Jessica Walter wants you to know she has precious little in common with her two most iconic characters, Arrested Development’s manipulative matriarch Lucille Bluth and Archer’s snappy spymistress Malory Archer, save one thing: “I do like a good martini once in a while,” she coos.
For a martini fix, the veteran actress tends to frequent La Mirabelle, a cozy French bistro in her Upper West Side neighborhood of Manhattan—“They make a wonnnnnnderful martini,” she gushes—but the best one requires a certain lady boss’s touch.
“I make the best martini I’ve ever tasted,” she tells me. “I don’t measure; I just do it by instinct. A little teeny bit of the olive juice goes in, and very cold glasses.” Unlike her snide onscreen characters, Walter is an utter delight. It’s a true testament to her acting ability that she’s been able to embody a host of deliciously sinister women, from Play Misty for Me’s Clint-stalker Evelyn Draper to her tyrannical college president in PCU and beyond.
“I’m not like that at all, but to be Miss Vanilla Ice Cream and watch as this hero gallops into the sunset—I never got those parts,” she says. “I never got the little sweetie, and I don’t know why. I’ve always played these villainesses, but I’ve always tried to give them a heart.”
The eighth season of Archer, FX’s animated spy series, premieres April 7th. Titled Dreamland, it takes place three months after the events of Hollywood, which culminated in Sterling Archer lying face down in a pool. Now in a deep coma, Archer imagines himself as a 1940s-era private eye investigating the death of his real-life manservant, Woodhouse, whilst navigating a seedy crimescape filled with seductive lounge singers, dirty cops, drug deals, and a sex trafficking ring gone terribly awry.
Malory is no longer Archer’s overbearing, disappointed mother but a crime boss trying to unseat her underworld rival, Len Trexler, voiced by her Arrested Development co-conspirator Jeffrey Tambor. “Before I was very flirty with Len and he was very high on Malory, and now their relationship is far more adversarial: he’s a top crime boss in L.A. and I’ve decided that it’s time for him to be kicked out. It’s very dastardly and cold-blooded now,” she says.
It’s hard not to see the similarities between Malory and Lucille Bluth. After all, Archer creator Adam Reed modeled the character on Lucille, and cast a number of other Arrested cast members on his show, including Tambor, Judy Greer, and David Cross.
“Those two gals have a lot in common!” Walter shrieks. “They both love their children, they just don’t know how to show it. They’re both control freaks. They’re both very concerned about their appearance, although Malory has let her hair go grey, and Lucille would never do that. Oh, and they both love a martini, too—with an olive. Absolutely.”
Another thing that Archer and Arrested Development have in common is just how prescient they are. In addition to Archer’s original premise, which involved a rivalry between their U.S. spy agency and the Russians, that spy agency was originally named ISIS—until the show dropped the name at the start of Season 6 due to its similarity with the radical Islamic terrorist organization, and forced its voice talent to re-record over any mentions of ISIS on the series.
“On Arrested Development, if you talk about being ahead of the curve, way back we talked about a wall between Mexico and the U.S. years before anyone even had an idea about building a wall,” says Walter. “So let’s hear it for our TV shows here!”
Indeed, the fourth season of Arrested, which premiered on Netflix in 2013, contained a subplot wherein George Bluth (Tambor) steals rival Stan Sitwell’s (Ed Begley Jr.) plan to erect a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico on a government contract. And, though the Bluth clan was based loosely on the Bush family, Walter also sees similarities between them and the current first family of the United States: the Trumps.
“They’re both real estate moguls, tycoons, and businesspeople,” she offers. “But the Bluths were really smart—well, smarter than the Trumps. Although that’s just my opinion… except for poor Gob!”
But will Arrested Development return to Netflix? Each year, rumors are revived of a possible fifth season or even a feature film that will reunite one of the most indelible families in TV history, and wrap up the wacky story.
“Every year for the last few years, we negotiate and then we never hear back!” Walter says. “So I don’t know. We just negotiated about a month ago, but we haven’t heard back from [Netflix]. We hear from them, everybody seems to want to do it, and then silence.” “I hope it will come back. I would love for it to come back,” she adds. “We have to find out who murdered Lucille II!”
Walter can next be seen in Keep the Change, an autism love story premiering at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, and in a guest appearance on Hulu’s Difficult People. “Oh, I had the best time! You know, I don’t get the Hulu, but now of course I’m going to have to!” Walter says.
In the meantime, she’s getting a huge kick out of all the sassy Lucille Bluth memes and GIFs floating around the internet—a perfectly ridiculous rejoinder in the age of “alternative facts.”
“I have seen them on Twitter and stuff and I think it’s a riot. I absolutely do. It’s a Lucille picture!” she squeals, imitating her reaction to spotting one online.
Gene Parmesan was nowhere in sight.