Arrested Development Exclusive: Jessica Walter on The Return Of Lucille Bluth, Her Long Career and More

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Interviewing an acting legend – especially one working on new Arrested Development episodes, as as well as fan favorite Archer – isn’t a bad way to spend an afternoon.

On Season 4 of the beloved, resurrected sitcom (all 15 are available this Sunday on Netflix), Jessica Walter is back as boozy matriarch Lucille Bluth and, well... the time away hasn’t made Lucille a better mother. But that’s the way we like it.

I sat down with Walter recently and not only got her approval on the name of this site, but also talked about what’s new with Lucille while taking a walk down memory lane with her career highlights...

Jessica Walter Promo Pic

Jessica Walter: Jim, what are you writing for?
TV Fanatic: This is
JW: Oooh. I love that. TV Fanatic.

TVF: My first question is actually about how we watch TV. How do you watch TV? What’s your preferred way to watch your favorite shows?
JW: Until I got Netflix, which I got because of Arrested Development, I started with House of Cards and I got hooked and I binge-watched the whole thing. The first night was one hour. Then the second night was two, then three. I had withdrawal when it was over. I really, really did. I had withdrawal so I think it’s the wave of the future, obviously. And no commercials. You can really get involved because you have no commercials.

TVF: Where do we find Lucille in these new episodes?
JW: Where do we find her? You saw the ankle bracelet in the poster. She’s under surveillance. She has one ankle bracelet in the foreseeable future and a lot of trouble there. That I can say. You know we’ll get killed if we give away anything.

TVF: Will we find out what happened in those years in between?
JW: Oh, yes. Oh, definitely.

TVF: Were you surprised at all when you actually saw what Mitch had dreamt up for the new episodes?
JW: Yeah. I was totally and I even know secrets that no one knows that he told me if there’s ever a movie. Major secrets that I would totally be shot if I ever gave away. Seriously. That you can’t believe. How’s that for a teaser? It’s very juicy.

TVF: Talk to me about working with Tony Hale. The clip of you smoking and him taking the smoke from you (below)... hilarious stuff.
JW: He’s so wonderful and all of his mumbling, whatever he was doing there. I was so involved until I saw the clip, I didn’t realize he was even mumbling because I was so into my magazine. You know, you just do it until they yell cut. The thing is that they never did yell cut for such a long time that I had to take another cigarette because I was down to the nub. You know what I mean? So I took another cig and that’s when he fell over the couch and almost died. It was great fun.

TVF: Do you actually feel maternal towards anybody in the cast?
JW: I do. I feel maternal towards Portia and Tony especially.

TVF: Why is that? Because they play your kids on the show?
JW: I don’t know. I guess because I love her so much. She’s such a good person and Tony is so endearing and our relationship, I guess, spills over from the show to real life. I love everybody, but maternally, those two.

TVF: I know the new scripts are very intricate so is it safe to say the script was pretty tight or could you guys be a little loose when you were shooting?
JW: Yeah, you know actually, certain people were looser than others. I like to stick to a script more than most people so I tried to. Let’s put it that way. Because when you have that kind of writing, you know, you don’t need to add anything.

TVF: Lucille’s somebody we love watching on TV but would you ever want to be friends with her? Do you think you could be friends with her?
JW: That’s a great question. Yeah. I think I could. I think I could get beyond her cover because it’s all a cover with the way she behaves because inside she’s so insecure.

TVF: Would you trust her, though?
JW: No. I would not trust her. I don’t trust most people though so that’s just me.

TVF: Kristen Wiig plays the young Lucille and I could see the Lucille-esque mannerisms in her performance. Did you have any hand in that or is that all her?
JW: I wish I could say that I did. I have never met her. I was blown away that she wanted to do the part and she obviously studied it because she was great. She really was.

TVF: She was doing these eye things even when caked in mud.
JW: I know. Amazing. Lucky me to have her.

TVF: Without talking about plot, is there anybody in the cast that you wish you had been able to do more with in this season or did you get a chance to work with everybody?
JW: I did work with everybody, but mostly I worked with Portia and Tony. I think I would have loved to have worked more with Will. I love Will. The kids (Michael Cera and Alia Shawkat) and Will, I didn’t get to work with a lot and I wish I could have.

TVF: You’re known for so many things in your career. What do you hear from the most from people? This show? Play Misty for Me (the 1971 film with Clint Eastwood where Walter played his mentally unstable stalker)?
JW: You know, I still hear about Play Misty. Go figure. That one is so old. This show, of course.

TVF: I remember Amy Prentiss (Walter’s 1974 series, for which she won an Outstanding Lead Actress Emmy).
JW: Oh my God, Amy Prentiss. That was a great show. It didn’t last long, but most of them don’t.

TVF: Is there anything left on your bucket list since you’ve done a little of everything?
JW: You know, I did a musical two years ago on Broadway, Anything Goes and I’d love to do another one. I love New York. I live there. I’d love to do a straight Broadway play, which is a lot easier than a musical. I’d love to do another play in New York.

Arrested Development returns Sunday at midnight PST on Netflix. TV Fanatic will be reviewing all new episodes throughout next week.

Jim Halterman is the West Coast Editor of TV Fanatic and the owner of Follow him on Twitter.

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