Judy Greer is practically the definition of a working actor – she’s got 98 credits to her name, beginning with a small role on an Early Edition episode in 1997. Since then, she’s been pretty much a fixture in films big and small, and on television (usually in series that were brilliant but cancelled).
Since 2009, she’s voiced everyone’s favorite huffing firebug billionaire receptionist/country-singer-wannabe, Carol/Cheryl/Cherlene on TV’s best animated series, Archer (FX, Thursday, 10/9C). Recently, I had the pleasure of taking part in a conference call Q&A with Greer about what has turned into her longest-running gig. She was, as always, charming and enthusiastic.
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Judy Greer: Hi.
How are you?
Judy: I’m awesome. How are you?
Very good. Very good. You know, to me it just seems surprising and the time has flown by so quickly that you’re already into the sixth season. I was just wondering for you does it feel like it’s been six seasons and do you ever wonder what can they come up with next?
Judy: Well, I did wonder that, I guess, after the fourth season and then there was Archer Vice and I was like, oh, yes. That’s what they’re going to do, make it totally different. It was really fun. I can’t really believe it’s been so long because I think all of the cast members would answer the same that none of us ever thought it was even going to get picked up in the first place. So, like, we’re always just thrilled every year when we get our pickup.
It just feels, I don’t know, to me it still feels as fresh. I still laugh out loud every time I read a new script and that’s really rare. I really, I don’t know, I think that they’ve managed to keep the level—it’s stays as funny or it doesn’t seem like they’re losing energy or steam at all when they’re writing. Yes. It feels just as fresh as the beginning to me, honestly.
You’ve been so busy with a bunch of other projects, as well. You’ve got a bunch of movies coming out this year and everything. How do you balance that with the schedule of doing the voice-over for the series?
Judy: Well, the guys at Archer make it really easy for all of us. I can record it anywhere I am if there’s a recording studio and that’s pretty cool. Where ever I am on location I can usually, even in the weirdest little places, usually there’s probably a recording studio and so we just work it out like that. I think one of the things that they liked about casting all of us is that we all work a lot and we all are very busy. They just make it really easy for us. And those on TV animated shows record the cast all together which seems like it’d be really fun but I’m really glad Archer doesn’t do that. That would make it a lot harder.
Season 6 is sort of bringing Archer back to basics a little bit and leaving behind the last year’s story line. You had to say goodbye to Cherlene.
Judy: I know. What a drag.
What I wanted to ask you is how much are you going to miss her and are the producers making it up to you with something juicy for this season?
Judy: This season has been crazy. I’m going to miss “Cherlene,” but all good things must come to an end, I guess. They, I feel like, have definitely made it up to me this season. This season has just been really fun because now we work for the CIA so that changes everything. We have a boss. We never really had a boss before, you know. I mean, we had “Malory” but not a boss-boss.
We were just like our own thing. It’s fun. It’s fun to see like how it’s changing all the characters like having to work for the CIA. I loved Archer Vice so much but I’ve been really into this season because it’s just fun to kind of go back to what we were doing in the beginning.
Sure. Yes. Just a quick follow-up. You’re not just working for the CIA but the back of the house gang is doing a bit of babysitting this season also.
Judy: I know.
Is that the correct impression that I see the baby is sort of affecting everybody not just Lana and Archer?
Judy: Yes. The baby’s become a real pain in our a**, man. We’re expected to deal with this baby a lot which we were not ready for. But it makes for a good comedy.
You’re not really appropriate caretakers.
Judy: I think so. No.
Thank you so much for speaking with us today.
Judy: I’m very thrilled you guys still want to talk to us. Thank God.
Of course. My question for you is, at this point in the game, are there any scripts that you get that still catch you off guard, surprise you a little bit, or are you just kind of used to it and you’re like what kind of madness do the guys have in store for me this go around?
Judy: You know, it’s funny because there was one major thing that happened this season that like blew me away. When I was reading it I couldn’t believe it happened. It was because it was like the opposite of a terrible thing. I don’t want to be a spoiler but it was a nice cool thing. Now that’s what blows me away when I read the script. It’s never like, how can you say that or how can we do that? But this one particular thing that happened towards the end of the season. I was like, what, because it was kind of awesome.
