Q & A: Judy Greer on FX’s ‘Archer’ and nightmare auditions

Judy Greer talks about how she got started in animation, the joy of not having to wear make-up when doing voice overs and recalls a hilarious nightmare audition!

Judy Greer is one busy actress. She’s currently on the CBS sitcom, Mad Love, has 3 movies coming out and is also playing the animated Cherly/Carol on FX’s hit show, Archer.

Judy did a conference call for Archer where she talked about how she got started in animation, the joy of not having to wear make-up when doing voice overs and recalls a hilarious nightmare audition.

And if you’re interested, check out my previous interview with Judy here.

For the full interview, click the audio link above or download from iTunes

Archer airs on Thursdays , 10/9C on FX

How did you first get started in animation?

Judy Greer: My first experience in animation, I think I did like one word on Family Guy like 100 years ago.  I mean, seriously, like ten years ago, I think I said one word on an episode and I was excited about that.  Then, I did this little tiny role in a movie, a Japanese animated zone called The Cat Returns, another tiny role on that.  Then I auditioned for this Nickelodeon show called Glenn Martin DDS and got booked on that.

Then while that was happening, I just was on location working on a movie and I got sent the script for Archer and they just said, “Yes, they just offered it, so you can just do this like 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, I was like this is never going to make it on the air, but like whatever, I’ll make a couple of bucks for the day, my day off, anyways.  Then, who knew?  It was snowballing and become like—like 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.  But, like it’s just so—it was so good and funny and silly and naughty and dirty and I was excited about it.  That’s my voice-over history.

Did you have any training?

Judy Greer: No, I didn’t actually.  I mean when I was in acting school, I trained my voice, but I wouldn’t say that I’ve done special training since.  I mean there’s certain like tricks of the trade that you learn to do like don’t eat a lot of cheese the day before your recording.  For some reason, it makes you really mucousy.  It’s gross, I know, sorry, but no, I don’t have to do anything specific.  It’s fun when I get to play a small part on Archer where I’ll be another character for a few lines—like a stewardess or whatever, an old person, or a slut, whatever—and that’s kind of fun, because I get to change my voice, but no, I don’t really do anything specific.  I find that I’m better if I can perceive myself and thankfully, they let me do that.

As Kitty on Arrested Development, you were able to use your physicality to enhance the comedy of a crazy character.  How does your approach change in preparing a similarly off Cheryl when you have just your voice as your tool?

Judy Greer: Well, funny that you bring up Kitty, because what I did with Kitty is kind of how I feel like what I do with Cheryl/Carol because even though Kitty—in Arrested Development it was live-action so you got to see all the crazy things I was doing to get that performance.  Like, I’m pretty much doing the same thing.  It’s just in a booth with one sound engineer watching me.  But I find that in performing a character like this—really, I think when you’re just counting on your voice, you actually need double the energy, so I do find myself acting out the scenes and being very physical while I’m recording because I think you can tell when someone is just like sitting on a stool like me now.  But, when I’m like acting out the scenes or I’m like really broad and physical, like it helps my vocal quality and I think it helps the energy of the scene and so I do the same thing.  I kind of do.  It’s just that you’re only hearing it this time.

Do you do the same sort of preparation for a voice-over job as you do an acting job?

Judy Greer: No, I probably prepare a little bit more for an acting job only because there’s so many more people involved and I don’t want anyone waiting for me ever.  When I go to record Archer or any voice-over for that matter, it does really feel like it’s all about me and I have a lot of freedom and all the time I need.  So I feel like I can play more like in the room, in the recording studio, then I don’t need to come in as totally prepared.

Also, too I know that when it’s just me in there recording, I don’t have to really do anything—I don’t have to change anything based on what other people are doing or what is being asked of me.  It’s me recording and Adam Reed’s on the phone telling me what to do.  We just do it instead of saying like, “Oh, I was going to do it like this, but now he’s performing the scene like that,” or, “His choices are different than I thought they were, so I need to make my adjustments.”  So, it’s like, I feel like when I’m shooting something live action, I have to go in with a lot of choices in case things change.  But Adam is so awesome and gives me like space so we figure it out while they’re recording what it is.  I just try to read the script and then read the scene a couple of times.  Then I go in and we totally play and have so much fun.

