Want to do Archer star and comedian H. Jon Benjamin a solid favor should you ever recognize him on the street? Then resist the temptation to request he say “Danger zone!” — the catchphrase with which his character Sterling Archer has become synonymous with during the five seasons-and-counting run of FX’s spy spoof.
“I do a lot of performing on my own and that’s mostly just people shouting ‘Danger zone!’ now,” says Benjamin. “I’m not going hit you with a ‘Danger zone!’ every time you ask. I’m not that giving.” Aside from the whole “Danger zone!” thing, Benjamin has no complaints about his starring role on Archer which, combined with his starring role on Bob’s Burgers, has made him one of the most successful people “on” TV who very few people actually would recognize on the street. So is his fame-less fame a blessing or a curse? “I’d say it is a bit of both,” he admits. “I’m happy being where I am, I’m happy doing the shows I’m doing. Both of them are really fun shows to work on, and they’re really well done shows, which is hard to come by. So I’m proud to be a part of them. But there are specific times that, like anybody, I’d rather be more famous.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: In the current season of Archer, your character has stopped being a spy and started being essentially a cocaine kingpin. What did you think when you were told they were changing things up?
I was thrilled. I really liked the idea. I mean, Adam (Reed, Archer creator-writer) has in the past thrown curveballs but this is the biggest.
In the beginning did you have any difficulty finding the voice of Archer?
I definitely started with a faux British accent. I tried it for a couple of lines and Adam was like, “No, no, no, I picked you for your voice. Don’t do that.” So that was shot down pretty quickly.
Is the process of recording Archer very different from recording Bob’s Burgers?
It is, yes. Demonstrably different. Bob’s Burgers is done with the cast all together — not necessarily all together, some are in L.A. and some are in New York, but we’re hearing each other. So scenes are performed as a group. And Archer is just me alone in a booth.
Was it fun for you doing last year’s Bob’s Burgers/Archer sort-of crossover episode?
Yeah. I was just sort of amused but it ended up being a big deal. I don’t think you had to be a Bob’s Burgers fan. It was a very good episode in and of itself. But it was a real treat for people that watch both shows.
Why is Archer so beloved?
I think it was well cast. [Laughs] [But] Adam and Matt Thompson (Archer executive producer) are really good at what they do. I just think they’re truly into making an animated show, which is hard to do.
One of the more subtler running jokes in Archer is that no one, including the characters, seems sure when it’s set.
The time is not quite certain. It certainly started as if it was James Bond-era, which I assume would be late ’60s, right? But there’s a lot of modern stuff. And this iteration of the show seems very ‘80s. So maybe next season will be the ‘90s. It will finally catch up — hopefully before it gets cancelled.
There is a bonus extra on the Archer season 2 DVD in which Sterling has an accident that results in him looking just like you — at which point, all the other characters start treating him as if he was Quasimodo. Now, at the risk of this interview entering a weird space, you’re actually a perfectly fine-looking dude…
I’m acceptable. I’m not the Elephant Man.
That’s my point. The whole thing seemed incredibly cruel, even by the show’s already mean standards. What did you think when they hit you with that idea?
Um, it was my idea. I brought that to Adam. I said, “I am so tired of people meeting me and going like, ‘Oh, god! You’re not what we expected.'” I understand it. I’m not getting the James Bond part any time soon.
Has there ever been talk of doing an Archer movie?
It’s all about finances but I’m sure Adam and Matt would love to do it, yeah.
What’s next for you?
We’ve just finished the fifth season of Archer. Bob’s Burgers is starting its fifth season, I think soon. And I’m writing a sitcom pilot and I’m waiting to hear about that. Maybe you’ll see my face and portly body on camera some day.
Okay, so what does the “H’ stand for?
[Laughs] I usually say it stands for the sound the letter makes.
Come on! Tell me!
I cannot tell America that. Somebody wrote online that it was Henry and it’s not Henry. There is, I think, six other options.
Archer airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on FX. You can read much more about the show in the current issue of Entertainment Weekly.