TV Tidbits: WFU alum brings his sarcastic cyborg Barry back to 'Archer' | Entertainment
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TV Tidbits: WFU alum brings his sarcastic cyborg Barry back to ‘Archer’ | Entertainment

The bawdy animated comedy “Archer” is back for its 10th season Wednesday on cable channel FXX, and recurring villain Barry is back as well.

Barry, whose voice is provided by Wake Forest alumnus Dave Willis, has been a recurring foe since the first season of the show. “Archer” started as a spy spoof, but in recent years has reinvented the premise each year, recasting the same characters in different genres — film noir one year, 1930s tropical adventure the next. The new season, dubbed “Archer 1999,” is a parody of sci-fi movies such as “Alien,” re-imagining the characters as a dysfunctional spaceship crew.

Barry started in the first season of “Archer” as a rival spy, and suffered major injuries and getting parts replaced in each encounter with the show’s main character, arrogant superspy Sterling Archer. Eventually, the KGB turned Barry into a full-blown cyborg, sort of an evil version of The Six Million Dollar Man, and he would show up once or twice a season to cause trouble. In “Archer 1999,” he is called Barry-6 and looks entirely robotic — but still with the original Barry’s sociopathic, wise-cracking personality.

“I was encouraged when he was first turned into a cyborg,” Willis said. “I thought yeah, he could live forever with a titanium endoskeleton. Then again, it’s cartoons, so you can kind of make them live forever regardless.”

Willis isn’t making much use of the political science degree he got from Wake Forest, where he graduated in 1992. But, he said, “I definitely look back on my time there very fondly. I made a lot of great friends and still stay in touch.” He said he declared his major “very late,” and knew he was not cut out for that particular major, but his parents insisted he get his degree in four years or he would start having to pay for college himself.

He drew cartoons for the Old Gold & Black student newspaper and worked at Wake Radio, an on-campus radio station, giving him a taste of both cartooning and voice work.

“I didn’t know what I wanted,” he said. “I grew up as a kid wanting to make movies and stuff. … It was always something that was of interest to me, but I never thought this was what I’d end up doing.”

After graduating with his political science degree, he said, “Everyone else went to law school, and I went to making cartoons.”

He wrote for Adult Swim’s Atlanta-based Williams Street production division starting in 1996 on such shows as “Cartoon Planet” and “Space Ghost Coast to Coast,” and gradually started doing voices as well. That led to the cult hit “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” which he co-created. That show ran for 11 seasons, starting in 2000, and spawned a theatrical film. In addition to writing, he provided the voices for dimwitted Meatwad and burly neighbor Carl, which he said he based on his uncles and a college roommate.

He went on to co-create “Squidbillies,” an animated comedy about hillbilly squids, and “Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell,” a live-action parody of workplace comedies, both of which are still running on Adult Swim. He is now working on an animated version of “Howard the Duck” for Hulu with Kevin Smith as well as a podcast project. “I’ve got a lot going on,” he said.

“Archer” was created by Adam Reed, an Asheville native, and co-stars Chris Parnell, a UNC School of the Arts alumnus. Willis first met Reed when he did a voice for a Barry-like character on Reed’s previous show “SeaLab 2021.”

“I think Adam and Matt (Thompson, the co-creator) responded to my smart-ass delivery on stuff,” Willis said.

Asked what his hopes are for Barry’s future, Willis replied, “spinoff baby, I think Barry could carry a whole show.”

“I don’t know if they’re going to make more,” he said, “but I certainly love playing the character. When you get a script and you’re laughing when you’re reading it so much that you’re having trouble getting out the lines, that’s a good sign.”

He hasn’t been back to Winston-Salem in many years — the last time he can recall was to attend a 2001 concert at Ziggy’s featuring the band Tenacious D. “I keep threatening to come back for homecoming but I haven’t,” he said. “I thought it would be great to come back. … I bet the trees that they planted (on the Wake Forest campus) in the early ‘90s are now huge.”

Jeryl Prescott, an actress from Winston-Salem, is part of the cast of “Swamp Thing,” making its premiere Friday on the DC Universe streaming service. The live-action series is based on the DC Comics title about a scientist transformed into a hulking monster dealing with supernatural forces in the swamps of Louisiana. Prescott plays Madame Xanadu, a blind fortune teller who is secretly a centuries-old sorceress.

Prescott is perhaps best known for her role as Jacqui, one of the survivors of the zombie apocalypse in the first season of “The Walking Dead,” as well as recurring roles on “Ray Donovan” and the superhero series “Powers.”

Comedian Colin Quinn takes a cynical look at the political divide in America in a new CNN special, “Colin Quinn: Red State Blue State.” The hour-long program, airing at 9 p.m. Monday, is based on Quinn’s Off-Broadway show. “We are at risk of a civil war,” he says. “And you don’t want to see a civil war in this country, this country is not built for another civil war — it’s going to be the first time in history you see fat refugees. That’s not going to be a good look, refugees in jorts and flip-flops and Dunder Mifflin T-shirts, pulling coolers towards the Canadian border.”

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