Do you have any sort of nightmare audition stories?

Judy Greer: A couple of things—like well, 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.  So I was doing the audition scene and then, it was like over basically and the director was like, “You didn’t implode,” and I was like, “Well, yeah, I know, I know.  Thankfully, I didn’t implode, but like I figured that is something you’ll do ….”  He’s like, “No, I need to see you implode.”  I was like, “Really, dude?”  He is like, “You didn’t finish the scene.”

So, I do the whole scene over again and then when I get shot with a laser beam, I just pretended like I was imploding and I was screaming and like collapsing.  I tried to get myself into the smallest ball I could on the floor.  I was just basically laying there in fetal, like 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.  Then, 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 because I remember my choir teacher in high school saying, “When in doubt, sing loud.”  So, I just thought I’ll scream my head off.  I did not get that part by the way.  Shocking, I know.

How would you describe yourself as an actress and what do you want people to know about you and your work?

Judy Greer: I would describe myself as a fun actress; as an actress who—I don’t know, maybe like a shape shifter?  I feel like I can—I’ve been able to in my career to play a lot of different types of roles.

I guess I would want people to know that I’m really happy with my career.  I sometimes get asked questions a lot like, “Don’t you wish—” because I do supporting roles a lot, like people say like—“Don’t you wish you were the star?  Don’t you wish you were the star?”  That question makes me think like, “Do you think I’m not happy?”  Like, that I don’t have an acting career, because I totally do!  Like, I guess, I would want people to know that I’m really thrilled with how everything is turning out for me.  Yes, I think I’m like—I would say I’m like a hardworking, but fun actress.

If you can talk about the process and the fact that you guys don’t record together and how long it takes and how long before you met everybody.  Everything is just done so over the wires.

Judy Greer: Yes, we never see each other ever.  I think one time I got to—Aisha who was coming in as I was leaving.  The first time I really met everyone was at Comic-Con this year when we all went and they showed an episode and we did a panel and everything.  Usually what happens is like when we’re in production, I would say about every two weeks they call and schedule around my schedule, which is so lovely, a 30-minute block of time for me to go in and say my lines.  Adam Reeds writes every episode.  He does it with me usually over the phone.  Sometimes, it’s someone else, but most of the time it’s Adam.  He’s over the phone in my headphones when I’m in the recording studio and he reads all the scenes with me.  We just do it over and over and over a handful of times until he’s laughing out loud and then we move on.

It’s really fun.  It’s really easy and they’ll email me the script a couple of days beforehand.  Like I said, if I’m working on something else, or whatever, they just work around my schedule.  On my end, it couldn’t be simpler.  The weird thing is that when you watch the episodes—when I watch the episodes, I feel like I see so much chemistry between us all and we’re never together ever.  I mean, we’re together when we have to do these publicity events, but otherwise, we don’t record together.  We record with Adam.  Like Adam just knows exactly what he wants and he’s able to translate it when he’s reading with us like so well and it makes us— So then when he cuts all the voices together, it really—I mean it’s magic.  But it does seem like we’re all talking to each other at the same time and reacting to the same thing and that … tonally, I’m always so surprised that like tonally, it always works.  That you don’t have anyone that seems like they’re in a different episode.  I’m impressed.  The end.

And for Archer, Judy, no hair, makeup and wardrobe, right?

Judy Greer: Oh God, that’s the best part.  Yes.  The studio where we record is a five-minute drive from my house, which is saying a lot for Los Angeles.  Yes, it’s great.  I mean I can go from the gym if I have to—I mean, it’s just wonderful.  Yes, that part of it is great.  It’s just so convenient.  You don’t have to get dressed although I do wear clothes there, but I wouldn’t have to.

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