Judy Greer Spills The Beans On Being Archer’s Cheryl/Carol!

cheryl ARCHER:  Judy Greer as the voice of Cheryl". CR: FX

Judy Greer is all over the place lately. Besides playing the fluctuatingly named Cheryl/Carol on Archer [FX, Thursdays, 10/9C], she’s one of four leads on the unusual CBS sitcom Mad Love; appeared in half a dozen movies in 2010, and has three more coming out this year.

Recently, I had the opportunity to take part in a conference call with her about her role as Cheryl/Carol, semi-competent/totally dim secretary to Mallory Archer on the FX animated spy comedy, Archer. It seems that Cheryl/Carol has an unusual phobia – and an even bigger secret [or three – but you’ll have to watch Thursday’s episode for those – some secrets are just to juicy to spoil]!

I was wondering how did you first get started in animation and what was it about Archer that made you decide to do the show.

Judy Greer: My first experience in animation, I think I did like one word on Family Guy like 100 years ago. I mean, seriously, like ten years ago, I think I said one word on an episode and I was excited about that. Then, I did this little tiny role in a movie, a Japanese animated zone called The Cat Returns, another tiny role on that. Then I auditioned for this Nickelodeon show called Glenn Martin DDS and got booked on that.

Then while that was happening, I just was on location working on a movie and I got sent the script for Archer and they just said, “Yes, they just offered it, so you can just do this like on your day off in a local sound recording studio in Phoenix,” which I did. I read the script before I went in and it was so dirty, I was like this is never going to make it on the air, but like whatever, I’ll make a couple of bucks for the day, my day off, anyways. Then, who knew? It was snowballing and become like—like I loved it, but I always feel like whenever I love something, it never makes it on television, which is probably why all my pilots have failed until now. But, like it’s just so—it was so good and funny and silly and naughty and dirty and I was excited about it. That’s my voice-over history.

Did you do any special training for voice acting or does it just come natural?

Greer: No, I didn’t actually. I mean when I was in acting school, I trained my voice, but I wouldn’t say that I’ve done special training since. I mean there’s certain like tricks of the trade that you learn to do like don’t eat a lot of cheese the day before your recording. For some reason, it makes you really mucousy. It’s gross, I know, sorry, but no, I don’t have to do anything specific. It’s fun when I get to play a small part on Archer where I’ll be another character for a few lines—like a stewardess or whatever, an old person, or a slut, whatever—and that’s kind of fun, because I get to change my voice, but no, I don’t really do anything specific. I find that I’m better if I can perceive myself and thankfully, they let me do that.

As Kitty on Arrested Development, you were able to use your physicality to enhance the comedy of a crazy character. How does your approach change in preparing a similarly off Cheryl when you have just your voice as your tool?

Greer: Well, funny that you bring up Kitty, because what I did with Kitty is kind of how I feel like what I do with Cheryl/Carol because even though Kitty—in Arrested Development it was live-action so you got to see all the crazy things I was doing to get that performance. Like, I’m pretty much doing the same thing. It’s just in a booth with one sound engineer watching me. But I find that in performing a character like this—really, I think when you’re just counting on your voice, you actually need double the energy, so I do find myself acting out the scenes and being very physical while I’m recording because I think you can tell when someone is just like sitting on a stool like me now. But, when I’m like acting out the scenes or I’m like really broad and physical, like it helps my vocal quality and I think it helps the energy of the scene and so I do the same thing. I kind of do. It’s just that you’re only hearing it this time.

I was just wondering because Cheryl/Carol has such a big secret – how has she managed to keep such a bombshell secret while working for ISIS? I mean, they might not be the brightest intelligence agency in the world or even in the U.S. for that matter, but hello, intelligence agency.

Greer: I know. I feel like she hasn’t—I mean my interpretation of it, Adam Reed could disagree with me, but my interpretation is that she isn’t trying to keep the secret. That she doesn’t care. Like, she changed her last name to avoid getting kidnapped, but really, if anyone figured it out and asked her, she’d just probably be like ‘Yeah, shut up!’ or ‘whatever.’ I feel like everyone at ISIS is so self-involved and so concerned with furthering their own agenda that it would never occur to them to think that anyone else has anything else going on besides like what their idea is.

