Steve Callaghan also discusses how the show will pay tribute to the character and actress
When Carrie Fisher passed away suddenly at the age of 60 last December, her death was felt across the galaxy, from Alderaan to Hollywood, and all the way to Quahog. In addition to playing Princess Leia in five Star Wars movies, starring in films like Hannah and Her Sisters and When Harry Met Sally, writing the semi-autobiographical novel and screenplay Postcards from the Edge, and serving as an in-demand script doctor, Fisher had a decade-plus gig on Family Guy. She voiced a key character on the animated comedy, Angela, Peter’s boss at the brewery, popping up in two dozen episodes of the animated comedy, dating back to 2005. Angela was guilty of sexually harassing Peter, but we would also learn that she was deeply sad and lonesome; Peter saved her from committing suicide and went so far as to (semi-)cheat on his own wife to lift her spirits. In the world of Family Guy, this was a mitzvah.
Fisher may be gone, but her work on the show lives on, at least for a little longer. The first of her posthumous episodes debuted in the spring, as she was seen in a cutaway gag complimenting Peter on his watermelon outfit. Her second-to-last episode airs Sunday at 9 p.m. on Fox — get ready to watch Angela fire Peter not once but three times — and her final appearance arrives a month later. In addition, the show will provide closure and pay tribute to Angela (and Fisher) in an episode slated to air next fall. Here to preview what you can expect in Fisher’s final two appearances — and to review her memorable run on the show — is Family Guy executive producer Steve Callaghan.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Seth MacFarlane is obviously such a big Star Wars fan, but apparently he was also a fan of The Burbs, which starred Fisher. How did you decide to pursue her for the role of Angela — and then how did you manage to get her to say yes?
STEVE CALLAGHAN: Peter Griffin has actually held a number of different jobs throughout the series. He worked at the toy factory, and we killed off that boss, and then we had him change to a new job, and he worked as a fisherman for many, many episodes. And then back in season 4, we thought, “Oh, it would be fun to put Peter in a new work environment, and one that overlaps with some of his interests in that it’s working at a brewery.” It was Seth’s idea that [Peter] should have a boss who would be a good oppositional counterweight to him, where Peter would want to just goof off and be a slacker at work. He wanted to pair him with a boss who would have little patience for that, and would be a hard-ass. And it would be an interesting dynamic, too, if his boss was a woman, because we hadn’t had that with Peter. So we started some conversations about what this character would be, and who might play her, and Carrie Fisher is at the intersection of so many of Seth’s loves. He’s a huge Star Wars fan, and for whatever reason, one of his favorite movies of all time is The Burbs, so he always had a lot of affection for Carrie from her appearance in that movie, too. And even when her name first came up, there was some skepticism expressed about if we’d be able to get her. She was such a big star, and so well-known, what would be in it for her to do this show? So we were thrilled when word came back that she was interested in doing the part.
It all came from Seth but we all very enthusiastic when that suggestion was made because there’s not a person on our writing staff nor I would say a person alive who’s not a Star Wars fan. [Laughs] I mean, look at our series; there’s Star Wars all throughout it to about the most extreme extent that you could do. We did three hourlong Star Wars-themed episodes. And, in fact, that was kind of a fun thing too, she seems like the obvious choice to cast Angela as Princess Leia, but we had fun finding other places to fit her in, and I think Carrie was pleased with that choice too. She enjoyed being able to occupy other parts of the Star Wars universe, even if it’s just the Family Guy Star Wars universe.
I imagine she thought it was funny that you didn’t try to cast her as Leia.
Totally. She was in on the joke. She loved that she got to play different people [Mon Mothma] that she would have never otherwise had a chance to play.
Did you have a real sense that the character could last this long? Or once you landed Carrie, was it more like, “Who knows how long we’ll have her?”
By that point, we’d shown a track record of being willing to move Peter from job to job, and we did that for a couple reasons. One, because it provided opportunities for different stories. So we did do it knowing that we liked this new setting of the brewery, that we liked the choice of Carrie as his boss, but we also realized, maybe after some number of years, she would want to move on and not do it. So we thought, “It’s like a carpe diem thing. This is great. Let’s do this while we have the opportunity,” knowing that if we needed to change jobs for Peter, there’s certainly a precedent for it. But we all found over time, as the dynamic between Angela and Peter evolved, that it really worked, and we liked it, and they were interesting together. In fact, we ended up doing entire episodes about the dynamic between Peter and Angela. We did an episode called “Peter-assment,” where she sexually harasses him, and what we learn over the course of the episode is that she’s sort of a different person than she is at work. At the office, she’s one thing, and there’s a reason why she’s like that.
She’s very lonely.
Her life is rather empty. And I don’t know that we would have gone into the depth of that character by doing that episode were it not for the fact that we had an actress who we knew was more than capable of taking that on — and bringing comedy to a situation that when you describe it, sounds a little sad. But the episode itself turned out really fun. And funny. And helped us to get know Angela in a much deeper way. I give Carrie most of the credit for that.
How exactly did she round out Angela in ways that weren’t on the page?
It would be easy for a less capable actress to make that character kind of one-note, gruff and yelling all the time. But Carrie brought to it a depth that I don’t think just anyone could have. And it enabled us to do some of the types of episodes that I was talking about, where we got to know her on a deeper level. Anyone knows their boss in their one context, and there’s a full person behind that that they, for the most part, don’t get to know. And Carrie brought to that role the ability for us as writers to take her outside of the context and the setting of the office and see what her life is elsewhere. We’re incredibly grateful to her for that, and we all feel the loss of that now that we’re writing episodes that don’t have Angela in them.
Carrie was a strong, fearless force of nature. You had her character sexually harassing Peter, and she even tries to kill herself. What did she think about these outrageous things you threw in front of her? Was she game for anything?
I think she really liked it. Carrie, in this way, and in other ways, was very much like Adam West, in that she was always up for anything. If anything, eager for us to present them to material that was just out there and showed us new aspects to the character that may have seemed really odd and crazy on the page but when you see it on the show, just really makes those characters that you enjoy seeing whenever they pop up in our universe. We would use her in unexpected ways. I’m remembering an episode right now where Lois became a boxer and she was the ring girl — it was just funny that she would pop up there as a side gig. Anytime we would bring her into the show — and especially if it as an unusual or unexpected context, she loved it.
NEXT PAGE: A preview of her final appearance — and the episode that will address the fate of Angela