After a sneak peek at the upcoming sixth season premiere of “Archer” at the Vancouver International Film Festival Industry Conference, Indiewire critic Liz Shannon Miller interviewed creator Adam Reed about its origins and his “big, big idea” for a companion show that never came to fruition. “Archer” recently reaped its first-ever Emmy bid for Best Animated Program but lost to “Bob’s Burgers.”
Reed revealed that he pitched the spy comedy to several networks, including ABC Family, which he wryly noted was “obviously a bad fit.” With regard to the animating, he said that his company uses Adobe Illustrator and After Effects and admitted, “That is the most cumbersome and ungainly way to make a cartoon, but it’s too late to change now!” He revaled he had initially hoped to differentiate the animation by regularly varying character outfits, but executive producer Matt Thompson convinced him of the logistical challenges to do so and berates him for “money out the door” when the plot necessitates it now.
Inspired by old James Bond novels, Reed wanted to explore how someone could be so despicable, yet simultaneously lovable and created the character of Sterling Archer. He also explained that the sixties period piece “Mad Men” was new when he was conceptualizing his show. “Let’s just rip that off and give them a cell phone and we’re done,” he recalled thinking at the time, as he hoped to emanate the “amazing” look of that four-time Emmy champ for Best Drama Series. FX initially requested someone more “suave” with “movie star” quality to voice Archer, but Reed was a fan of H. Jon Benjamin and sneakily recorded a version of the pilot with him. Impressed, the network accepted the casting.
The character of Archer’s mother Malory was envisioned as a cross between Judi Dench’s portrayal of “M” in recent “James Bond” films and Jessica Walter’s Lucille Bluth from the gaffer “Arrested Development.” After locking in Walter, Reed used the opportunity to work with the Emmy-nominated actress as his calling card when trying to cast specific actors for other characters, even though voice actors on the show have rarely met. Indeed, Amber Nash and Lucky Yates are the only two cast members based in Atlanta while Reed directs the performances of the others by telephone.
While FX has long been pushing Reed to create a companion show, it rejected his pilot for “King’s Road.” Set in 1720s England in the fictional village of Fappingwood, the show was to follow horse-riding bandits. The network nixed the concept at the pitch stage, but Reed, believing that he had struck creative gold, proceeded to script and cast it himself. “I wrote the pilot in two and a half days; I just couldn’t type fast enough,” Reed elaborated on his excitement. Even with Emmy champ Stephen Merchant and BAFTA winner Dawn French as voice artists, it did not get picked up. “That was kind of heartbreaking,” Reed revealed.