Jessica Walter has boozed, cursed and sexed her way through four seasons of one of the most unabashedly raunchy shows on TV. How has she managed to remain sweet, innocent and delightful in real life?
Ignorance, that's how. It truly is bliss.
"I don't understand a lot of the things that are being said, but maybe I'm better off," says Walter, 72, who voices the hard-nosed, sexually blunt and possibly alcoholic Malory Archer on the FX animated series Archer. The show's Season 4 finale makes its Canadian debut Thursday on Teletoon.
Many naughty things have come out of Walter's animated mouth on the adult-oriented, bitingly clever show about the dysfunctional employees of a spy agency. But unlike her younger co-stars - including H. Jon Benjamin (Bob's Burgers), Aisha Tyler (Whose Line Is It Anyway?) and fellow Arrested Development alumnus Judy Greer - Walter doesn't always know what she's saying.
"I just say, 'What does that mean?' And sometimes I say, 'Don't even tell me what it means, just give me a line reading and I'll imitate it,' " Walter says.
As the silver-haired CEO of the International Secret Intelligence Service, Malory rules with an iron fist - usually clutching a highball glass - and interferes with the professional and personal life of her secret agent son, Sterling (Benjamin.)
A drinky, domineering mom lording over her maladjusted offspring - where have we heard that one before? But Walter says Archer's Malory Archer and Arrested Development's Lucille Bluth are completely separate creatures.
"I think of them as totally different," says Walter. "With animation you have to have a more broad interpretation, and you have to have so much energy, which would never fly if your face was on the screen."
Walter's career has spanned more than 50 years, from her feature film debut alongside Warren Beatty and Peter Fonda in 1964's Lilith to Clint Eastwood's 1971 directorial debut Play Misty for Me to Jim Henson's live-action sitcom Dinosaurs, voicing dino-mom Fran.
But it's Arrested Development and Archer that have gained her a new generation of young, smart and highly devoted fans.
"I do have people say hi in the street," says Walter. "Before (Arrested Development) they were all my age. But now I have the young folks and the grandmas."
In addition to a pilot for the TV Land series Jennifer Falls, Walter has been busy shooting the fifth season of Archer, debuting Jan. 13 on Teletoon. The cast and creators and have been exceptionally mum about the new season, saying only there's a major shakeup that takes things in a whole new direction.
Walter does reveal that Malory's relationship with husband Ron Cadillac - voiced by her real-world hubby, Ron Leibman - hits a rough patch.
"Malory and Ron are going to have an open marriage, because things are not going well," says Walter.
Has Leibman suggested this arrangement carry over into the real world?
She bursts out laughing. "God forbid! No. We've been married 31 years. We're in it for the long haul."