I just wanted to say I’m a big fan of Fatty Magoo, first of all. Anytime that’s going to come back we’re all for it, the [It’s Always] Sunny [in Philadelphia] fans. I dig it for sure.
Judy: Thank you. I hope they bring me back. I would do anything for them.
They’re a blast. They’ve got to be a blast.
Judy: Yes. They’re so—but also, I mean I hate to sound so mid-western but they’re so nice too. They’re so terrible on that TV show that they make, and then when you see them they’re just like, “Hi, Judy. How are you?” I’m like, I can’t believe they say hi to me. I was only on their show a couple of times.
Yes. I’m from Philadelphia, and see we’re not all that bad. We get a bad rap.
Judy: Yes. You guys are the best. I love Philadelphia. It’s so much fun making a movie there. I always hope I get to go back.
The question I had to ask is it seems like everybody on Archer says some pretty wheeled off stuff.
It seems like you get almost the majority of it. Every time I watch it I say there’s no way this could be an actual show. If we were seeing you and it wasn’t a cartoon there was just live action, there’s no way you could get away with it. I don’t think. Does that kind of make it easier for you to say that stuff because it’s pretty hard core?
Judy: Yes. I mean, I don’t think I would do this stuff live action that my character does animated. I feel like that would make me really uncomfortable. It’s also like really freeing to be able to do it the way that we do, you know? It’s pretty amazing. It’s pretty cool to be able to be in something that’s so raunchy and so disgusting but be able to get away with it and not be raunchy and disgusting. Yes. It’s a really nice treat at least for me. I like it cause I enjoy this kind of humor but, like I said, it probably wouldn’t be something I’d be comfortable doing in person.
Yes. Actually I was on a couple of other calls with some other people on the cast and with Adam Reed. Almost everybody said that the funniest thing is they have to explain stuff to Jessica Walter.
I was wondering do you ever go, okay, what am I even saying here? Do you ever ask that kind of thing?
Judy: I do have to ask that stuff but usually it’s because it’s some really bizarre obscure reference to like a really old trivia kind of question. I’m like, wait, who is this person and they’re like “he invented the watermelon, Judy.” I’m like, “okay, how would anyone know that. Why would anybody know that? You’re all crazy.”
So, I have a bit of a confession to make. I kind of have a crush on the character you voice. She’s a very cute animated character. I was curious to know if you’ve ever had a crush on an animated character before?
Judy: That’s a really good question. Gosh, off the top of my head I’m going to say no. But I’m sure if I really thought about it for a while I could think of.
Yes. I don’t know. Probably not but I’m not going to say. I can’t think of one that I have. But if I was going to have a crush on a character, I mean, I don’t know. I might have to say it would be like Malory. Malory is so funny to me but also I just love Jessica Walter so much so maybe that’s why. She’s just the best. She’s so funny. There’s the thing about, I guess, because now at this point I feel like Malory is predictable but like never disappointing, you know.
I always get what I want out of that character. She’s so fabulous.
I’m curious, do you have a different attitude whenever you’re voicing one of your different personas, like, I got Cheryl, Cherlene? How do you go into the studio?
Judy: Well, I probably should lie about this but I really don’t do much. I think a lot of us just go in and say the words. I don’t have to do much because they really write the characters so well and when I go in it’s like already right there. I felt like Cherlene was a mess. I don’t know. The way that they wrote her she was enough different that it’s made it fun for me to do something a little different. But I still thought Cheryl was in there, you know.
And who would be your favorite? Who’s your favorite to do?
Judy: I love Malory. You know, it changes. Pam is so amazing and Cheryl’s such a sad sack. But other than Malory, I never get tired of Malory. I love it.
We told a couple of our writers that I get to do the phone interview with you and I got 19 emails asking all sorts of ridiculous questions. So I’m going to narrow it down to two.
How much participation do you get in coming up with the crazy stuff that Cheryl has to say and have you ever cringed with any of it? And, also, do people randomly come up to you in the street and ask you to scream, “You’re not my supervisor?”
Judy: Yes to number three, 100%. I’ve even done people with outgoing messages which is so funny, screaming, “You’re not my supervisor,” like at a person’s cell phone. It’s really fun for me. Let’s see, then the second question was, is there anything I have to say that makes me cringe?
