What was it like to record her?
It was a blast. She was always full of energy, really excited to be there. I was always a bit of a fanboy when she was here, so I would be curious to know what she was up to, what she was working on. When they were shooting A Force Awakens, she actually was not able during that time to come record in L.A. because she was in London, so we’d have to arrange our record schedules around that. And I was always very curious to ask her, “How’s it going? What’s happening?” And of course she had certain things she could say and certain things she couldn’t say, but it was always really fun, and there was always a lot of laughter. Most of the time, she would be here in L.A. recording at our offices.
You probably heard this story before, but it’s a funny one: There was a period where our casting director was a collector, so she had out in our waiting area — where the actors would sit while they were waiting to record their lines — these old celebrity magazines from decades earlier. So Carrie was here waiting to record, she’s flipping through one of these magazines, and she sees this article about her family when she was a toddler. It was about Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher and what their life was like. And she did this really funny, almost monologue where she was reading the article aloud for those of us sitting there, but then pausing to add in her own little quips and annotations of what was written in the magazine. It was hysterical; it was like we were watching her one-woman show or something, but she did this all spontaneously and off the top of her head, and it caused you to remember in that moment that this is someone who has been part of a celebrity family since the beginning of her life, and what that must have been like. And it made us even more grateful to realize that we’re so lucky to have Hollywood royalty working on our little cartoon. [Laughs] She was always a pleasure and always cracking jokes, and never shy about being self-deprecating. Just really down-to-earth.
Her death hit Hollywood hard. How crushing was that news for everyone at Family Guy, who had worked with her for over a decade?
It was stunning. Really devastating, and obviously very unexpected. My recollection is that she recorded for the show very recently, so it really came out of nowhere for us, and it was very, very sad. We couldn’t believe it. Even now, it’s hard to just really take in the truth of the situation that she’s not part of the show anymore, so it’s very upsetting for all of us.
Sunday’s episode, “Three Directors,” also features the late Adam West as POTUS. It must have been difficult to cope with two deaths of beloved recurring, important guest stars within a few months.
It was incredibly difficult. The loss of each of those characters in itself was an enormous blow. And then to have two of them happen so close together — we’ve been able to absorb the loss in the show, but I think we’re still processing emotions about losing these two actors from our lives.
Angela fires Peter three times in the episode, once in the style of Quentin Tarantino, once in the style of Wes Anderson, and once in the style of Michael Bay. What sticks out to you about Carrie’s performance in “Three Directors”?
A couple things. First of all, I love the way that she delivers the lines in which she fires Peter in the style of Wes Anderson because she nailed, in my opinion, what those movies are and the acting styles that’s contained within them. I love Wes Anderson movies, but even he would admit that sometimes his characters speak in ways that are not like humans speak. She comes in dressed in this odd get-up that we’ve never seen her wear before, and says, “You’re relieved of your position.” It’s like, who fires someone that way? Beyond just the words themselves, her delivery of it was perfect, just the right balance of realistic, but stilted and oddly distant.
But I think probably my favorite version of her firing Peter is the Michael Bay [segment], which culminates with Angela and Peter engaging in the grossest, longest French kiss you’ve ever seen. [Laughs] So having to direct her to make those noises was hilarious. We were all just cracking up, because I remember saying to her, “Okay, so now Angela is kissing Peter, and it’s just wet and lots of tongue,” and she just jumped right into these ridiculously gross but hilarious noises. And it just went on for awhile, but we kept laughing with each new iteration of it. It was actually a lot of fun sorting through those different Carrie Fisher noises and figuring out which would be just the right level of saliva and grossness.
She’ll also pop up in a Christmas episode (“Don’t Be a Dickens at Christmas,” airing Dec. 10). What can you hint about that appearance?
It’s at the very top of the show. It’s Peter’s last day of work before he gets a little time off for the holidays, so it very much has that feeling that we all remember when it’s like the last day at school before Christmas vacation. Peter is sitting there with a boom box, just waiting to be dismissed from work so he can blare “School’s Out,” by Alice Cooper, and, of course, he keeps jumping the gun, much to the annoyance of Angela, who’s not quite ready to dismiss everyone from work. It’s just Peter’s enthusiasm for Christmas getting in the way — yet again — of him being the type of employee that Angela would expect him to be.
Angela was an important character to the fabric of the show. For fans seeking closure, how will you properly wrap up her story and pay tribute to Carrie?
I’m not going to say too much about that, but we do have an upcoming episode [airing next fall] where we deal with Angela’s departure. The way we’ve written it, and the way that our characters on the show are talking about Angela, it’s very much intended and a respectful goodbye to both the character of Angela and also Carrie Fisher. Peter has a speech in there where he’s talking about Angela, but we the audience know that he’s also quite deliberately talking about Carrie Fisher. It’s not like the entire episode is about Angela’s departure, but it does introduce Peter’s new bosses that then sets the stage for what the episode is about. Her departure is an integral part of it, but that’s not the story of the episode.
Peter’s new bosses will be played by Bryan Cranston and Niecy Nash. What dynamic can we expect from this husband-wife team?
They’re job-sharing and the dynamic between them and Peter — the comedy that we hope we’re going to get out of that — is that they are the perfect couple who are so in love that they don’t even finish each other’s sentences, they literally share sentences. Each of them will say the alternating word within a single sentence in such a saccharine, sweet way that Peter just can’t believe what he’s witnessing and has to deal with every day at work. And those two actors are such fun to work with and obviously incredibly talented and funny. We’ve had their characters now in four or five episodes that we’ve done so far that are making their way through the pipeline, and we’re really enjoying having them on the show and the dynamic that these new bosses are bringing to the brewery.
Was it challenging to work on that first part of the episode?
It was. We didn’t want to be completely straight and really sad, but we also wanted it to properly express how we felt about losing the character of Angela, but also about how we as a staff and crew of this show felt about losing Carrie Fisher from the show. We tried to walk a very narrow line, and I hope that we did a good job of it. We tried to make it humorous but also in a way that’s also respectful and sweet — and a nice farewell to Carrie.
What will you miss about working with her?
That’s two questions. What I miss about Carrie Fisher is just the fun that she brought the office and how much I would look forward to record sessions with her. Just being in her presence, and soaking up her wit. What I’ll miss about not having Angela on the show is that I feel like she was a great, layered character that we could use in a number of different ways. I’ll miss Angela the character. But I miss Carrie the actress even more.
To watch a clip from the seven-minute Carrie Fisher tribute that can be found on Family Guy’s season 15 DVD (out Nov. 7), click on the video above.