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Lucky Yates, Voice Of Dr. Krieger On Archer - Exclusive Interview

Few Archer characters have remained more consistent than Dr. Algernop Krieger. He was introduced as a weirdo mad scientist and he's remained a weirdo mad scientist for the show's entire run — save the season he played a wisecracking parrot. Lucky Yates provides the voice of Krieger, starting as a throwaway spot in season one and eventually becoming a full cast member with his name in the credits. His love for Archer is pure and uncomplicated, especially with Krieger. "I live in this loft that I'm in, I got it a couple of years ago," he told Looper, "and it's called Fort Kickass. I got a name tag on the door."

Yates had quite the career before Archer as well. He regularly popped up on Good Eats, including a recurring role as the Dungeon Master. He also has an extensive background in puppetry, which saw stops on Sesame Street and Homestar Runner. Yates touched on all of this in an interview with Looper, as well as lots of other great tidbits about his time on Archer — including favorite moments, guest stars, and how the mystery of the possible Boy From Brazil.

Back in the van

What's it like playing Krieger again, actual real life Krieger?

Oh, it's great. It's really awesome, and just going back to yeah, the original way. Being spies again and being Krieger with vans and all that kind of stuff is just a real refreshing take on the original concept, and I'm glad we went genre hopping for a while. I had a blast doing it. I think it sort of reignited everybody's love of the show. I'm talking about internally, and then getting back to the way things were, everybody was super pumped about it as opposed to being in season 11 and going like, "Oh boy, are these jokes getting old or whatever?" We bounced around enough to where it's super exciting again because I haven't seen actual Krieger in so long.

It's very interesting how you come back and there were three years of character development neither Archer or the audience are privy to.


It's like, the spy agency works correctly now?

Yep! Yeah. Archer was the thing holding us back!

So how do you deal with that, with three years of character development you weren't even able to see?

With Krieger though, is there much development? He's still kind of up to his old tricks. Krieger's the one guy that you're just going to get Krieger no matter what you get. It's just like how much growth really is that guy going to go through? So I didn't feel lost in any way, stepping back into his shoes. It was really just more excitement than anything else. So as far as character development goes, yeah, glad to have the old gang back, but I feel like Krieger just, it's like I talked to him yesterday, and yet it's been three or four years.

The face model for Gillette and the inspiration for Krieger

You were the face model for Gillette as well. What's it like when Krieger talks to Gillette?

Dude, it's the weirdest thing in the world watching my voice talk to my face, and they're two different guys! It's so bizarre and it was only going to be a one-off episode. Gillette was going to be just some guy in the bullpen and the thing they were already, the guy they were already drawing started looking like [me]. Back in the late '90s so around the turn of the century, '99, 2000, I had that look. I only had a mustache and I wore vintage suits everywhere, and they were kind of from that era of thin lapels and skinny ties and all that kind of stuff, and when they were drawing the character, they were like, "Hey, this already looks like Lucky from that era. Let's get him in here and just to do it all," because they do a lot of photo stuff with models to get looks right and all that, and so I did a zillion photos of it and it was just going to be for that episode, which I thought was awesome and hilarious, and then he became so beloved and then it was Adam playing him. So it's like, oh, well now he's just a character in the show and this is awesome because if there's ever a series of action figures, I get two! I get a voice one and a face one! (Pantomimes playing with two action figures)

What's your inspiration for Krieger, vocally or anything?

Well, I have to say if Adam, for some reason in an alternate universe, had come to me first and said like, "Hey man, I've got this show that I'm working on and here are the characters. You can play any one you want," I would pick Krieger naturally. I am completely drawn. Well, I love science as it is, but then I really love super science. He's the weirdo. He's in and out with jokes and then he disappears, and I love that. I love the mystery of Krieger that you get these glimpses, but you never really know full stories behind it.

So that being said, I sort of just go in, in love with the guy and just play it from there, and the voice, I don't really change my voice all that much. I just keep it down in the lower register, and I mean, most of it is on the page, but I really just go in with pure love for the guy. It's rare that I ever am confused or don't know how to deliver something just because I love him so much. The toughest thing was when we were in Dreamland and I had to do that episode in German.

