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Interview: ‘Archer’ star H. Jon Benjamin on season 5’s Changes

Interview: ‘Archer’ star H. Jon Benjamin on season 5’s Changes

Interview: ‘Archer’ star H. Jon Benjamin on season 5’s Changes
January 13
12:45 2014

Preston Barta / Film Critic

North Texas Daily recently had the chance to sit down and talk to “Archer” star H. Jon Benjamin (“Bob’s Burgers”) about season five’s changes and the challenges of acting only with his voice.

Do you know why they decided to go in such a completely different direction this season? They have changed a lot of things.

H. Jon Benjamin: “Well, I think there’s a lot of changes and a lot that stays the same obviously, but I think the show’s creator, Adam Reed, probably got very drunk one night while he was writing on his computer. Well, I assume he’s of the age where he grew up on that show. I know I was, maybe, right, mid-40s. I don’t want to give away his age in case he’s been lying to people.

I mean, I’m not exactly sure why is the real answer, but I assume it has something to do with wanting to kind of change the environment a little bit. But the good thing is the characters are pretty much the same dynamics. They’re the same. It’s just more confusion, more of the same confusion.”

You have such a brilliant way of balancing dry humor with absurdest humor. How do you keep that balance so fresh season after season?

Benjamin: “I really don’t. I think Adam Reed has a lot to do with that and the writing has a lot to do with that. So I defer to that mostly. I think maybe I add drier elements, but the absurdest stuff is all in the scripts.”

And he has no edit button whatsoever. So that must be a gratifying experience for you, right?

Benjamin: “Yes. It’s really fun to play. He’s a spy. So he can do what he wants. I mean, I guess he announces that he’s a spy a lot, which he shouldn’t do, but I guess when you’re carrying a gun, you feel better about yourself, but that doesn’t suggest carry a gun— just to feel better about yourself.”

What are some of the biggest acting challenges in creating a character using just your voice?

Benjamin: “It was very hard initially when I first did it, but that was like a long time ago. It’s hard to be sort of physically restrained. I mean, I’m not tied up or anything, except on occasion from the night before. Well, whatever. That’s a little bit difficult when I started, but I guess I’m just kind of used to it now. I’ve been doing it for so long. I get kind of used to just working alone in a booth.

But at first, it was definitely odd. I remember feeling that way, like, ‘how do you negotiate this? Can I yell? Am I too loud?’ Yes, so, there are a lot of natural restraints, like being extra careful, which I wouldn’t do in a live performance.”

One thing I always thought was interesting about Sterling Archer is that he’s actually very well read. It’s almost deceiving. He can be talking for hours about the dangers of alligators, but then, he’ll drop a Herman Melville quote on his enemies.

Benjamin: “Yes. I think he was prep school educated it seems like, at least from the flashbacks. So he had the luxury of probably some very expensive East Coast prep school and they’ll make you read a lot of books.”

“Archer” premieres its fifth season on tonight at 9 p.m. on FX.

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