Archer' Creator Adam Reed on Making His Hero Old
The writer and producer of the greatest spy show ever is pissed about aging and taking it out on "Duchess."
Archer fans have taken Sterling’s resilience for granted. In the FX show’s seventh season, he’s still getting pummeled by bikers, taking homerific tumbles down cliff faces, and being kicked in the groin by Lana, but there’s one big difference: This time around, it looks like it hurts. On top of his mounting physical ailments, Archer’s grappling with dad duties and being a faithful partner. Suddenly, Archer’s life just got real. His situation is a stark contrast to the crew’s surreal new L.A. digs, one that’s driven less by the show’s trajectory and more by the convoluted mind of the one-man force behind the series, creator Adam Reed. He talked to Inverse about midlife crises, Sterling’s new Ferrari, and the long-awaited return of phrasing.
What’s with the sudden focus on middle age?
It might have something to do with the writer dealing with his own middle age. Knees, lower back — no. Just getting older and the stuff that comes along with that. There’s responsibility. Physically, it’s a whole crock of shit. But you have to do it. So I guess, subconsciously that’s been informing what’s been happening to Archer, the man.
Would it be a stretch to say that Archer is hitting a midlife crisis?
I don’t think it’s a midlife crisis, even though he bought a Ferrari. He’s taking stock. And his knees hurt.
Have you been worried about how to reconcile his role as a dad and partner with his previous role?
I don’t think I worry about it. When it comes up, it just seems like Archer knows how to handle it or not handle it. A lot of times, it feels like I’m not really deciding things for these people. That sounds kind of like a cop out; but the things that they do in response to situations or circumstances, by now — and we’re getting near 100 episodes — they sort of tell me what they’re going to do. And I just write that down.
So they’re not following some long, planned-out trajectory?
Oh no, no. I’m terrible at long, planned-out trajectories, much to FX’s chagrin. But every time I sit down at the computer with a new script, it’s usually just for the story idea, like “bomb on a blimp,” or “Archer has a man crush,” or “robot legs,” or “pot farm,” and I just sit down and start typing and I don’t know where that episode is going to end, usually.
With Archer’s confession about being a bullying victim in “Deadly Prep,” it seemed as though you were intentionally revealing a side of him we’d never seen before.
I was reading some comments online about the episode. There were several people who were really mad about the AIDS joke that both prep school bullies made. People were like, “That’s totally unfunny.” And I was like, “I know it’s unfunny! Those guys are assholes, and that’s a joke an asshole would make.” I guess with Archer being a bully — not that it needed an origin — but you don’t have to dig too deep, really, to find out why a bully is a bully. Archer, you know, in his manner, we really hung a lantern on [the question], “Did you learn nothing from this?” And he’s like, gleefully, “No I did not.” He probably did but would never admit that.
Archer doesn’t seem to be the only one changing this season. Malory totally led the charge in the final scene of “The Handoff”, which is surprising, considering she’s now a full-on grandmother. Are we going to be seeing Malory take a more hands-on role?
She’s so great. Mallory and Jessica [Walter] have been so underutilized — again, sloppy writer. But there’s an episode coming up in which Barry comes back, and Mallory just goes full-on, she’s maybe the most badass she’s ever been before. It’s pretty great.
And for Cyril, there’s plenty of room for change. He finally has the opportunity to lead but is still getting emasculated left and right. Have you thought of ever giving the poor guy a break?
Yes! I have. Season 8, we’re going to see a different iteration of Cyril. It could be a bit darker and not nearly — at least on the surface — as sympathetic. I think Cyril’s life would be so much better if he would just leave Archer’s world. I think Cyril on his own would be a great guy, great at whatever he did, but I think Archer has slowly driven him, if not crazy, to become a very bitter human being.
Are all of these changes happening because you’re worried audiences are going to get bored?
Oh yeah. I worry every time. Every season.
How do you maintain the balance between whats new and whats at the core of the show?
Because we’ve been doing this so long, the balance has found itself. I think have the best cast of ever. At this point I wouldn’t want to introduce new characters. There are eight main characters, and they just sort of have this balance. There are four women, and originally it was a dudes-only show.
The return of phrasing seems to be a fairly welcome change. Why was this the right time to bring it back?
I couldn’t think of anything as economical that does the same thing that phrasing does. Half the people love it, and half the people hate it. I think our whole cast hates it. Part of it is seeing how many times I can get away with saying it. At some point, it quits being funny, and at some point it’ll start being funny again.
As Archer says, we all took it for granted.
People take things for granted, that’s for sure.