She's the woman behind Archer's most messed-up character: secretary Cheryl/Carol (or whatever else she decides to be called). As her character takes center stage in tonight's episode, "El Secuestro," actress Judy Greer sat down with me to talk about being part of the most warped workplace in TV history. (Warning: mild spoilers from last night's new episode within.)
How did you get started doing voice work? What led you to Archer?
I think I did like one word on Family Guy like a hundred years ago. I think I said one word on an episode and I was excited about that. I did this little tiny role in a Japanese animated movie called The Cat Returns, then I auditioned for this Nickelodeon show called Glenn Martin DDS and got booked on that. That’s my voice-over history.
I was on location working on a movie and I got sent the script for Archer and they said, “You can just do this 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 [that] I was like "This is never going to make it on the air, but I’ll make a couple of bucks for the day." 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. It was so good and funny and silly and naughty and dirty and I was excited about it.
How different is voice acting from regular acting for you?
I think when you’re just counting on your voice, you actually need double the energy. I find myself acting out the scenes and being very physical while I’m recording because I think you can tell when someone is just sitting on a stool. When I’m acting out the scenes or I’m really broad and physical, it helps my vocal quality and I think it helps the energy of the scene and so I do the same thing. It’s just that you’re only hearing it this time.
Cheryl/Carol has had some really bizarre and hilarious moments over the past two seasons. We know that she doesn't know what cancer is, and she thinks pregnancy tests can be taken online. Do you have a favorite outrageous moment?
I do always love when I was getting strangled while having sex. That was outrageous. That was so outrageous to me. The beginning of [tonight's 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. I love her back and forth with Pam in the beginning [of this episode].
Conversely, have you ever had a moment where you think your character's gone too far?
Not on this show. I’m always shocked at how everything ends up in there. I can't ever remember thinking, “That got cut.” I trust them to just do it all. I mean, what more could they do? It’s so naughty!
In this upcoming episode, we learn that Cheryl/Carol has been hiding a pretty big secret. How has she managed to keep it for so long working at an intelligence agency? Or is it just that these guys aren't the brightest bulbs in the socket, so to speak?
My interpretation is that she isn’t trying to keep the secret. That she doesn’t care. 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.
Archer is probably the most outrageous show on television right now. Are there any other outrageous moments in your career, or does this take the cake?
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. I was doing the audition scene and the director was like, “You didn’t implode. I need to see you implode.” I was like, “Really, dude?”
I do the whole scene over again and then I just pretended like I was imploding. I was screaming and collapsing. I tried to get myself into the smallest ball I could on the floor. I was just basically laying there in [the] fetal [position], 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. 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.
The unique thing about Archer is that you don't record with your fellow cast members. That sounds like it would be a little challenging.
On my end, it couldn’t be simpler. The weird thing is that when I watch the episodes, I feel like I see so much chemistry between us all and we’re never together. We’re together when we have to do publicity , but we don’t record together. We record with [creator] Adam [Reed]. Adam knows exactly what he wants and he’s able to translate it so well when he’s reading with us. When he cuts all the voices together, it’s magic. It does seem like we’re all talking to each other at the same time and reacting to the same thing. I’m always so surprised that you don’t have anyone that seems like they’re in a different episode. I’m impressed. The end.
My thanks to Judy Greer for this interview. Catch her at 10 PM ET/PT on FX. For more Archer, head over to DigitalAirwaves.net.