H. Jon Benjamin has portrayed Sterling Archer for three seasons on the series of the same name on FX, Archer. Just as Archer is set to return for its third season on January 29, 2012, Benjamin took questions from the media about this very adult cartoon, as well as his other work on TV shows like Bob's Burgers, Home Movies and, of all things, WordGirl. However, don't expect to get any real answers from this actor; his spy lessons have proven useful.
In his usual fashion, H. Jon Benjamin gave the moderator a difficult time before taking questions.
Jon: "How do you get to the operator? Sorry."
P. R.: "You will not be asking any questions, Jon."
Jon: "I just want to get the operator, if you don't mind."
P. R.: "You'll just press zero. And everyone, just a reminder, the third season-"
Jon: "It's not working."
P. R.: "It's not working for you?"
Jon: "Trying to get to the operator. Could I please get to the operator?"
P. R.: "Operator, are you there?"
Moderator: "Yes, I am."
Jon: "Oh hey. How are you?"
Moderator Good. "How are you?"
Jon: "It's Jon. This woman has too many rules. It's not fair for anybody to have to sit through that."
Moderator: "I can disconnect her line."
Jon: "Yeah. Let's do it."
P. R.: "Okay, everyone. Well, they're unable to disconnect my line, so I'm going to go ahead and let you know that-"
Jon: "Operator, I need you to disconnect that woman's line."
P. R.: "The third season of Archer will premiere this coming-"
P. R.: "-Thursday, January, 19 at 10:00 p.m.-"
Jon: "There is nobody listening to me."
P. R.: "-only on FX. And now I'll throw it back to Stacy, our moderator, and Jon will answer a couple of questions for all of you guys.""
Jon: "We all know how that's going."
How do you balance all these projects and how different is it for you?
Jon: "Well, it's a constant-tons of protein shakes and a very regimented workout schedule that keeps me energized. And the rest I just leave to my rabbi and my group of people who I consult with."
What's your favorite thing about voicing Sterling Archer? What do you like best about him?
Jon: "I like the way he looks. He's handsome. That's a big advantage. I'm not so handsome, and I like all the stuff I get to say, obviously. I like being rude, and it gives me a good opportunity to do that."
How did you get the role of Archer?
Jon: "It's not a great story. Adam Reed, the creator of Archer, God rest his soul, he called me-I think he had heard me do some other work on Adult Swim shows, and he called me to read the part. I don't know if other people had been asked. I don't know if I was first choice or like literally last resort-probably last resort, right? Right?
"So, yes, and then I accepted and then it worked out well. But I was tentative because I didn't think I could pull off a spy. If you knew me, you'd know all the reasons why.
How did having Burt Reynolds as a guest star come about?
Jon: "Which Burt Reynolds thing?
In the season premiere.
Jon: "Wait, he was in it?"
Yeah, unless I had a dream about that.
Jon: "Oh. Man, no one tells me anything about this. That's great. I can't believe he's still doing stuff. He should take a break. It's been like 60 years. Like just stop. I think, they mentioned him-I think it was the natural-well, not the natural progression, but Archer's obviously referenced Burt Reynolds a lot, so I'm sure it popped into Adam Reed's head to just to try and cast him. It's funny that I shouldn't be calling like these people and you must think like they'll never do it and then they're probably like, 'Of course, I'll do it.'"
How much of Archer is improvisation?
Jon: "Very little. There is not a lot of room. The scripts are tightly written and he encourages sometimes on occasion, he'll be like do you want to add anything, and I'll say no. So it's not the same kind of production as Bob's Burgers, which is a lot improvising all the time, but the scripts don't really require it."
Why do you think the show has been so popular with the masses?
Jon: "Well, the masses are idiots, so they don't know any better. They're too busy just staring at the light and cartoons are colorful. So don't get me started about the masses. I'm really not a fan. But as far as interacting with the cast, I really don't do any of that. They record everybody separately and once I tried to--Aisha Tyler--but that didn't work out yet."
Your voice is pretty distinct-
Jon: "Yours is, too."
Jon: "Everybody's is. Everybody's is different. It's like a snowflake."
There's a lot of yelling involved, which must get tiring at some point. Has there ever been a point where you want a few scripts which just has Archer whispering and not talking at all?
Jon: "I would love to in parentheses. Just once. It is, and I have to say, like I recently, whenever I finish-it's not grueling or anything, but my vocal cords don't recover for like a day after an Archer session. So they owe me. And it's not like I'm at war, but it's hard on the throat. But, yes, I would like to do--someday."
Do you recognize the obscure pop culture references in Archer?
Jon: "Yes. There's like a 50/50 ratio of me knowing and me not, but I'm always getting questions about that, and occasionally I don't have the answer. I forgot to check. Fortunately, I've read some [Herman] Melville, so that's good, and some-so I knew a couple, but there is some stuff like the guy who invented or who started eugenics-I didn't know that was him. So I'll oftentimes be asked what …, and the first season I always got the question about Johnny Bench or … that was said, which I did not know about him, or why-a lot of people asked me why did you say that. Nobody knew, but it's a relatively educational show."
There's a bonus feature on the latest DVD set where you become Sterling Archer in the animation. I was wondering whose idea was that and how did you feel about doing that?
Jon: "It was my idea, I believe, so I felt bad about it. I think it was my idea because it was actually made for this comedy festival that this comedian Eugene Mirman (Bob's Burgers) does, and I wanted to-Adam wrote the entire thing but I said we should do something to show-they were doing an Archer event, so it was made for that and then they spun it off to ship it on DVD. But I think initially it was my idea."