Adam Reed is stumped. The creator of the popular FX animated spy series Archer, which premieres season four tonight on FX, has just been asked if he can name an openly gay spy. While Reed doesn’t rub shoulders with spies on a day-to-day basis, he assumes we mean fictional spies — but nonetheless he is stumped.
When hit with this realization, Reed seems proud that he has created Ray Gillette, the smart, handsome, and openly gay spy on his series.
“No prominent gay spies come to mind," says Reed as he discusses the upcoming fourth season of one of the most under-celebrated animated comedies on TV. "He might be a leader in his field.”
Archer's namesake and the show's protagonist is Sterling Archer, a reckless, pompous, womanizing James Bond-wannabe (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) who prefers a drink and a damsel over saving the world. The series revolves around Archer and his fellow morally bankrupt spies who work at the International Secret Intelligence Service (ISIS), run by his mother, Malory Archer, who is voiced by Arrested Development’s Jessica Walter.
Mixing elements of The Pink Panther, James Bond, and maybe a dash of Austin Powers, the show is backed by voice actors minted from comedy gold — tapping Judy Greer, Aisha Tyler, and Chris Parnell to help round out the ISIS team. With this all-star team and no shortage of witty, raunchy one-liners, Archer has cemented itself as one of the most shocking and hilarious shows on television.
With Archer as a world-reknowned womanizer, Ray provides an interesting point of contrast as a competent, smart spy who happens to be gay.
“Well, you know homosexuals are underrepresented in spy fiction," says Reed, who created and voices Ray. "I wanted to right that wrong. He was supposed to be a one-time character; that’s why I did the voice. So this guy will be an openly gay agent, and I actually liked him — he came across as smart, in-control, and as a foil to Archer. FX liked him and told us to keep him around, so we did.”
When we left Ray last season, he was using a wheelchair after being paralyzed. But Reed hints that Ray may walk again (perhaps thanks to a pair of cybernetic legs), and also alludes that Ray may not be the only gay spy viewers see in the new season. Reed says to be on the lookout for “a fellow spy from the past, who is smarter, cooler, better-dressed, and who can out-Archer Archer, and may have had more than a platonic relationship with Archer in the past.”
On Archer, insults fly as fast as bullets, with the spies constantly ribbing each other on everything from their choice of wardrobe to their bedroom manners — with Ray’s sexuality usually feeling the brunt of his coworker's snark.
Archer won Best Show You’re Not Watching at the New Now Next Awards back in 2010, and while all the characters are fair game in the ISIS offices, Reed was never seriously concerned about the gay backlash for the flak Ray takes at the office.
“[I was] a little worried, [but] not too worried," says Reed. "The people who get hit the worst at ISIS are Ray and Pam, and they are the nicest people there. My gay friends love Ray, they want to see more Ray-centric episodes, like he should become a pilot or things like that.”
A gay character on TV who is a secret spy and a pilot? Move over, Daniel Craig, we've got a new secret agent crush.