Jessica Walter On Archer, Arrested Development, and the Lost Classic Dinosaurs

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Over a decade before Glenn Close's character stewed a pet rabbit in Fatal Attraction, Jessica Walter won a Golden Globe nomination for her role as a psychotic stalker fan in Play Misty For Me, the first feature film directed by Clint Eastwood. Thirty years later, Walter won the hearts of an entirely different demographic with her Emmy-nominated role on Arrested Development as the Bluth family's sinfully overbearing matriarch. While Arrested fans may not see the feature film for a couple years still (Mitch Hurwitz is rumored to still be writing the script), they can at least catch Walter in FX's new animated spy series Archer, which premieres tonight.

Movieline caught up with the lovely actress earlier this week to chat about how her Archer role was designed with her in mind, what she thought about her stint voicing Fran Sinclair on Dinosaurs, and her excitement for that Arrested Development script.

How did you hear about Archer?

I first read the script when my agent Cynthia, a wonderful woman, called and told me, "You know, it's the funniest thing. I got copy" -- copy, meaning what people audition from. She said, "They sent copy for this new show and it says next to the character Mallory, 'Think Jessica Walter from Arrested Development.'" So she called them up and said, "You know, I represent Jessica Walter and she really loves doing animation and has done many a show including Dinosaurs, which was a wonderful show in the nineties." And they said okay! I got the offer and they sent me the script. But how about that?

That must be flattering, especially since Mallory is smart, funny and a little bit like a certain Arrested Development character...

I know, there are a lot of similarities between Mallory and Lucille. [Laughs] Should I feel silly about that? Why do I keep getting these parts? They're similar though. They're strong women who both love their children but they don't know how to show it.

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You mentioned that you love doing animation. What specifically about it interests you?

There are many things about it. One is that you don't have to do make-up and hair. You can roll out of bed and it is at your convenience and your availability. They schedule the sessions and those are just the peripheral things that are good about it. What's good about it too is that you can really have fun. You can go a lot further, especially with animated cartoons, than you can with having a close-up in your face. You can go over the top and not feel funny about it.

When voicing Archer, were you in the same room with your co-stars at any point?

On this show, interestingly enough, no. With Dinosaurs, which was a primetime show, we had table readings where all of the actors would get together. But then we did the actual recording facing the screen of the animatronic puppets, because there was a full person's body inside the suits. We would have to face the screen and make the dialogue fit into what was already done on the camera. That was difficult. Now for Archer, we read all of our lines in a little booth with no screen, no nothing. And then I guess they do the cartooning to match what we did.

Is that difficult since you don't have another actor to play off of?

Well you know something, on this show, and this is a tribute to Adam Reed, who is the creator and brilliant writer of Archer, he works with us from his base in Atlanta via satellite. I record in New York or Los Angeles if I'm there and he reads all of the other parts and he is wonderful. I always joke that if things don't work out for Adam, he can join the Screen Actors Guild. He does a heck of a job. We do whole scenes, three and four pages at a time, so it takes a lot less time to do it that way too. With most cartoons, you do a few lines, go back. And with Archer, maybe we do a scene three times and Adam takes what he likes in the editing room and that's that.

So when Jeffrey Tambor guest-stars on an upcoming episode, you two weren't acting together again somewhere in a soundbooth. But your characters will appear in scenes together.

Yes, we have scenes together. Jeffrey will be on January 28 and he plays the United Nations intelligence chairman.

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