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Chris Parnell on the ‘Grotesque’ Moments of ‘Archer’ and His Resemblance to J.J. Abrams

Chris Parnell on the 'Grotesque' Moments of 'Archer' and His Resemblance to J.J. Abrams

Between “Rick and Morty” and “Archer,” Chris Parnell should be some sort of animated comedy deity. Honestly, he may have earned a similar status without the genre restrictions after a decade and a half on “Saturday Night Live,” followed up by cult icon status in “Suburgatory” and the scene stealer of all scene stealers on “30 Rock.” But here we are, in 2016, with two instant classics on the air and one man linking them both.

For “Archer’s” part, Parnell’s role got an expansion in Season 7 after going to some pretty wild — and always discouraging — extremes in Season 6. Below, the sketch comedy master turned go-to voice actor spoke with Indiewire about how we’re supposed to feel about Cyril Figgis, favorite seasons and cocktails, what he’s most recognized for these days and whether or not Cyril was the one who killed Sterling Archer in order to become him.

I’m curious as to why Cyril has stuck with the agency. He’s always bullied and disrespected. He would have opportunities somewhere else, too, so I’m wondering why he would stay with these people throughout their transitions?

I think a lot of it has to do with Lana. I think it’s more exciting than most workplaces. It’s more fucked up than most workplaces. They’re kind of a family even though they have a lot of troubles. Would you rather work there then some auditing firm? I think the spy agency and now detective agency seems a lot more fun.

Cyril kind of goes back and forth with wanting to be more involved with the fieldwork side of things and then being more suited for the management side of things. Do you think he wants to get back into the fieldwork?

I think he does. He’s always wanted to do some of that. He did okay the few times he went into the field as an agent. I’m sure that’s something he wishes for, I think — unless he wishes to just have the power and the money and not do much work. I think he’d like to be mixing it up a little bit.

I have a hard time imagining what his dream scenario would be. I imagine it’s pretty close to what’s being set up in this season with his name on the building and being in charge of everyone. Do you know what his dream scenario would be?

I don’t know if I do. He would like to have real power. He’s got the agency named after him, but he would like if more respect were paid to him. And if Lana came back to him. Beyond that, I don’t know what the big goal would be.

He’s always set up as someone who wants to be Sterling Archer, at least at the beginning of the series, but he’s developed into more than that.

I’d like to think so. It’s a fun part to play.

How does playing Cyril rank up with your other roles?

It’s voiceover, so that’s a different thing than a lot of what I’ve done. I don’t tend to have tons of stuff to do in an episode. Occasionally I do. It’s always more fun when I do. It’s a big cast to take care of and more stories to tell. It’s the thing of voiceover, you have to focus it all through your voice. With Cyril, it’s tapping into something that’s not that hard for me to tap into. It’s this occasionally pathetic, somewhat put-upon guy. He’s bright but doesn’t always make the best choices. He tries. Sometimes he means well, but he can be diabolical.

What are you recognized for most?

A fair amount of it is Cyril and “Rick and Morty” — kind of the stuff I’m doing now. But a lot of people mention Dr. Spaceman or something from “SNL.” Occasionally I get someone that likes “Suburgatory” a lot.

Do you get one quote or question more than anything else?

I don’t get too many questions. People used to say lines from Lazy Sunday, but that’s gone away. People would say “What up, Parnz?” a lot, but, luckily, that’s gone away. Sometimes they may quote something from “Archer” or “Rick and Morty” that I may or may not remember. You have seen a lot more of the show than I have, and a lot more times the fans are more focused on it and remember it better than we in the cast do. Because we read it, and then it floats out of my brain until we watch it.

What’s your timeframe like for recording? Have you recorded all of Season 7 already?

Yeah. We just finished Episode 10 last week.

How long did that take you?

A few months. The recordings are usually spread out every two to three weeks, which just has to do with Adam writing them. It takes a while.

I have to ask then, do you know who killed Sterling Archer?

I do know. And I can’t tell.

Was it Cyril? He’s probably thought about it a few times.

I think they’ve all thought about it a few times, with the exception of maybe Mallory. Even Mallory’s thought about it a few times.

I feel like he’s one of those characters that’s hard to get a read on. I like him as a character, but I don’t know if I like him as a person. Are we supposed to like Cyril? Are we supposed to empathize with him, or does it just depend on where he’s at, personally?

I think the latter. It’s hard to not have a similar attitude toward him as the rest of the characters do. He can be decent. He can be nice and caring and show good qualities. But he can also be an asshole. He can be petty. At heart, I don’t think he’s too bad of a guy. I think he’s a better guy than Archer.

Do you have a favorite cocktail, personally? And do you know what Cyril’s might be on the show?

Someone from the show, I think [executive producer] Matt Thompson, said a mint julep would be Cyril’s drink. I think that’s more Gillette. I usually drink straight whiskeys. Nice scotches and bourbons and Japanese whiskeys. If I had a cocktail, it would probably be an Old Fashioned. It’s mostly my go to.

Very “Archer” as well.

I don’t know if Cyril would do something plain like vodka tonic, but I think he might be a scotch and bourbon guy, too. That would be very “Archer.”

Favorite — or least favorite — embarrassing moment from Cyril’s past? Was there a particular one that struck you over
the years that really defines who Cyril may be?

It was pretty pitiful, pathetic and embarrassing when he was masturbating on the elevator. That was like, “C’mon, have you no dignity man?” I guess he didn’t. He just needed to do his thing.

That was a great episode, but when you read the ending, was it just, “Goddamit Cyril?”

A little. Especially when I saw the animated final thing. Oh, you’re an idiot.

That’s quite the image.

I know. It’s kind of grotesque.

Do you have a favorite season?

I liked the season where I got to be an agent — I think it may be Season 3 or 4 — and the season, it may be the same or a different season, where I got to be the president of San Marcos. That was fun to do.

Do you think he’s gonna shape up to be a good boss this season?

To the extent that Mallory will let him. He could probably do a pretty good job of it, but he sometimes lets his passion get the better of him. He’s sometimes more interested in getting Lana back than looking at the big picture. It’s hard to have a successful mission with this group of people working together. They can be really idiotic and bumbling and just make really bad choices sometimes.

How do you feel about the overall changes the show has gone through, especially over the last three seasons? Is it fun for you as an actor to get those new scripts?

I love it. I can’t speak for everyone, but I think we all dig that kind of thing. It’s exciting to do something new. I really like what Adam has done with it this season. It has a real film noir vibe to it. And I like that it’s in LA, to me that’s pretty cool. That’s where I am. It’s connected to old Hollywood glamor. As “Archer” always tends to do, it’s a mix of eras. And I think Adam likes that old Hollywood thing and is having a good time writing this season.

I was going over Cyril’s Wiki page and saw a tidbit that said he shares a resemblance to J.J. Abrams. I’ve never thought of that, and I guess I can see it. I was curious if that’s something you’d heard before.

I think that’s a passing fan comment. I’ve never heard that before. I guess I can kind of see it. I actually met the guy Cyril is based on. He was a friend of Adam and Matt’s. He lives in Austin, Texas and I think he’s a doctor. It’s funny because he and I don’t really look alike. They’ve tweaked it to look like me a little more.

“Archer” Season 6 is available to purchase on Blu-Ray and DVD now. Keep up to date on all “Archer” news — including episode reviews — by subscribing to Indiewire’s TV newsletter today.

READ MORE: Review: ‘Archer’ Season 7 Episode 3 ‘Deadly Prep’ Rubs the Lotion on the Skin

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