Potential Nazi doctor, Dr. Krieger.

If we're following that timeline, not at all. He infiltrated the Nazis in order to screw it all up, and all that was happening in Archer's subconscious so we don't know how much truth there is swimming around in all these things that we've done for the past three seasons.

Favorite moments and guest stars

What are your favorite Krieger moments in the show? It could be this season, could be any season.

Oh man. Oh man! That's a loaded one. I mean, there's so many great ones. I love when he takes Pigley III up to eat the, I believe they were North Koreans. They all got murdered. That's simple when he takes them up and just has him eat the corpse is, for some reason, is one of my favorites. I love the weird things. I love when he puts a tiny pig in his pocket. It's just the subtle little weird again, the mystery of it all. 

I love the one episode when we see Krieger's disgusting apartment, where he's got skin suits hanging around and all that kind of stuff, and you see there's a shared bathroom. He lives in squalor, but he's getting paid. I can't imagine he's not making some good money at the agency. They seem to be doing pretty well, all of them. He has a very important job there. So seeing the squalor that he lives in and all the questions that presents and the doors that potentially opens, I love. 

I also love when Krieger and Pam, they were at the Area 51 thing and they run into the aliens and the aliens sort of give them the secrets of the universe. That's still swimming around in there somewhere, that "what's that all about?" I love that crowd. Things that you see him do that leads to all kinds of questions and "Ooh, what ifs?"

How about any favorite guest stars?

So Jamie Lee Curtis, I am over the moon about. Weirdly enough, Peter Serafinowicz I was super pumped about. He did a James Mason [impression], essentially that Archer [nearly died], and he'd do a thing from Heaven Can Wait, a Warren Beatty film where it's sort of in the afterlife and the James Mason character's sort of guiding [Archer] around, and it's Peter Serafinowicz that does it, and I was really super pumped that that guy was on the show. Oh my God, there's Timothy Olyphant! I'm a huge fan of him, and so having that guy be on the show [was awesome], but nobody has really excited me more than Jamie Lee Curtis. I've been a fan of her for most of my life, and when I found out that she was an Archer fan, she's really into the show and I was like, "Oh my God! I'm a huge Jamie Lee Curtis fan, but potentially, she's a fan of mine!" and that makes me really crazy excited.

Homestar Runner

You worked with Homestar Runner.

Oh yeah, yeah! Two of my best friends, The Brothers Chaps.

I've seen some information that I'd like some confirmation on. Were you the guy who made the Homestar puppet?

I am! I made the original one. The one that exists... you know what? The bones are still mine in there. He's been fixed up by a buddy of mine who's an actual puppet builder at the Center for Puppetry Arts here in Atlanta. We have a huge puppet theater, and so he has fixed the Homestar puppet up in the last, I want to say, five years, but yeah, the original one was mine and I helped build the original Strong Bad puppet. That puppet that exists now is a brand new one, but yeah, and there's a Marshy puppet that I helped build and then a Doreauxgard, which is a cantaloupe on a pencil that Strong Bad made in one cartoon, and we built a Doreauxgard puppet for some reason. I helped build that one as well.

It was quite interesting because I remember looking through your filmography, I'm like, wait a second. He was in Homestar Runner?

Yeah. And then they did a live one. They did sort of a trailer for a Peasant's Quest film and I played the knight in that.

So what's it like working with those guys?

They're just the best. They're the sweetest, just delightful... Honestly, two of the most delightful and friendly and kind humans I've ever met in my life. They're really, really great, and also just outrageously hilarious. You wouldn't know it. If you walked into a room and looked around and went like, "all right, pick the Brothers Chaps out of this room," you would never go to those two guys because they're just like these kind of quiet, unassuming dudes that would hang in the corner and stuff like that. They're really amazing. They did the Trogdor game that sold gangbusters. They're game makers now! It's crazy!

It seems like they disappeared for a long time, but they were just doing other things.

Yeah. Matt moved out to L.A. They got a bunch of development deals with a bunch of different companies, and so Matt moved out to L.A. for a while just to have some boots on the ground over there, and then he was out there. I don't know if it was five years or something like that, and then when he moved back, they worked together again, but they were trying to explore different things and I think one day they were just like, you know what? Let's do a Strong Bad email just for fun. They would always do Decemberween episodes and maybe another one, but I think Decemberween is the one constant they had throughout.

