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November 11, 2020
Online Originals

Sounding On

Amber Nash improvised her way into a brilliant career.

David M. Gutiérrez

Amber Nash said the one thing that frightened her parents. She wanted to be an actress.

Nash's career as a voice actress began with smaller speaking roles in the Frisky Dingo animated series. After pursuing a degree in psychology, a friend insisted Nash go to an improv show. "It just blew my mind," says Nash. "I thought it was the coolest thing ever."

Nash began taking classes and dove into the acting field, staring an improv career at the Dad's Garage Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia. However, it's her role as Pam Poovey in FX's long-running Archer series that has cemented her place in pop culture.

Poovey quickly went from a smaller supporting character to one of the main members of the cast. The Emmy-award winning animated show enters its 11th season with Nash returning to voice Poovey. In addition, Nash co-created and co-hosted Archer After Hours alongside fellow Archer actor Lucky Yates. Like the self-assured Pam Poovey, Nash is securing her spot both as a voice actor and on-camera.

As the show progressed, Pam's presence increased significantly. How has she evolved for you over the years?

At first, she was kind of there because [the show's writers] needed somebody be the butt of the jokes a lot of the time. I think after season one, kind of halfway through season two, Adam Reed, the creator and the head writer for the first 10 years, started to realize that she was capable of a lot more.

I think that there'd be times that [the writers] thought, "We need somebody to do this. Let's give it to Pam." She started to amass all these different skills for things that she was capable of. I also think Adam got to know [the cast] better as people.

I grew into the character as the character grew into me. I had only done a handful of small voice acting jobs before [Archer], so I was learning how to do animated voice work at the same time that Pam was becoming the character that she is. It's been a really fun ride and she's such a fun character. I feel like I'm really lucky that I get a lot of the funny and dirty lines.

What aspects of your personality did you see get added to Pam?

There are things that I say in my real life that Adam has made Pam say. I love calling people "ding-dongs". He found things that he heard us say all the time and they kind of made their way into how the characters speak.

Coming up in improv, it was definitely like a boys' club and I had to kind of elbow my way in. I feel Pam is very much that way, too. [She's] definitely kind of a tomboy willing to do anything, willing to show anybody up, or drink them under the table. Whatever it takes. I was definitely more like that when I was younger. I wish that I was more of a badass like Pam, but she is she's otherworldly.

The improv world generally was unbalanced in terms of female representation. Were you the one of the few women in your group?

Unfortunately. I think it was 1997 the first time I stepped foot in there. It's an ensemble theatre, so it was 12 dudes in their 20s. There had only ever been one other female member, and she moved away to go to grad school. It was definitely a boys' club. I really had to fight to get in, to be respected, and to be listened to.

And then once I was, it was kind of like I had 12 older brothers. It really was quite a journey. And now, thank God, we're a much more diverse theatre. There are tons more women. It's not just white dudes in their 20s anymore. It was so male driven; that's the comedy world. But, [the improv world] changed so much in the last 20 years.

Are you able to use your improv background on Archer?

A little bit. Most of the time, the scripts have been through so many rewrites and checked by the network, so there isn't a real need for it. [We improvise] if something's not feeling right or if we come up with funny joke. Casey Willis, he's our showrunner and an improviser, will let us fix stuff on the fly or tweak things.

Archer has quite a convention following. What's the reception like for an actress who isn't seen, but is known for being a voice of a fan-favorite character?

It's so weird. People want Pam, and then they get me, and they're like, "Oh, you're not Pam." It's because the fans love the characters so much. I say, "I know, guys, I know I'm not Pam, but there's nothing we can do about it. So, there is that disappointment for people, but as far as interacting with the fans goes, it's incredible.

My favorite thing in the world is when people are there cosplaying as Pam. Cosplayers these days are so incredibly good at what they do, spending so much time and money making these incredible costumes. So yeah, that's been really fun. There's this one woman that I met at a convention who has a giant Pam tattoo on her thigh. It's like the whole side.

It's crazy to just kind of know how much people really love that character.

You also hosted the Archer After Hours show, which allowed fans to see the voice behind Pam Poovey and allowed you some improv flexibility.

[Lucky Yates and I] are not going to be able to do it again, unfortunately. we did three episodes last season and it was so much fun. We did a ton of improvising because Lucky also works at Dad's Garage Theatre. We've known each other way before Archer started. We had like an outline, so there was some stuff that was written. We had a fun time last year.

Your web series, Hart of America, allowed you to play a number of roles in front of the camera. How did that come about?

I'm constantly auditioning all the time and most people don't know me as an on-camera actor. I wanted to do more of that. I went to my husband [Kevin Gillese], who's a writer and improviser, and asked him to write the series for me. Like I could play a bunch of different characters. He and his writing partner [Arlen Konopaki] wrote [the series].

I love playing old men characters, so I got to play an old man, an old lady, and a couple of young characters too. And it was it was super fun.

We shot it over a week and it's 10 episodes of five minutes each. We got it done pretty quickly and had great time doing it. That was kind of our first project together. Since then, the team that worked on that has gone on to make a short film. And we were gearing up to do a feature film this year, but obviously things had to be put on hold, but we hope to be able to do that next year.

What advice do you have for somebody who is trying to break into voice acting today?

I think the most important thing is you have to be an actor first before you can be a voice actor, because you can have the best voice in the world, but if you can't act, then it's going to be really tough. That's a big learning curve, and I don't think a lot of people think about it that way. They're like, "Well, I'll just go into voice acting."

I suggest people start with some acting classes. Improv is a great way in, particularly for comedy. It's such a great way to learn. And there's improv theatre in every city, and they all offer classes - particularly cities that have a college culture. There's always a college improv group. I highly recommend doing improv.

It's super competitive, voice work, especially right now. Because all the big actors are doing voice work, for smaller actors, it's harder to kind of break in. And you can record from anywhere. I think just kind of figuring out how to do [it] as much as possible, like working for free in the beginning, just to get experience and stuff for your reel.

Take classes to educate yourself about acting, but technique, too. There's always a lot of voice acting workshops that I would recommend.

Season 11 of Archer airs on FXX.

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