For the past nine seasons, FX has had an animated hit on their hands in the form of Archer. The Emmy award winning series is an animated spy comedy following the exploits of Sterling Archer and his colleague at a spy agency (originally ISIS) based in New York City. It has evolved in its nine seasons on air to include story arcs about drug smuggling and the launch of a PI agency in Los Angeles.
Archer boasts an impressive cast that includes H. Jon Benjamin (Bob’s Burgers) as Sterling Archer, Jessica Walter (Arrested Development) as Mallory Archer, Aisha Tyler (Criminal Minds) as Lana Kana, Judy Greer (Married) as Cheryl Tunt, Amber Nash (Frisky Dingo) as Pam Poovey, Chris Parnell (30 Rock) as Cyril Figgis, Lucky Yates (Frisky Dingo) as Doctor Krieger, and series creator Adam Reed as Ray Gilette. FX has renewed the series through season ten.
To mark the recent launch of the show’s ninth season (subtitled Danger Island) on Netflix UK, TVWise caught up with Amber Nash, who has voiced the part of Pam Poovey since the pilot in 2009. In the below interview we discuss how she got involved with the show, whether Archer could have been a success anywhere other than FX, what fans can expect from season nine and much more.
TVWise: Archer has been a bit of a sleeper show over here – it was dropped by its original broadcaster and only landed on Netflix UK a couple of years ago. So for those unfamiliar with it, how would you describe the show?
Amber Nash: Wow. From the beginning? It’s changed so much in the last few seasons, but to begin with I’d say that it’s a spy thriller comedy with a main character that has mummy issues.
TVWise: How did you first get involved with series creator Adam Reed and then Archer itself?
Amber Nash: I live in Atlanta, where they were making a show for a different network called Adult Swim. They were making small little shows for Adult Swim and they were making a show called Frisky Dingo. They knew me because I was a theater actor in town – I do improv theater. People that worked for them also worked for the theater that I worked with and so we kind of knew each other. We were a small improv comedy and they were a small animation company. They needed someone to do a voice for them for Frisky Dingo and they asked me to do it. I was completely wrong for it – the role that I auditioned for. But then the role changed and they ended up bringing me back in, so I did two seasons of that show with them. When Archer came along I didn’t even audition for the show, they just asked me to play Pam.
TVWise: Had you done any voice over work before Frisky Dingo?
Amber Nash: Not really, that was kind of my first thing. I had done a little bit of commercial stuff for radio, but nothing significant. Luckily, because I had an improv background, I had done quite a few character voices for stage work, but I had never put those two things together. If I had only done radio and wasn’t an improviser and hadn’t done stage work, I don’t think I would have been able to do good character voice work. But luckily those two things came together and made it happen.
TVWise: Archer has a pretty impressive cast but I understand that you guys don’t record together or do table reads etc. Did that take some getting used to?
Amber Nash: You know it might have taken some getting used to for some other people on the cast. For me, I’d never done it any other way, because that’s always how these guys did stuff. And I think being in Atlanta and making shows in Atlanta just made it have to be that way for these guys, so that’s how they got used to doing it and just how it happened. For me it was how it had always been done. I think for other people, particular for Jessica Walter and Judy Greer and those guys, they were probably like ‘this is quite odd’. [LAUGHS] Also, I didn’t meet most of the cast until after season two was done airing. We’d never even been in a room together, but now we all know each other and are friends. People always say that it’s amazing that we don’t record together, because I know that [on] Bob’s Burgers they record all day and they improvise and they kind of screw around every episode. It sounds like a dream! I think it’d be really fun to do it, but I’ve just never had the opportunity.
TVWise: You said you’ve all since become friends, do you get together a lot outside of the production cycle?
Amber Nash: Yeah, we do. We see each at events like San Diego Comic Con or when we got nominated for Emmys. Or if I’m in LA, which happens a few times a year, I’ll reach out to Aisha and we’ll go have dinner. We don’t see each other a ton, but we do get to see each other. I always say that I think the reason we get along after ten years is that we don’t work together, so we never have to see each other [LAUGHS].
TVWise: While Archer is on Netflix over here, it came about before streaming networks were really a thing. Do you think the show could have been a success anywhere other than FX?
Amber Nash: You know, I don’t. It was kind of a special time and that was kind of the very beginning of FX. They’re so cool about just letting creators do their thing and just giving them free rein. That’s why I think they’ve been so successful over the years and had so many huge hits, because they give them the money that they need and they let creators create big shows. Archer really benefited from that and because it was a young network at the time, Archer kind of grew up with it. I don’t think it would have been given as many seasons to flourish as it was given on FX if it had been on a major network like Fox or NBC. It would have been cancelled after the first or second season. So I think that was part of it too; that we had so many seasons to get going. We had some critical success in the beginning, critics liked it, but people didn’t really get what was going on with the show or really get into it until season three or four. [Being on FX] definitely made a big difference.
TVWise: I have to ask the ISIS question. What was your reaction when you saw that name popping up in the news after you’d been doing the show for a few seasons?
Amber Nash: I was like ‘oh. Oh no, that’s really bad!’ The funny thing is, having known Adam Reed and [executive producer] Matt Thompson for so long and getting their sense of humour, the way they dealt with it – in an episode just in the background, they never even mention it, you just see two workers taking down the ISIS sign and rolling it away and that’s all they ever say about it – is just so classic those guys, which I really appreciate. There’s lots of inside jokes, there’s lots of stuff that gets mentioned and then never brought back ever again. The wee baby Seamus is one that you’re just like ‘what happened to that?’ Or ‘what ever happened to Pam’s puppet?’ So I appreciated that that’s kind of that best, the most gracious way they could of dealt with it was just like ‘you know what? This isn’t a thing anymore.’ I always find it funny too when I go to Comic-Con or something like that and I see people that have old Archer t-shirts that say ISIS on them and they’re still wearing them. It’s a very bold move [LAUGHS].