They did it for 10 years and were like, all right, let's stop doing this and just do something else, but then came back and then did the Trogdor game and then suddenly, they're sort of back at it now, which is really awesome, and it's like, they haven't missed a beat either. It's just like the Archer thing where they picked right up where they left off and it's really awesome.

Being a cult favorite

I asked a similar question to Amber Nash, which is you two are some of the lesser known, I don't want to... I'm trying to find the right way to put this...

We're live theater people in Atlanta! We're in an improv troupe! Well, when we're open, we do improv shows every weekend and I do other gigs. Now, I've done Good Eats with Alton Brown. I did that show for 10 years or more. So I had a little bit of TV thing going on, but people still are putting those two things together, that Krieger and the Dungeon Master are the same guy, but again, that's sort of a real, super culty kind of show. Not everybody knows it, and then not everybody knows all the characters from that show. They might've caught several episodes, but they really know Alton and not really anybody else. So it's kind of the thing. It's great because we get to go run around with all these big stars, but we also get to live our lives and go hang out wherever we want and it's fine because there's nobody sweating us for anything, which is kind of nice.

Amber mentioned that whenever you two go to cons, people will swarm H. Jon Benjamin and Chris Parnell and Aisha Tyler, and you'll get your own little breathing room for that.

It's great, yeah! It's like, you go deal with it. It's awesome, and then when somebody does recognize, I mean, I can only speak for myself, but if somebody does recognize me, I'm over the moon about it. It's really touching that somebody actually knows who I am, but I dig being a little cult figure in the world of entertainment. I really like that. M. Emmett Walsh was always one of my heroes. I studied acting in college. It's all I've ever wanted to do, but I always loved M. Emmett Walsh and he was in the genre of, "Oh, that guy" because when he was really working, not a lot of people knew that actor's name. You had to be super into film to know who M. Emmett Walsh was, and so I always wanted that kind of thing of like, God, he's got it so well. He works a lot and people love him and he's just, you'll never tire of him, and I love that.

Puppetry, voice acting, and Grouchland

Your background is largely in puppetry. What's the overlap between puppetry and voice acting for you?

It helps a lot, I'm going to say, only because you're used to speaking, especially if you're doing live puppetry. Now when I do video puppetry, it was just a whole different beast than live puppetry because you can see yourself. When you're doing video puppetry, you're looking at a television screen so you're seeing what the camera sees so that you can keep your puppet, you can see what it's doing and also keep your head out of the way and you look for mistakes, and then you're instantly seeing what your performance is like, and that's fine. When you're doing it live, you have no idea so you kind of have to put yourself in the audience perspective to go not only what does it look like, but what does it sound like.

And I have to put across certain emotions and just intense and all that kind of stuff more vocally than anything because there's only so much you can do depending on the type of puppet. If you're doing a Muppet style puppet, you can get a lot more physical emotion out of it than, say, with my favorite style, which is the glove Punch and Judy style puppet where it's just a solid face and there's absolutely no change. You have a couple few moves that you can do to put across some kind of emotion, but the rest of it has to come across vocally. So I would say it was really good prep to go from puppetry into the world of voiceover because I'm just used to using my voice to emote things more than your typical screen actor, which you get the whole package.

So another thing you've done is Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland.

Yeah! Yeah, I did puppeteer. It was like over a summer. I was there for at least a month, maybe two, shooting that film, and then I was one of the first of the B team of puppeteers. They were all the A team, which are the main Muppeteers, And then I was in the B team, but it was awesome. Again, I got to go work with all the old Sesame Street guys were still on. Frank Oz wasn't there, but Jerry Nelson was there and Caroll Spinney was there and Bob and Maria and the gang, Gordon, and so again, getting to work with all these people that I had been in love with my entire life and really, I love puppetry more than any other art form. It is my favorite form of art and performance, and so getting to just puppeteer with these guys that I've been watching all my life and I'm watching Caroll do Oscar the grouch and talking to Oscar with Caroll performing him and all that, just amazing. 

