of intra-office courtesies that we all engage in have fallen away.  Because these people are engaged in a very dangerous line of work and could be killed at any moment, they’re just pure in their expression, and that is a blast.

I remember watching the ad campaign for this show before it came on, and they created these beautiful standalone ads that weren’t excerpts from the show.  They were just these beautiful, little, funny vignettes, and some of the things that the characters were saying were just unacceptable, like they were outrageous.  I just remember laughing so hard at the shock of seeing something on television that didn’t feel modulated or pared down.  It just felt like our pure goal here is to make you laugh.

It’s okay to like these people.  It’s okay not to like them because the goal is not to bring you into a family and give you a hug.  The goal here is to create situations and interactions that are funny and extraordinary, and we want to show you a good time.  That’s our goal.

Is there any one character on the show that you most enjoy sparring with?  Is it actually Archer or maybe Mama?

It’s funny that Mallory and Lana had a great, really snappy interaction in the last show in the, I can’t think of the name of the boat.  I can’t think of the name of the episode, but I’ll think about it in a minute.  The “Skorpio” episode when they were kind of having this really great, almost kind of wonderfully acidic girls’ moment when they were traveling to Europe, and that was just really fun.  It was quick, and it was funny.  In some ways they had things in common, and in other ways they didn’t, and they were both these kind of self-made career women, so that was really fun to watch.  I loved that.

I also loved later in “Skorpio” when Lana and Archer were running around in their underpants firing guns and yelling about how they were going to cut the other person out of their insurance plan.  That was really satisfying.  I like Lana and Archer most when they’re really sparring and not just being pissed at each other, and there’s the duality of them kind of still being attracted to each other and also being furious with each other.  That’s really fun for me, but yes, it’ll be neat to see Lana and, Lana in some ways … Mallory, and it’ll be interesting to see where her life might go if she stays in the business.

What’s the one thing you want people to take away from watching this show?

That Archer is the funniest show on TV.  That’s what I want them to take away, and that it deserves to be a cult hit and be on the air for many, many years and then finally explode into the film world with an X-Files-like, but more successful than the first X-Files film feature.

So you would like to do a feature then?

I would love to do that.  I’ve already told Adam that we have to do a feature … and then do a big badass, like, twisted Bond, like just an upside-down, crazy, booze-addled Bond super-epic.  Think about how much more epic Bond could be if you didn’t have to pay to blow things up?  You could just draw explosions.  It just would be, like, just two and a half hours of explosions, and then it could be in 3D.  I’m getting so excited talking about it.

I love that the show is edgy and that it’s pushing the limits of what could be done comedically on TV.  I think there are so many more stories and so many more situations that we have to tell.  We’ve spent this season really establishing these relationships and these characters, and it’s going to be really, really fun to see where they go to see them fail, to see them succeed, and to see them fail again.  I’d love people to fall in love with this group of people.

I love that there’s a real aspect of the office comedy here, and it’s not just about spies being badass.  It’s about spies being pissed because they haven’t used up their flex account in their medical insurance.  Those things are the most luscious to me, and I also love how indiscriminately slutty everybody is on the show.  I don’t know why, but I think that’s hilarious.

I love also that like it’s not just the hot people that get laid.  The really unattractive people get laid too because that’s real life.  You see a Bond movie, only sexy people have sex, and then the ugly people get pushed out the back of a speedboat, but on our show, everybody gets a little bit, and I think that’s nice.  That’s what I want people to take away.  Everybody deserves love.

Archer airs Thursdays on FX at 10 PM EST.

Official Archer Website

Official Aisha Tyler Website

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