Though she looks like a model, swears like a truck driver and drinks like a fish who really enjoys the taste of alcohol, at heart Aisha Tyler is a big ol’ dork. And a busy one at that. When not doing the voice of superspy Lana Kane on Archer—the seventh season of which premieres Thursday, March 31st at 10PM ET/PT on FX—she’s hosting Whose Line is it Anyway?, co-hosting The Talk, appearing on Criminal Minds, putting together her Girl On Guy podcast or trying to fulfill that most timeless of Hollywood dreams: directing.
Here, she tells us about playing co-op games with one’s spouse, dream guests on Tyler’s podcast (spoiler alert: one of them is James Hetfield) and the challenges of Lana’s famous sweater skirt.
My understanding is that the new season of Archer is a new beginning in much the way the fifth season was a new direction with Archer Vice.
Everybody at what we can’t call ISIS anymore — because terrorists ruin everything — they have a very complex and tenuous relationship with the CIA. But there are some people on the team who are pretty competent spies, they just don’t follow orders. So there’s a move this year that will be fraught with off-the-book operations, and you’ll see the team off the res [reservation], but trying to get back on the res. And trying to make some money.
When you got the scripts for this new season, was there anything that surprised you, or does nothing surprise you anymore about this show?
Nothing has surprised me about the show since season one, when we were talking about bareback interracial porn and there was a dead hooker in the trunk. What I love about this show is how Adam [Reed, the show’s creator and writer] keeps us caring about these characters even though they’re just terrible human beings.
The dialog for Archer is…I think “precise” might the best way to describe the interplay of words. Does this mean you’re not allowed to do any improv?
The scripts are precise; they’re like tennis rackets when they get to us. But Adam always leaves creative space where we can play a little, things where the script will say something like, “Everybody reacts to Archer getting shot in the foot.”
I know that Lana was not originally designed to look like you.
Right. In fact, someone else was originally going to play her, but it didn’t work out. And back then, she didn’t look that much like me; she looked more like Paula Patton. But she’s evolved, and it seems like she looks more and more like me every season.
Some people have dressed like Lana for Halloween. Have you ever been tempted to do this?
No, no, no, no. For me, it would just be too meta. Though I have cosplayed: Last year I dressed up as Gwendolyn from [Brian K. Vaughan’s comic] Saga. That was pretty fun.
It also seems those sweater skirts would be risky for someone as tall as you.
Yeah. Anyone at a normal human height would be able to look right up that skirt. It’s hanging onto Lana’s ass for dear life.
On your podcast Girl On Guy, you’ve interviewed actors, comedians and geek icons. Who made you the most nervous?
The rock and rollers. People like Tom Morello from Rage Against The Machine and Henry Rollins, who was a childhood icon for me, and Lemmy from Motörhead. Because with actors and comedians, there’s a shared language, and they’ve mostly been people I’ve worked with or met before.
If the laws and time and space were rescinded, who would you most want to have as a guest?
Well, there’s the obvious ones like Gandi and M.L.K.… Oh, Nelson Mandela. Not because he’s Nelson Mandela, but because he spent all that time in prison, and it would interesting to talk to someone who has that kind of mental discipline.
There’s also people who are still alive that I’d want to have on, like [Zero Dark Thirty director] Kathryn Bigelow and Neil Gaiman and James Hetfield from Metallica. I’d also like to talk to someone like UFC fighter Conor McGregor, because he was undefeated but got beaten terribly recently, and I’d love to talk to him about what that feels like and how you keep fighting.
You’ve talked about how you play co-op games with your husband. What are you like when you play with him?
Well, we started playing co-op because I thought there’s nothing more boner-killing than shooting your spouse in the face. I think I’m a generous co-op player. “I’ll strafe, you run.” Or, “I’ll throw a flash bang, you flank.” I’ll throw myself on a grenade for my team.
If it was up to you, what would the Archer video game be?
Because Archer is so comedy driven, it would have to be along the lines of South Park: The Stick of Truth, which was funny but also has a lot of action. But I’d also want it to have a lot of espionage, so you’d have to find a way of doing GoldenEye or Call of Duty: Black Ops, but I’d also want it to be sarcastic, with everyone making jokes all the time. And I’d want Lana to wear pants.
Yeah, that sweater skirt isn’t going to work when you’re storming a compound.
Right. Plus, you can’t put that much ammo up that skirt.
Of all the things you do, which is the most creatively satisfying, and which is the most fun?
Right now, what’s exciting for me is directing. I just directed a short film called Ar Scáth Le Chéile [The Shadow of our Togetherness] that’s going to be at the Newport Beach Film Festival, and hopefully some other festivals. I really want to direct features.
My liquor company, Courage+Stone, is also really exciting because it comes out of a real love of drinking.
The seventh season of Archer premieres Thursday, March 31st at 10PM ET/PT on FX.