TVWise: You’ve been playing Pam for nine years now, what’s your take on the character?
Amber Nash: I think she’s really incredible. In the beginning she was kind of just a punching bag; they needed somebody to be the butt of the joke and Pam did it gracefully. Over a couple of seasons… by the beginning of season two, I think that Adam started to realise that Pam could do a lot more stuff and so every time he needed something he’d give it to Pam to do. Eventually she grew into this insanely capable character that could do anything and had superhuman strength, but still at the end of the day I think she is kind of the heart too – she really is sweet and does really care about all these assholes. It’s been quite a jot to get to play that character, because she’s a lot more nuanced than you’d think an animated character could be. I’m really proud of her. She’s become kind of a body positive, sex positive, sex symbol. The fact that Pam was in the Sports Illustrated Swim Suit Edition a few years ago was such a highlight. I really have enjoyed playing that character.
TVWise: I understand that you also run a Twitter account for Pam?
Amber Nash: Yeah! I guess it was probably season three or four that we started Twitter accounts and [executive producer] Matt Thompson asked if I wanted to write Pam’s Twitter feed. I got very nervous about it because the character is so well written by Adam that I was like ‘I can’t possibly try to write this character.’ But then he was like ‘just give it a try and send a bunch of samples. Send like twenty sample tweets of what you would write as Pam’. It actually became a really fun project, but I sent my first twenty tweets and Matt Thompson was like ‘Amber, these are entirely too dirty’. And I was like ‘what are you talking about?!’ It’s been really fun because I have been able to develop this whole other side of her life: what she does when she’s not at work, and what her apartment’s like and what she does on the weekend. It’s been really fun.
TVWise: We’ve seen a lot of different sides of Pam over the past nine seasons, what’s been your favourite aspect of that character?
Amber Nash: Season five – lots of people loved it and lots of people didn’t love it. I think it’s because it was the first time people saw the show kind of change, when it was Archer: Vice. I really enjoyed that season and that version of Pam. She was addicted to cocaine, which is an unsavoury bit of it [LAUGHS], but she was a big part of the season which was really fun. And I think that was the season where we got to see Archer and Pam’s relationship develop, because at the end of the day they kind of are best friends in the worst kind of way. I really enjoyed that part of it. I also really liked their relationship in Danger Island, which is season nine. That was another really fun one and it was for the same reason; it was because I got to see Pam and Archer together, which is one of my favourite things about the show.
TVWise: Archer has changed over the years. It started out as a show set in a spy agency, then there was the drug smuggling, a season as a PI firm, and for the past few seasons it’s been dreamland sequences taking place in Archer’s mind while he’s in a coma. What have you made of that evolution?
Amber Nash: Personally, I enjoy it. If you’re gonna be doing comedy and you’re not pissing people off, then you’re not doing it right. I think that you’ve got to take risks and you cant make everybody happy all the time. If the show was the exact same for nine/ten seasons, there’s plenty of people that would like it, but there’s plenty of people who would get bored by it too. I think that Adam was starting to feel a little restless and he wanted to get that shot of the adrenaline again by the unknown, so I think that he kind of started to branch out. And FX, being the network that they are, were just like ‘go for it.’ He’s really started to have fun. I’ve enjoyed it too because as an actor getting to play the same character for many years is wonderful, but then getting to play that same character with a filter over it, or a challenge behind it, or something different that you get to sink your teeth into has been really fun.
TVWise: Archer: Danger Island just recently launched on Netflix UK. What can you tell us about the new season?
Amber Nash: Season eight, Dreamland, was kind of dark and noir and it was purposefully that way. Season nine is back to whacky hijinks, brightness, colour, and these guys being stupid and getting into stupid situations. It’s really fun. Its very over the top. I love the island scene – you just want to get a Mai Tai and sit down and watch it. It’s definitely them back to their old kooky ways.
TVWise: Last season Pam was this noir detective, what’s she up to this season?
Amber Nash: When they described the season to me before we got started and they were kind of like ‘this is what we’re planning on doing. Archer’s gonna be a pilot and Pam’s gonna basically be his Chewbacca’ She’s gigantic. If you see her next to Archer or Cyril, she’s like seven feet tall and jacked – she’s so muscular [LAUGHS]. She’s definitely keeping Archer in line this season and keeping him out of trouble.
TVWise: There series has already been renewed for a tenth season and there’s been different stories emerging as to whether or not that will be the final season. Do you think there’s more life in Archer beyond season ten?
Amber Nash: I just don’t know. I would love to know as much as anybody. I think that if Adam had the free rein to keep taking it in whatever direction he wanted to, he could go on like this forever. I don’t know what the network is thinking, [but] I think that they would probably let him keep doing the show too. I think it’s a matter of what Adam wants the future of the show to be, so I really have no idea. I hope, for my sake, it goes on forever and ever and its like The Simpsons and I can just work on voice over forever. I have no idea. Hopefully we’ll find out by the beginning of the year and if it is gonna be out last season, we’ll find out with enough time to kind of wrap it up nicely.
TVWise: Is there anything you can tease about season ten?
Amber Nash: We know that season ten is going to be in space and you find that out in the very end of season nine. But that’s all we know and we’ve only recorded the first couple episodes of season ten, so we’re still not sure exactly what’s happening yet.
All nine seasons of Archer are now available to stream on Netflix UK.