Archer is a series full of firecrackers, but one of the explosives loaded with the most gunpowder is without a doubt Pam Poovey. The character might have started as meager background relief within the walls of ISIS,* but Pam has continued to grow and evolve in some ridiculous ways. Few other characters in the show’s universe have a full back tattoo or a hearty reputation amongst the members of the Yakuza. Brought beautifully to life by Amber Nash, Pam arguably goes through her biggest metamorphosis yet in this season’s coma-fueled fantasyscape.
We got to stakeout the scene of the crime with Amber Nash and discuss what’s different about season eight’s version of her character, how this year ups its game in a number of ways, and who she’d envision Pam getting a spinoff with.
DEN OF GEEK: Pam has gone through such an evolution over the course of the series, but her change this year is especially fun. Talk a bit about Poovey and the joy of being mysteriously gendered this time around?
AMBER NASH: You know, when I first heard about it I was like, “Okay, well awesome!” For an actor to get—first of all, it’s just a dream role where I get to do so many fun things with Pam—but then for things to constantly change, get shaken up, and for risks to be taken is just super awesome. Then, when this latest season came about, Adam [Reed] actually called everybody individually to be like, “Okay, here’s the deal with what’s happening…” and kind of laid out what’s going to happen for sort of like the next three seasons. He’s got a plan there. So when he was telling us what was going on this season he was saying, “Okay, Pam’s going to be basically living as a man. What do you think?” I was like, “Awesome!”
I went and watched L.A. Confidential. He thought that would be a good reference point. He was saying that Poovey is basically just based on Russel Crowe’s character in L.A. Confidential. And I hadn’t seen that movie since it had come out and man, I forgot how awesome it is! Then when I was recording the first episode of this season, I asked, “Do you want me to change my voice at all or do anything different?” and they said, “No, everything you need to know is in there. But as far as she sounds, it’s the same Pam we’ve always known.”
I was going to ask if your approach to the character was different at all this year, so to hear that you watched L.A. Confidential as a reference point is pretty cool. That’s like character research! That’s something different to bring into the mix!
Yeah! And I think all of that information is coming out of my head—
— and that it’s informing everything that’s going on.
I had also heard that when Adam figured out this season of the show, it kind of opened up the doors for the following two years, so to hear you kind of reiterate that is really exciting.
He must have had some sort of epiphany or something! “This is what’s happening!” That’s kind of how he operates though. The whole series started in the first place because he was on this pilgrimage and came up with the idea for Archer while out there.
I know this isn’t the typical way that things operate, but Archer has been on for such a long time now that are you ever at a point where you make character suggestions for what you’d like to see Pam get up to?
It’s a little bit of both. Adam is just so brilliant and has everything in his head just stirring around at all times, but he definitely is open to ideas. And you can tell over the seasons that he’s gotten to know the actors a lot better and started to write for them more. That’s how Pam became such a crazy character because Adam and I both live in Atlanta so we get to see each other a lot more than some of the other cast members do.
But yeah, I get excited for what Adam gives us, but for six seasons now I’ve also been writing Pam’s official Twitter feed. The cool thing is that certain stuff will happen in her Twitterverse that doesn’t get shown in the show. So it’s a little bit of extra behind-the-scenes sort of stuff. When they first asked me to do it I said, “There’s no way I can write in this character’s voice. It’s so precious to me that I don’t want to screw it up.” So I sent in a bunch of test tweets to get their feedback, and our EP, Matt Thompson, was like, “These are entirely too dirty.” I was like, “Come on! It’s Pam.” But I got into the groove of it and kind of get to write the other half of her life now. So that’s been really fun.
It’s great to see Pam in this season operate as an equal to Archer. She’s getting into the action as much as he does. She’s even coming up with the plans.
Totally, because in previous seasons whenever Pam would get to go on a mission, that’d always be really exciting for me. One of my favorite episodes of all time—to both watch and to make—was “Southbound and Down” in season five. It’s like Pam and Archer on the road as partners. Stuff like that is really fun to me. So it’s been cool to get her out there more this year and also for her to be working really closely with Cyril. Cyril also gets even worse this season, so it’s great to be on the opposite end of that.
Well on that note, part of the fun of this season is seeing how the fates of the Dreamland version of these characters slowly begin to parallel real life. Was it fun watching that process of things moving along and the dots starting to connect?
Yeah! We just finished recording the last episode of the season. So I wait and get excited because it’s usual a couple to three weeks in between recording episodes. So when I finally got the last episode I was like, “Oh my God!” It’s really, really fun because we don’t know what’s coming either.
This is also by far the most serialized season of the show. You guys handle it really well, too. Do you have a preference between these longer arc sort of stories and more episodic self-contained ones?