I love Cheryl’s excuse for why she’s late for work. Keeping with that …, what are the creepiest things that you have ever seen on a train and how do they compare to what creeps Cheryl out?

Greer: I get a little skeeved out by like walk of shame home or like ride of shame home in New York City on the train. Like when you see people who clearly haven’t gone to bed yet and are still in like last night’s going out disco outfit, that creeps me out. Even though you see it a lot, I’m still always like, “Ah, I feel ashamed. I feel like I’m with them and then I’m going to have a bad day.” I don’t like it.

Now, how does it compare to what creeps out Cheryl?

Greer: I don’t know. Cheryl’s so weird and she doesn’t know what cancer is. She thinks midgets are probably monsters. I think that my creepiness is more like narcissistic I guess. I just like get creeped out by things like when I feel like, “Oh God, I’ve been there and it sucks!” Whereas, Cheryl gets more creeped out over things that she doesn’t know about or understand.

What is it like to play a character that switches names? Do you feel more like Cheryl or a Carol?

Greer: I don’t feel more like either and I think it’s awesome. I think that it’s funny because my name is Judy and so for my whole life I’ve been called some version of Judy because sometimes it’s Julie. When I was young and I was really shy, I would be too shy to correct people and so a lot of people would call me Julie. So, it kind of feels like home to me to have two names.


Do you do the same sort of preparation for a voice-over job as you do an acting job?

Greer: No, I probably prepare a little bit more for an acting job only because there’s so many more people involved and I don’t want anyone waiting for me ever. When I go to record Archer or any voice-over for that matter, it does really feel like it’s all about me and I have a lot of freedom and all the time I need. So I feel like I can play more like in the room, in the recording studio, then I don’t need to come in as totally prepared.

Also, too I know that when it’s just me in there recording, I don’t have to really do anything—I don’t have to change anything based on what other people are doing or what is being asked of me. It’s me recording and Adam Reed’s on the phone telling me what to do. We just do it instead of saying like, “Oh, I was going to do it like this, but now he’s performing the scene like that,” or, “His choices are different than I thought they were, so I need to make my adjustments.” So, it’s like, I feel like when I’m shooting something live action, I have to go in with a lot of choices in case things change. But Adam is so awesome and gives me like space so we figure it out while they’re recording what it is. I just try to read the script and then read the scene a couple of times. Then I go in and we totally play and have so much fun.

Do you have like any sort of nightmare audition story?

Greer: A couple of things—like well, one time, I auditioned for this TV pilot. My character was supposed to get shot at the end of the audition with this laser gun that makes things implode. So I was doing the audition scene and then, it was like over basically and the director was like, “You didn’t implode,” and I was like, “Well, yeah, I know, I know. Thankfully, I didn’t implode, but like I figured that is something you’ll do ….” He’s like, “No, I need to see you implode.” I was like, “Really, dude?” He is like, “You didn’t finish the scene.”

So, I do the whole scene over again and then when I get shot with a laser beam, I just pretended like I was imploding and I was screaming and like collapsing. I tried to get myself into the smallest ball I could on the floor. I was just basically laying there in fetal, like trying not to let him see me laughing because I was like, “This is so ridiculous!” Then, of course, everyone in the room was laughing at me and I felt like I was being made fun of. Then, I went out in the waiting room and all the people in the waiting room were just staring at me like I had ten heads because I know I was screaming really loud because I remember my choir teacher in high school saying, “When in doubt, sing loud.” So, I just thought I’ll scream my head off. I did not get that part by the way. Shocking, I know.

Now, Cheryl/Carol had a lot of outrageous moments. Do you have a favorite?

Greer: Well, I do always love when I was getting strangled while having sex. That was outrageous. That was so outrageous to me, but I have to say that like, I know I’m doing press for my upcoming episode, but the beginning of that episode is so funny. I love throwing Pam under the bus almost literally. It makes me laugh so hard when I just keep screaming that her name is Carol and it’s so funny to me. I love her back and forth with Pam in that beginning episode.

Have you ever had a moment conversely where you’re like, ‘This is way too outrageous and it’s never going to work.’