Judy: I would have to say that less lately. Not because they’re making it any less cringe worthy but because I’m building up an immunity to all the sex and violence and weird, terrible. There was, actually, as I’m saying this, there was a line in an episode I recorded last week which is like a part one of a two part season finale. There was something that my character said that I was like, really guys. That’s really dark. But still, it’s always still a pleasure to say. Do you know what I mean? I’m like, oh, yes, I’ll go there but that’s really a dark place.
Then I would have to say, let’s see, the first question was–
How much influence do you have in some of the lines?
Judy: Yes. I would say that they will let me do whatever I want. That doesn’t always mean that they keep it in but they’re so cool. They’re like, yes, say it. Sometimes I’ll just try a million different things and when they laugh out loud is when I know I’ve got it. Sometimes I’ll just keep saying the line over and over in a different way until I get that laugh. Then when I get the laugh I’ll say it again exactly the same way so they have it twice.
They’re also so cool if I want to ad lib, change lines, add any sounds, like, not say part of a line because it’s funnier to just say half of it or something. They’re so open to anything. Like, they’re really chill people. I don’t know if it’s because they’re in Atlanta and that’s the south or what but oh my gosh. Like anything goes.
You had said that, now that we’re in Season 6 that nice things are a surprise. I know that usually on Archer when we get tuned into the crew at the office they’re kind of at their most despicable in any given moment that we peek in on them. I wanted to know if you wanted to get on the record with a couple of Cheryl’s finer qualities?
Some good things about her that we could know about.
Judy: Like, real good things?
Well, what you think, you know, in defense of your character she can’t always just be drunk and puking.
Judy: That’s true. She loves her job.
Judy: I’m not going to say she’s a hard worker. I don’t think she really is but she really loves her job. She’s very loyal to the Archer crew. I don’t know what we’re called anymore because we’re not ISIS anymore. Our no-name band of misfits toys. She’s very loyal to them and I think she expects that in return. I think she’s weirdly generous with her wealth. Like, letting everyone live in her mansion. Yes. She’s not stingy.
And she’s got a simple taste in her wardrobe. I think you’ll notice that she probably never changes her clothes.
She’s true to her fashion.
Judy: She is. I heard that Albert Einstein just had all the same things in his closet. I feel like Cheryl could be likened to that.
Yes. Kind of like Steve Jobs, have a uniform.
Judy: Yes. She really does. In fact they all do and it’s fantastic.
Do you think Cheryl would be a better match for Russ Bowman than Lina [in FX’s Married]? It seems like Russ is a bit more adventurous in the bedroom. Obviously, I think of the shower episode where he’s constantly trying to ask Lina to have sex in the shower and she keeps turning him down. I couldn’t help to think that Cheryl would jump at that opportunity given the notice.
Judy: Yes, but Cheryl would eat him up and spit him out. I mean, he wouldn’t stand a chance with her. First of all Russ is like a dude who needs to be taken care of. Cheryl doesn’t have patience for Russ’s brand of man. So, while, I think, there could be some kind of awesome like night of hot crazy sex that Russ dreams of, I think overall he would come whining back to Lina with his tail between his legs.
How much fun do you have on the Archer Live! dates and can we expect anymore to happen in the near future?
Judy: Well, I was only able to do one unfortunately. I had one of the best nights ever doing it. If they ever ask me to do it again I will in a heartbeat. It’s so fun. The audience is so great. I don’t know. Like, Lucky [Yates] and Amber Nash have really sort of taken over the show and turned it into this really cool interactive audience participation kind of show.
If I was a fan of a show and there was something like that came to town I would just die. It seemed so fun and everyone was so cool. Our fans are really cools fans, too. They’re not freaks, weirdoes, even though you think that they would be because our show is so freaky and weird. They’re all really supportive and really want to laugh. Doing a show, live show, any kind of live show for people who are dying to laugh is just the best, you know. I think it was a really cool idea. It was really fun the way they sort of turned it into like we’re going sit here on stage and read you live one of the episodes, it becomes this cool like interactive thing.
When we did it in Austin, Texas, we had someone signing two people doing sign language on the side which we were like, wait, what? Then we started saying like a ton of dirty words just to see what those words were in sign language and it turned into a whole different show where we were like, “How do you do this word in sign language?” And the poor people doing the signing were like, “Oh my gosh.” We were making them say the dirtiest of the dirty words. Those poor guys. There was a young guy and he was just laughing. But then there was a woman who was like, “I don’t want to sign this.”