This is our eighth season so when I think about all of the shows that I like to watch on TV, they don’t always go eight seasons. So for us to continue to be successful and to still feel fresh and exciting after eight seasons is because we need to do something different. Especially in comedy, you need to be taking risks. Otherwise, it’s just like what are you doing? You never want to feel too comfortable. When we were doing season five, Archer: Vice, people either loved it or hated it. And those that hated it, it’s really a shame because Adam wants the show to be continually changing and different. It’s great because if you’re really into the show, you naturally want to keep seeing it evolve and what it’s going to turn out to be. As an actor that’s obviously very fun too, just to be playing something different.
I remember when season five first started and I loved how much the show was up-ending the status quo. Even if I was against it though, I’d still prefer something ambitious like that then the show just getting stale and wearing out its welcome.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where these characters are at, they’re all still the same terrible people that they were back in season two. So the core of the show and these characters isn’t changing, it’s just the surroundings and situations, which is why I think it’s able to be so successful with its changes.
It’s all still crime in the end, too! It’s not that big of a stretch each time. Do you have a favorite reboot through the years?
I did love Archer: Vice, but then when we kind of went back to how everything was before, that was also really nice. It was like, this is the same, but it’s somehow new again due to what we just went through in Vice. I love season seven too just because they’re in L.A. First of all, the animation on the show has never been more beautiful. So to get to see the animators all have a field day with things like new locations, backgrounds, and characters is really satisfying. It’s like when Mad Men went to L.A. for a couple of episodes. You’d see Don Draper in cool shorts and a hat, and that shouldn’t be exciting, but it is!
Poovey’s got a secret of her own this season by housing all of those Chinese sex slaves. How is that working out for her?
It’s so weird and awesome! What’s really cool about it is that I have a very emotional, impactful story arc through the season because of all of these sex slaves. The most challenging part of it though was that there were times where I had to speak Chinese and I am just not a language person. I’m also terrible at doing dialects, too. So I had to say these things in Chinese, they’d be feeding it into my ear and then I’d have to pair it back, but it’s still hard! The Chinese tongue is so different if you have no point of reference. I’m really curious to see how that ends up sounding.
It’d be awful if when you watched it you realized that they just dubbed you over with someone else’s performance.
I think they did do that one season! They needed me to say something—not in Chinese, but some other Asian language—and I think they just used someone else in the end!
This year is about redemption then! Do you have a favorite Pam storyline from past seasons? You mentioned “Southbound and Down,” but any other standouts?
I love the episode where they’re in Rome and Pam kills the Pope—I don’t remember its name…
I only remember it because it has one of the best titles of all time, “The Great Papal Chase.”
Oh my God. That’s such a fun one though.
A noir setting is a real stylistic change. If you had your say, what genre or style would a future season of the show embrace?
Oooh. Maybe like straight up ’70s Jackie Brown-style cop stuff would be great.
Archer has certainly been on long enough that a spin-off at this point wouldn’t be surprising. It’s less necessary due to the show changing so much, but if a Pam spin-off happened, what would you see it as, and who would you like to see get spun-off with her from the show?
We’ve talked about it a lot, actually. I always tease Adam about it because he joked that he was going to do a show called Poovey Files. I think that would be really awesome, but I think that’s kind of just what’s happening this season. You’re seeing it, just Poovey isn’t the main character, it’s still Archer. What I really would love is that because we’ve seen Poovey Farms when Pam has gone home, I’d like to dig into that deeper. It’s a rich world that the show hasn’t really explored enough. I’d love to have something set in her hometown. I mentioned like a Nutty Professor: The Klumps sort of angle to it where I’m playing all of Pam’s family. That’d be the best for me.
Oh God…Poovey Files, would that have been like an X-Files thing with supernatural cases coming into play?
No, I think it was more of a Rockford Files thing.
Ahh, that makes sense. Archer has had a bunch of running jokes and “catchphrases” through the series. Do you have a favorite recurring saying that’s come up?
I mean, “Holy Shitsnacks” is always reliable. I don’t think I ever intended for it to be Pam’s catchphrase, but it just sort of became that. I think at first we were all self-conscious about using it at first. There will be times in the script where there’s like an “everyone” line where everyone is giving a reaction at once. So lots of time they’d be like, “Just say, ‘Holy Shitsnacks.'” After a few seasons we just had to accept that it was her catchphrase.
And “Sploosh.” That’s another favorite.
I always was a big fan of when “phrasing” switched to “…said Ripley to the Android, Bishop”. It’s like you were rebooting running gags before you were rebooting the show as a whole, even.
Yeah, and one of the things that these guys have always done really well—even when they were doing Frisky Dingo and Sealab—is that they like fucking with their audience. They like rewarding people that pay attention. Like that whole Easter egg thing they did all those years ago—they won an Emmy for that! Like that’s so cool! They really like rewarding the nerds that truly dig into the show. It’s the best.
Is there a particular Pam storyline or set piece this season that you’re especially excited for people to see?
I think it’s what you mentioned before, all of the ladies that Pam is housing. It’s really fun and it all comes together in the last episode in a really beautiful way. Plus, we get to find out what happens to Woodhouse! Kind of!
Archer’s eighth season continues to air on Wednesdays at 10pm on FXX