It may have taken nine seasons, but Aisha Tyler finally gets to portray Lana Kane as she’s always imagined herself, as royalty. In Archer: Danger Island, which premieres tonight on FXX, she returns as Princess Lanaluakalani, a local revolutionary and actual princess of a small island in the South Pacific. We recently got the chance to talk to Tyler about adapting her character to new surroundings every year, what Archer creator Adam Reed might have planned, and how long it took her to correctly pronounce Lanaluakalani.
Your character gets a fairly grand entrance when she first shows up on Danger Island.
I do get to make an entrance. It’s fun. It’s probably the most transformative of all of the seasons of Archer. I mean, Krieger’s a talking parrot. Well, I guess last season there was Pam as a detective, but she’s actually a man. But yes, my character is whom she’s always seen herself to be: royalty. And, as you’ll see, I think she’s as disgusted with Archer as she ever has been. But, there’s a lot more intrigue going on between them.
You also have the hardest to pronounce character name.
Yes, so much that I mispronounced it hundreds of times when we were recording the show.
I was going to ask how long that took to get used to.
Just forever. I mean, I don’t think I ever really learned it properly. I would be on episode six, and I’d be like, “Wait, what is it, how many consonants? How many syllables?” Yeah, it was a really complex one. And we kind of just mutilate one of those many beautiful Pacific Islander languages during the season. And I’m sure we’ll get letters, but, you know, whatever we do, at Archer we feel disgust at our own show, so…
We’re a few years into these radical changes that last for the season. Does that change feel as significant when you’re in the sound booth recording the voices?
It’s so interesting. In terms of like the show transforming every season, it absolutely does. Her vocals kind of changed a little bit, you know, [she] wants to look like a princess. And she’s Pacific Islander, she speaks French. And she’s speaking a little bit of Maori or Tahitian, or I’m a jerk.
So it’s fun to kind of play the same character with the other new kind of layers or tones that you didn’t get to play with in previous seasons. But I when you’ve been doing a character for as long as all of us have, you really start to know that character very well and know what their little quirks are, their verbal tics and everything. So it is fun to kind of dive back into the same character in a different way.
It does seem like a rare opportunity to play a character for so long then get to play little reinventions ever season.
I think it’s pretty rare, right? You’ll occasionally have a show where, again, a lot of the characters have a dream sequence or a dream episode or, what they do a live musical episode? Or somehow they go back in time. But it’s just rare that the whole storyline and every character falls into a new setting, and they really immerse themselves in that setting for an entire season. I mean, it may have been done in the past, but I can’t think of a show that’s done it for fun.
There’s been a rumor going around after Dreamland ended that Lana might be out of the series for good.
Ah, interesting. Well, I think after Archer got shot at the end of our L.A. season, any kind of anything could happen. Anything’s up for grabs. And I think a part of that was Adam was able to raise the stakes higher, because these things could be happening, they could be real, [or] they could be imagined. And I think it was a way to really increase the stakes for everybody. For the audience, for the character. So, who knows what’s gonna happen. But, I am on the poster.
Do you know if there are more of these scenarios on the back burner ready to go for future seasons?
I feel like I can tell you that Adam has a plan, but I honestly can’t tell you what it is. He has such a strong vision for this show, and he has for such a long time. I mean, unlike almost any other scripted show, Adam writes every single episode. I think in the nine seasons of the show, maybe he hasn’t written two. And I could be wrong about that. It could be fewer than that. Most shows have a writers’ room, and they have little players. He’s one of the only guys out there who, you know, it’s him and it’s only him. So I think to both stay focused and motivated and all those things is to have a very grand, overarching creative plan for this show. And that’s all I can tell you! We’ve got a plan, but I can’t disclose it yet! [Evil laugh]
I will say that we tend to spoil ourselves pretty innocently, you know what I mean? I… this isn’t really spoiling it, but FX will be like, “Okay, don’t say anything about this.” And then, you know, I’ll just read in print that one of crew has already mentioned it. So, it may very well come out soon, but I have to make sure it doesn’t come from me.
Does it get exhausting? Trying to keep all this under wraps?
