Emmys: Jessica Walter on Lucille's 'Arrested' Evolution, the Lingering Appeal of 'Dinosaurs'

Jessica Walter
Miller Mobley

Walter says that stage fight only helps her while performing, saying, "It energizes me actually. I don’t know what it would be like without it, honestly." On the fourth season of the originally canceled cult comedy, Arrested Development, Walter reprises her role as the uncaring mother Lucille Bluth.

The matriarch of the Netflix-revived comedy and FX's "Archer" talks about TV mommy issues, prison jumpsuits, Kristen Wiig and her long history with voiceovers.

Jessica Walter has an oh-so-close relationships with several TV sons.

The Netflix revival of Arrested Development reunites the codependent Lucille and Buster Bluth, and FX's Archer renewal ensures another season of Mallory and Sterling Archer navigating the muddy waters of a family-run spy business.

PHOTOS: THR Emmy Roundtable: Behind-the-Scenes With TV's Hilarious Comedy Actresses

Walter, highlighted in The Hollywood Reporter's 2013 comedy actress roundtable, recently elaborated on her penchant for playing helicopter moms, how her Arrested character changed since the first series and her long voiceover résumé -- which, if you don't recall, includes ABC's early '90s sitcom Dinosaurs.

The Hollywood Reporter: I'm assuming that you have seen all 15 episodes.

Jessica Walter: I have. Of course!

THR: What did you think?

Walter: Oh, I thought it was a mammoth accomplishment on Mitch Hurwitz’s part, our fearless commander in chief and brilliant creator.

THR: The postproduction process on this season was quite unique. Was that difference noticeable for you as an actor when you were in the thick of it?

Walter: We were acting in it before we knew how it was going to be cut, so for us we did the scene not knowing what it would be. We did know the couple of times we were together, the whole cast, that those scenes would be shot for a different characters point of view. We sort of knew, but we really understood it when we finally saw the episodes.

THR: How did Mitch pitch the revival to you?

Walter: When Mitch called about the possibility of this actually happening, he was getting me his plans for Lucille, and he explained how they were going to pick it up from where they left it seven years ago and that Lucille’s journey would involve prison. I was like, ‘Oh my God, an orange jumpsuit?’ He said not to worry, that it was going to be a country club prison.

THR: How did Lucille change most for you since you last played her?  

Walter: Is she more desperate than she was? I mean, obviously, yes. She was about to be tried for a crime, and relationships with her kids has really changed. I think she became much more attached and dependent on Buster [Tony Hale] so it was harder when Buster finally declared his independence. I thought it was a wonderful way of doing things. Instinct.

STORY: THR's Comedy Actress Roundtable: Auditions for 'Homely' Parts, 'Girls' Paparazzi Problem

THR: How amendable did you have to be with you schedule in order to get this done in the fixed time period that you had?

Walter: Well I live in New York so let’s put it this way: I am now executive platinum on American Airlines. It was so many trips. It was not easy. You know, because they had to juggle everybody’s other things around it.

THR: What did you and Jeffery Tambor think of Seth Rogen and Kristen Wiig playing young George and Lucille?

Walter: Kristen Wiig was wonderful. I was stunned, she really nailed it. And I heard she took it very seriously and really studied the previous shows. I was just so flattered that she wanted to do it because she, to me, she is like an especially talented movie star.

THR: Did you get a chance to talk to her about it?

Walter: You know I have never met her, and I would sure love to meet her and tell her in person. We can both be looking in our makeup compacts.  

THR: Mallory Archer and Lucille Bluth both have odd relationships with their sons. How are they different to you?

Walter: I think that they both really love their children, but they do not know how to show it. They absolutely don’t know how to show it, and I think the difference between the two is that Mallory was a self-made woman and that Lucille did not work and was dependent upon her husband for her lifestyle. Mallory really is tougher, and she does love Sterling [H. Jon Benjamin], but she is not overly dependent. She is always pulling him close like Lucille does with her children but also pushes him away at the same time. I think that's a kind of dynamic a lot of people probably have with their parents. We just have it so broadly displayed in both shows.

THR: Do you ever get recognized for voice work?

Walter: I have been actually doing voice stuff for a really long time. Remember Dinosaurs?

THR: Oh, I definitely remember Dinosaurs.

Walter: I was the Mama. That show was just wonderful. And Archer is beyond a gift --  it is a wonderful, wonderful job. Doing voice-overs is no makeup, no hair. You could just roll out of bed and go do it, although I did work very diligently on the scripts, and I do take it very seriously. I love this group of people, so hopefully we will go to season 10.

THR: People tend to write it off as a TGIF show, but Dinosaurs offered some pretty smart satire for the time. What was your reaction while you were making it?

Walter: A lot of those writers have gone on to bigger things. Those scripts were so socially vital at the time it … there was a morality to it. It was not just a ‘Hi, honey I’m home' sitcom. It was very sophisticated, intelligent and socially conscious -- just with animatronic puppets.