Jessica Walter

Submitted by on Sep 14, 2015

The Fabulousness of Jessica Walter: On ‘Archer,’ ‘Arrested Development,’ and Cocaine Parties

She is television’s reigning diva. And on Thursday, the feisty Jessica Walter made her triumphant return as Malory Archer, the tough-as-nails mom to turtleneck-loving spy-son Sterling, for the sixth season of FX’s animated series Archer .

And Malory is back to giving everyone in the organization-formerly-known-as-ISIS all kinds of grief, and serving as a martini-soaked babysitter to Archer and Lana’s baby daughter, Abijean. Walter lays down the vocals for Malory at Nutmeg Post, a recording studio on West 45 th Street in Manhattan, and says it usually takes about a half-hour for her to knock out an episode (with executive producer Matt Thompson feeding other character’s lines into her ear).

Having a show enter a sixth season is a first for the 73-year-old Brooklyn native, who’s sadly used to having shows like Dinosaurs (where she voiced mom Fran Sinclair) and Arrested Development (the lovably sassy socialite Lucille Bluth) be canceled prematurely.

The Daily Beast caught up with the decidedly non-diva-like Walter to discuss Archer. the future of Arrested Development. and the crazy ‘80s.

You know something? I’ve never had a return back to anything for six seasons, so just that alone was a groundbreaker for me. Six seasons of a show. I feel the show is growing in popularity—just from people on the street.

What do people on the street tell you?

They love it! That they love the characters, they love that it’s so racy… I’m not the demo that watches the show, so my phrases are a little old-fashioned!

"You’d go to a party in the ‘80s at the neighbor’s on a nice, tree-lined street in L.A. and there would be a huge bowl of coke on the coffee table!"

You must see parallels between Malory Archer and Lucille Bluth.

Oh, I do. Of course, Lucille would never let her hair go gray—as Malory has—and Lucille was not a self-made woman. She relied on her husband’s money and her family, whereas Malory is a really sharp, take-charge businesswoman. Even though Lucille tries to keep control, she doesn’t do as good a job of it as Malory.

Buster, yeah. Definitely. I like my characters to have one son who’s very needy, otherwise I don’t take the role! Just kidding. [Laughs] Adam told me I was the first one cast on the show, and they sent out copy for auditions to people that said, “Think of the type as Jessica Walter from Arrested Development ,” and my agent who got the copy called me and said, “They’re thinking about you. If you like it I’ll tell them you’re interested in doing it.” I said, “That sounds smart.” And that’s exactly how it happened.

You’ve managed to recruit so many of your Arrested Development colleagues onto Archer. like Jeffrey Tambor, David Cross, and Judy Greer.

You know something? I can’t take credit. All of those people wanted to be on the show, so I’m sorry to say it had nothing to do with me!

Jeffrey is so great on Transparent .

We don’t know! We talk about it a lot, but I hope so. So far he hasn’t appeared. You know Adam, god bless him, came to me and said, “Do you think Ron would be interested in this role?” And I said, “Oh my god, I’m sure he would be.” And of course, he was. Who wouldn’t want to be on Archer.

Oh my god! Speaking of great writing. I can’t take credit for that show, because the writing was so great. I’d done commercials and some cartoons. I had a running gig on Wildfire. one of those Hanna-Barbera’s. But I’d never done a recurring role on that kind of network show.

That show, like Arrested Development. only lasted four seasons even though it was so great. What happened?

I don’t know! It must be my bad vibes, because I get on a show and it only lasts four seasons—although that’s disputed now because of the six seasons of Archer. And Jennifer Falls. this show I did this summer, was just canceled after one… can’t win ‘em all! But Arrested Development was so great for everyone in it. It really revived our careers.

How did you feel about the comeback season on Netflix?

It was very difficult because they didn’t have everybody they wanted all the time at one place. If they had me, they’d have me in several different episodes, so it was quite confusing—especially for wardrobe and hair—because you’d shoot scenes from up to 10 episodes in a day. Let’s say it was the apartment set or Lucille’s prison cell. You’d have her cell, which appears in four episodes, and then you’d shoot all the scenes even though they’re at different periods in her life. It was like doing five shows at once. But I thought it was pretty successful. People seemed to like it.

We had a couple of those good scenes where everyone was together in the same room, but it’s not a secret that there were some green screen scenes down the line—although it really wasn’t with members of the family. I had a couple with Liza [Minnelli]. Not ideal, but not horrible.

Jessica WalterJessica Walter
Jessica WalterJessica Walter
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