For six seasons for an animated series on television, prime time television, is pretty incredible. We know the writing is superb and we know the acting is brilliant. What do you think keeps people coming back to the show in terms of the ever growing fan base? What is it about the show you think?
Judy: Well, I guess it all kind of has to start with the writing, especially in an animated show. We’re not Pixar. Like, it is what it is and it’s meant to be that way. It’s supposed to be throwback. The look of the show is specific and intentional but we’re not breaking new ground with animation and computers and stuff which is the idea.
However, I think then it really just all comes from the writing. It’s so funny. Adam Reed writes every single episode. One guy writes everything. It’s pretty amazing. I feel like there’s a real sense of continuity within the show, even with an Archer Vice. The voices of our characters and I don’t mean it literally, I mean it figuratively. They really stay the same. There’s a ton of continuity and tone, character, character arc. I think that it’s just extremely rare to see any kind of TV show that completely written by one person, regardless of what any show runner will tell you. This is actually really that and I think that’s kind of what keeps people coming back and what keeps it so fresh and so funny.
Adam still is just as excited about it at episode whatever one we’re at. At the end of—I’ve recorded just last week the first of the two-part season finale and it’s just as funny and weird and exciting. Yes. I think that is why people keep coming back and why the fans are so avid because Adam is still so into it. We’re still so into it. I feel like we’re just as fresh and funny as we started out being.
Yes. Exactly. Kind of a different question. In addition to doing voice of the season finale what else are you working on at this very moment because you’ve got a ton of projects?
Judy: Yes. I’ve been busy, man. Let’s see, I start going back to my new TV show called Married also on FX.
Judy: Yes. I’ll start that in about a month, maybe a month and a week. Then I’m doing press for this. I’m going to go to Sundance on Wednesday for a movie I have there called Grandma that Lily Tomlin and Julia Garner star in that Paul Weitz wrote and directed. Then, I’ve got a couple of movies coming out this summer, Ant-Man and Jurassic World which I’m really excited about, obviously. Yes, so I’m doing press for that and working on getting ready to start shooting Married which is so fun but a pretty rigorous shooting schedule. So I like to get really prepared for that.
Well, I heard you yawning so you probably work too hard you don’t have much time to sleep.
Judy: Oh my gosh, you know what? I think I have some sort of weird oxygen deficiency. Also, last night we had some of my step-son’s friends over and they don’t have school today and the children just would not leave, oh my stars. I was like, I’m always bugging them to have their friends over and then they do and I’m like I’m too old for this.
In the premiere episode of the season you really get to see that Cheryl just absolutely tortures Malory with redesigning the office exactly the way it was. What is it about that dynamic that Cheryl’s always just the worst to her and she always gets the same back?
Judy: I don’t know what is up with them. Are they going to end up together in the end? They really do have such a strange dynamic. Like, Malory can’t fire Cheryl and Cheryl refuses to quit and I think it’s just going to be like that forever. I think that Cheryl is probably the worst executive assistant ever in the world but loves her job, and in a very strange Cheryl kind of way, loves her boss.
Now, do you ever find that you share any character traits with Cheryl?
Judy: I kind of find that I want to. I don’t think I do. I don’t have the balls that she does. I wish I did. She doesn’t really have any kind of inner editor, does she. She pretty much just says whatever she thinks. I don’t do that. I wish I was more like that. I’m pretty good not sharing a lot of her other dreams. She’s a really intense person. I wonder if she even sleeps at night. I never really thought about it.
So going out to the conventions over the years, I’ve seen the fandom for Archer consistently grow. How do you feel about the fans and witnessing that? What’s been one of your most interesting fan experiences?
Judy: It was a while ago. The first year that we went to Comic-Con they put us in this ballroom. It was really great. They showed an episode. We did a Q&A panel and it was really fun. There were about 500 people there. One year later we went back to Comic-Con so this would’ve been after the second season and there were 2000 people there. To see in one year our fan base grow in size that much so quickly like the Comic-Con was like we had to get you like a huger ballroom. That was sort of like a really cool fan moment that I remember.