I mean every year there’s a lot of secrecy around our new seasons. We teased it at New York Comic Con last year, typically we don’t do that until San Diego Comic Con in July. But it feels like it’s been forever since we teased it. And, you know, it’s been out there.
A few months ago we talked about your directorial debut, Axis, when you were touring festivals with it. Now it’s out on VOD.
It’s really exciting. I must have mentioned that I didn’t have a vision for this movie. It was just a first film, it was a tiny film, it was a really strange film with an unknown in the lead, and I just felt, “Well, I’ll make this movie, and like my family will see it,” you know? And it’ll be on my Vimeo page. Could use it to like, try to get another movie set up. And we ended up doing 10 festivals and two awards, and then getting picked up for even more platforms than we expected.
So it’s been just really exciting and gratifying that people have responded to the film so well. And that the reviews have been so positive. I’m really proud of it. But I didn’t have any of the typical kind of trappings that you have with a movie like this. There’s no studio behind it, we don’t have a marketing machine. We don’t have people advising us on like how to put it out. I’ve been kind of feeling my way through this process, for the most part on my own, with the help of like some of the cast of my movie. So it’s exciting that it’s coming out, ’cause I still feel like it’s gonna be in like all English speaking territories, you know? Like U.K. and Ireland and Canada, and that’s great. I’m very delighted and surprised that it’s happened like it has.
We talked a bit about the relationship you had with the audiences when you were touring with Axis, the nature of the film, and how its ambiguity creates a conversation afterward. And you got to be a part of most of those conversations up until now.
Yeah. You’re right, you’re right. I won’t be able to kind of curate, like, the last five minutes of their experience.
I think, when you’re trying to make art, it can’t ever be for everyone. If you’re gonna make something interesting, some people are gonna love it, and some people aren’t. But I’d much rather, and I can probably come down to me being a standup, you can’t make the whole room laugh. You can’t make everybody love you. There’s always gonna be one guy that doesn’t get it. So I think for me, it was more interesting to make a distinctive tone that challenged the audiences than make a crowd-pleasing film that sells great for everybody at the end.
And I think I prepared for how other people react to the movie, because at this point now, it’s like I raised my kid, and I’m sending him off to college. There’s not really anything I can do to protect him. I’ve gotta like, let them go and run in the world. But going through the early process of talking to people and then getting like these really effusive reviews, I feel like [the] movie stands on its own. It asks a lot of questions, and it pushes the viewer to surrender a bit to this very unusual narrative experience, and then either you’re into or you’re not into it. I mean, if I paint the car and you see an elephant, like, that’s your experience. I can’t feel like you’re wrong, you know?
Well, there’s bound to be a Reddit thread where people argue back and forth about it.
Of course, of course. And there’ll be people who are champions of it, and people that don’t love it. But that’s everywhere. I mean, you know, it’s been so interesting to be a part of the Ready Player One conversation over the last couple of weeks. I was a fan of the book, and I hosted [an event] at SXSW, and a lot of my friends love that book. Read it multiple times. And you had every kind of reaction to that movie. You had people who loved the book and loved the movie. You had people love the book and hated the movie. There were people who never read the book, and loved the movie, or had really strong reactions to the movie that were negative. You just cannot please everybody.
I was a big fan of the book and I saw the movie. And then I actually loved it the second time even more. It was so layered and dense. It’s a super dense movie. Like, there’s just like a lot of shit happening in that film that you just can’t see the first time you watch it. It was actually more fun for me the second time.
I was thinking more, like, people with rival theories who insist the other is wrong.
I would love for that happen. I should start a thread anonymously there. Get people to discuss the alternate theories at the end of the movie.
What’s in store for Whose Line Is It Anyway?
We have a season in the can, and not quite sure what it’s gonna premiere. I don’t have a domestic air date. I’m assuming, like, summer? Hopefully, it’s gonna come out sometime late spring, early summer. Obviously, Archer’s starting, [but] I’m on a hiatus now from most of my stuff. I’m just traveling, doing some Cons, I’m writing another movie. I’m actually working on two new movies. And getting ready, hopefully, to come back for Criminal Minds season 14.
You’re doing a lot for someone on hiatus.
It’s funny, I’m just at that period now where I’m like 90% over-committed instead of 100% over-committed.