Just what an amazing experience. Really, really great, and being on a film set for over a month, however long I was there, it was more than a month. It was really awesome and a great educational experience. It was totally a great experience from top to bottom. I loved doing that movie, and it's still, every once in a while, I'll still get a check, a residual check. Only once a year, it's not much but it's still always like, oh man, that's crazy. So yeah, '98, maybe we shot it. Really so long ago, and so the fact that it's still throwing me a couple of bucks a year is kind of awesome.

Going on a mission

So Krieger and Pam get to go on a mission this season. [Episode 3: "Helping Hands"]

Do we? Tell me. Remind me of what you're talking about?

I'm thinking of the one where you go to Hands, a woman voiced by D'Arcy Carden, the inventor Krieger's absolutely in love with.

Yeah, sure. Great. Yeah. Awesome.

I was going to ask you if you remembered much about that, but it looks like you —

No. It was so long ago that, yeah. I am just like, "Hey, is it the one where I flew," but getting to go on things is always exciting for me as an actor because then it's just like, "Oh, I'm not just stuck back in." There will always be sort of a B storyline if there's a group that stays behind, but getting to go and be in on the action is super awesome, and as I'm talking about it, I remember all the things from that, and it's another one of those, "all right! Our boy Krieger is at it! Yay! He proves useful," and I love when he gets to prove himself useful!

I was talking to Amber about that scene and she loved it because she said the two, Amber and Krieger are probably the squirreliest characters out there.

Right. And Pam has actual field agents skills where if a fight happens, nobody's really taken down Pam. She's a bare-knuckle brawler, fight clubber. She can party with the rest of them, and ultimately Krieger is, he's not strong and he will run. He cowers from when gunplay begins and all that kind of stuff. He's not the bravest guy in the office because he's stuck in a lab all the time. So yeah, in the times when he gets to prove himself to be totally useful to the group, I love those shows. So yeah, it is exciting that that happens this season.

Credits and Crackers

It took your name a long time to appear in the opening credits. How did that happen?

Five seasons. Well, really awesome. I mean, Krieger was just like Gillette. He was just one of those guys. He started out as a silent character and then when they... in "In Killing Utne" when they needed another guest at that party, Adam just wrote it to be Krieger and gave him some lines. They weren't really expecting him to talk, and so I had been doing, Amber and I did Frisky Dingo with those guys, and so they brought me in to try out Krieger and it was fine. I was a day player and it was great. I was on another thing, a little cool little TV gig that I had and it was super awesome, but I wasn't in every episode and that was fine, and as things went on, it turned out, I think Adam really enjoyed writing both Pam and Krieger.

And so Pam or Amber got in season two, I think is when she joined the opening credits, and I think season five is when I jumped into it, and it was really great because it was with the rise of Krieger in the character, fleshing him out more and just him becoming more of a presence on the show, then sort of my, I don't know, I want to say clout as an actor or whatever kept going up with him. So we sort of had a similar journey together, and so when we were in the opening credits, it felt earned, you know what I mean? It was really, a beautiful and touching thing.

I was really honored to be up there in the opening credits with all these names and entertainers. I'm a fan of everybody in the cast, a huge fan of everybody in the cast, and I was before Archer ever happened. I loved each and every one of those people from all of their various works, and so getting my name up there next to them in the opening credits was as much an honor as I could ever hope for it because like I said, I studied live theater and I'm a live theater guy. I love doing stage shows, and so getting to be considered a peer of these people that I've admired for so long really is a super honor.

Is there anything you want to talk about that we haven't gone over yet?

I want to say that Krieger, so excited to be back, but I never forget Crackers. I loved playing Crackers. So I love Krieger, I'm so in love with Krieger, but playing Crackers for season nine was really just such a delight for me. I really, really adored that season so much. The whole genre spoke to me, but then playing a talking bird — a wise-ass talking bird named Crackers, which was named after my own parakeet growing up — it was really just the greatest, and I would love to see Crackers come back.

Catch Archer Wednesdays at 10pm/9c on FXX. Stay tuned to Looper for more exclusive Archer coverage.