All of us stood up on our chairs and took pictures of all the people because we couldn’t believe it because you think when you’re recording a TV show you really feel like you’re in a bubble. So to see it grow, our fans multiply like that, it was really special. It made me really happy for the guys who make the show, Adam Reed and Matt Thompson, especially, too, because they’re in Atlanta. We get a lot of love here in L.A. for Archer but in Atlanta it seems like they maybe they don’t get to see how great it is to be on Archer.
As a follow-up, how do you feel that the show has gotten its adult parody that you have?
Judy: How do I feel what?
I saw that Archer had finally gotten its adult DVD parodies. How do you feel about that?
Judy: I mean, that means we made it, right?
Judy: I think that means we made it.
There was a time when it seemed like there were actors who specialized in voice work and then there were the actors who did movies and TV. I think in recent years we’re seeing more and more very, very busy working actors and actresses like yourself. You talked about how much you’ve got going on right now making time to do animation and do it regularly. Why do you think that is? What’s sparking this move of more recognizable actors into animation in the last five/ten years?
Judy: Well, that’s a really good question. I think that I would love to say it’s maybe the success of shows like Archer and Bob’s Burgers. All the animated adult [indiscernible] shows. The Simpsons, really, that’s been on for like 70 years now, I think. Like that really broke ground, I think, for having like a segue show that something like kids and adults can watch and that the humor is really smart. Family Guy is another one. What Seth McFarland is doing in American Dad. I don’t know.
I feel like those shows just have become so successful and they’re so funny. I don’t know budget-wise if it’s cheaper to do an animated show or a live action show. I guess that’s a question for the producers. I do know we can get away with a lot more in an animated show. I think for guys like Adam Reed and the people who make those other smart funny shows, I think, you don’t have to compromise your sense of humor if you’re doing an animated show versus like what you can and can’t say or show on a live action show.
So, because of it the scripts are really funny. The scripts are really smart. Then they’re attracting kind of different caliber of actor who—a, it’s a freaking awesome job because you go to work for like 30 minutes when you do it. Maybe Aisha [Tyler] and [H.] Jon Benjamin have to go for longer. But, for me, I’m in and out in 30 minutes. It’s really great. It’s really fun. It’s very creatively fulfilling. I think a lot of people are getting turned on by it, turned on by it, how sassy. They’re getting turned onto it because it’s like a cool job where you get to let loose in that little recording room and let go in a way that you can’t always on a set full of people.
Earlier, I think you said you filmed the first part of the finale.
I wanted to know were there any surprises that you can share without spoiling the finale? Also, I wanted to know where do you see your character going next season? Do you have any ideas for Cheryl?
Judy: I would love for her to maybe get to like do some missions. She does get to help with one mission this season. I probably can’t really spoil anything for the season finale or the guys will fly to L.A. from Atlanta and beat me up. So I can’t share anything about that but it really blew my mind when I read it. I’ve only read the first part. I haven’t read the second one yet. I haven’t recorded it but it’s pretty amazing. It’s kind of mind-blowing.
I don’t know. I’m really happy with where Cheryl’s at. I think it’s fun when she got to help out on a mission. That was really fun. But I know she’d just screw it up. I also think that maybe that’s a bad idea. I don’t know. I like when Cheryl and Pam are up to no good. It makes me really happy when the two of them like get an idea and then it’s so bad and it ruins everything. It makes me really happy.
Thanks to a screw up with the courier I still haven’t see all of the episodes on the screener, so, what I’m kind of wondering is Lana finally going to be forced to enlist Cheryl for babysitting duties?
Judy: First of all, it’s a terrible, terrible idea to have any of us babysitting for this baby and Lana knows it. There’s definitely some last minute babysitting that has to happen that no one’s happy about. But, yes, there’s not going to be like a regular babysitting duty. The baby is like a hot potato sometimes where we’re like, come on, man. You take her. No, you take her. No, you take her. But what always make me giggle is just how Malory always talks about how fat she is. It just tickles me to no end. So terrible. A terrible thing to say to a baby. It makes me laugh.
As a follow-up, the renovation of the offices isn’t exactly the way it was. There’s that hidden sauna/hot tub retreat. I was just wondering if we ever find out if it was Pam’s idea or Cheryl’s or whose?
Judy: I think it was Cheryl’s idea, if I remember correctly, to recreate the office exactly the same. But Krieger and Pam they’re the ones that did the sauna. I was just excited about the toast robot.