Greer: No, not on this show. I’m always shocked at how everything—really everything ends up in there. I think everything ends up. I can’t ever remember thinking like, “Oh yeah! That got cut!” I mean, I trust them to just do it all. I mean, what more could they do? It’s so naughty!

How would you describe yourself as an actress and what do you want people to know about you and your work?

Greer: I would describe myself as a fun actress; as an actress who—I don’t know, maybe like a shape shifter? I feel like I can—I’ve been able to in my career to play a lot of different types of roles. What was the second part?

What do you do want people to know most about you and your work?

Greer: I guess I would want people to know that I’m really happy with my career. I sometimes get asked questions a lot like, “Don’t you wish—” because I do supporting roles a lot, like people say like—“Don’t you wish you were the star? Don’t you wish you were the star?” That question makes me think like, “Do you think I’m not happy?” Like, that I don’t have an acting career, because I totally do! Like, I guess, I would want people to know that I’m really thrilled with how everything is turning out for me. Yes, I think I’m like—I would say I’m like a hardworking, but fun actress. That’s—

Is there anyone that you would like to see star on Archer, like do a guest starring appearance?

Greer: Matt Damon, because then I could meet him, maybe if he was in L.A. when he did it and if they’d schedule us back to back, I would totally send a mean letter to someone in charge. I guess, I would like to see people star on Archer who I want to meet, but only if they’re in L.A. like Matt Damon or I think it’d be really fun to have Sarah Silverman on it. I don’t know if she’s been on it. It feels like she should have but maybe, she hasn’t. She’d be … awesome—oops, I swore, sorry. Michael Hall would be so fun to have on Archer. He’s such a great voice! I feel like I could go on and on—

S. Seomin [FX]: Judy, if we get Matt Damon, we’ll just schedule you in the booth at the same time, not back to back.

Greer: Yes because he might need to have some pointers even though he did … Happy Feet.

S. Seomin [FX]: Well, I just thought you could just spend time in the booth alone with him.

Greer: Yes, no I should probably—maybe, when Jody goes to get lunch.

S. Seomin [FX]: Exactly. Which—I don’t know if everyone is on the line, Judy so I’m going to put you on the spot if you can talk about the process and the fact that you guys don’t record together and how long it takes and how long before you met everybody. Everything is just done so over the wires.

Greer: Yes, we never see each other ever. I think one time I got to—Aisha who was coming in as I was leaving. The first time I really met everyone was at Comic-Con this year when we all went and they showed an episode and we did a panel and everything. Usually what happens is like when we’re in production, I would say about every two weeks they call and schedule around my schedule, which is so lovely, a 30-minute block of time for me to go in and say my lines. Adam Reeds writes every episode. He does it with me usually over the phone. Sometimes, it’s someone else, but most of the time it’s Adam. He’s over the phone in my headphones when I’m in the recording studio and he reads all the scenes with me. We just do it over and over and over a handful of times until he’s laughing out loud and then we move on.

It’s really fun. It’s really easy and they’ll email me the script a couple of days beforehand. Like I said, if I’m working on something else, or whatever, they just work around my schedule. On my end, it couldn’t be simpler. The weird thing is that when you watch the episodes—when I watch the episodes, I feel like I see so much chemistry between us all and we’re never together ever. I mean, we’re together when we have to do these publicity events, but otherwise, we don’t record together. We record with Adam. Like Adam just knows exactly what he wants and he’s able to translate it when he’s reading with us like so well and it makes us— So then when he cuts all the voices together, it really—I mean it’s magic. But it does seem like we’re all talking to each other at the same time and reacting to the same thing and that … tonally, I’m always so surprised that like tonally, it always works. That you don’t have anyone that seems like they’re in a different episode. I’m impressed. The end.

S. Seomin [FX]: And no—for Archer, Judy, no hair, makeup and wardrobe, right?

Greer: Oh God, that’s the best part. Yes. The studio where we record is a five-minute drive from my house, which is saying a lot for Los Angeles. Yes, it’s great. I mean I can go from the gym if I have to—I mean, it’s just wonderful. Yes, that part of it is great. It’s just so convenient. You don’t have to get dressed although I do wear clothes there, but I wouldn’t have to…