Comic-Con: AMERICAN DAD’s Rachael MacFarlane Talks Up the New Season; Reveals Her Musical Aspirations

     July 16, 2012


The MacFarlane clan seems pretty unstoppable.  Family Guy is about to enter its 11th season, American Dad its 8th.  Both will be premiering their latest seasons on September 30thRachael Macfarlane voices multiple characters on both shows, but is primarily for her work as Haley Smith on American Dad.  At Comic-Con, we were able to participate in a roundtable interview with MacFarlane.  She talked about how she’ll be fulfilling a dream with her tie-in album where she’ll be performing songs in character as Haley (it’ll be released in late September), where the Macfarlanes get their sense of humor, the work process involved in an animated show, and a lot more.  Check out the full interview after the jump.

Rachael MacFarlane American DadQuestion:  Can you tell us a little about your upcoming album?

Rachael MacFarlane: Our season opener at the end of September is an episode called “Love American Dad Style”.  In this episode Haley gets a job singing in Roger’s bar, and we find out in this episode that she’s a great lover of the great American songbook and also the music of the 60’s and 70’s.  As a sort of a hippie child we think that’s the music that she would have gravitated towards.  So, we’re at the same time releasing this record “Haley Sings” with Concord Music Group, and its jazz, blues, big band; taking the music of The Beatles, Carol King, Paul Simon and Paul Williams and sort of reimagining it for a more contemporary audience.

Did you have fun doing it?

MacFarlane: I had a blast doing it.  I mean, I love, love, love my work as a voice over actress and I’ve been doing it for  15 years, but I’ve trained as a singer and I am a singer and this is what I’ve always wanted to do.  To get the opportunity to marry these two things that I love so much, it’s been a dream, without a doubt.  I’m sort of pinching myself still.

What can you tell me about the show? What did you enjoy doing this last season?

MacFarlane: This season in particular has been really, really hilarious.  My character Haley is married; she and her husband Jeff live with Sam and Francine.  They have this really funny story arc this season where they’ve been together for a while and their sex life is in the toilet, so they’re trying to find a way to reinvigorate it, and they go on this crazy vacation together.  Then later on in the season there’s this great episode where Roger wants to be out of his costume, he wants to be able to just walk around the house like an alien.  But, Jeff obviously can’t know he’s an alien.  So they set it up that Jeff thinks that Roger is his imaginary friend, but when it comes out that that’s not the case one of them has to go. Roger has to go or Jeff has to go.   And so that’s how we end the episode, I won’t give it away, but it’s pretty great.

Rachael MacFarlane American Dad HaleyWhat do you think about the fact that we are used to seeing cartoons for adults on TV now? 15 years ago that was not the case.

MacFarlane: It’s wonderful.  I grew up, obviously, watching tons of animation; Saturday morning cartoons or anything that we could get our hands on.  And then when The Simpsons premiere that just kind of changed the landscape of everything.  We hadn’t had prime time animations since The Flintstones.  Now it’s fantastic, this is a medium that adults should be able to enjoy, it’s not just for our kids.  I feel like now with Adult Swim and all these different outlets for adults to enjoy animation, it’s huge.  I love being a part of it, absolutely love it.

How long in advance do you get your scripts and have time to prepare?

MacFarlane: We’re starting our work on season eight at the end of this month, which won’t air for another year and a half.  We get the scripts maybe the night before we’re going to go read it, then fit together as a cast and read the whole episode together.  Then two days later we record it; individually.  We’re all separate when we do the recordings. And then we don’t see it again for ten months or a year when it airs.  And were like “Oh yeah, that’s right, that’s what that one was about. I remember.”  So before these sorts of events, where people want to know what’s going to happen, we have to sit and go “Ok what happened a year ago? What did we record? What did we do?”  because it’s a long, long period of time.

Do people stop you on the street and ask you about the show?

MacFarlane: No, they don’t know who I am.  Are you kidding me?  That’s the nice thing about voiceover.

What makes you laugh?  Do you have a naughty sense of humor?

MacFarlane: I don’t think that I could have survived in my family without a naughty sense of humor; yeah, absolutely.  I think my brother and I both get our senses of humor from our parents. I mean, my mother was absolutely hilarious and foul.  She had the most ridiculously off color sense of humor, so that was sort of what we grew up with.  It’s amazing some of the stuff that gets pushed through in these episodes that we think “There’s no way in hell were going to be able to air that!”, and then it gets through.

Rachael MacFarlane American Dad Comic-ConWhat’s something that you thought would never air?

MacFarlane: I remember on an episode early on in American Dad when Roger says somebody is a real “see you next Tuesday”, and I was like “Wow, really can we – is that going to be on the air?” and yeah, it was.

Were family dinners competitive around the table about out-funnying each other?

MacFarlane: We both had our things.  Seth was the artist, I was the singer.  We were like “You do your thing, I’ll do my thing and never the two shall meet.”  I think we had a healthy competition going through our childhood.  But I sort of left the funny stuff to him, I said “You’re the comedian, you’re the jokester, you do that I’ll be the more serious one.”  You need that kind of balance in the family.

Being that he’s the comedian, do you ever contribute to the script?

MacFarlane: It’s funny, As the actors on the show we rarely get an opportunity to, as I said we get the scripts the night before but we have great producers on this show, so every once and a while matt or mike will say “I want to take the character in a different direction this season, what do you think about this?” and we do sort of get to add to it and feed it.  Actually, the case with the record coming out is exactly that, where Mike and Matt said “We’re doing this story where Haley’s going to be a singer. What do you want to do, what do you want to sing?”  So I was like, “wow, are you kidding me? This might be a great opportunity to release this record that I’ve been wanting to do, let’s do this type of music.”  And they said, “Great, love it, let’s do it.”  So, yea there was definitely some give and take, and they listen to us, which is nice.

american-dad-comic-conNow we see more of these kinds of animated avatars on Twitter and Facebook, so maybe this will be a great time to release the record.

MacFarlane: It’s going to be interesting; I don’t really think it’s been done yet.  My record label, which is a huge record label who represents massive, massive stars – they’ve never done anything like this before, and they were so excited about this idea of an animated character which is singing legitimate music.  It’s not a comedy record, it’s a legitimate record.  And they really jumped on board.  So, we’ve got our Facebook page up, we’ll be jumping on Twitter very soon, and sort of be creating Haley outside of American Dad.

Are you going to make a pop video, and do what you wanted to do when you were a kid?

MacFarlane: No, are you kidding me?  I was the kid at six, who was like, “I want to be in a jazz club.” I was never the pop kid, ever.  I mean that’s not true, I had a couple years where I wanted to be Tiffany and Debbie Gibson, but aside from that, no.

So Jessica Rabbit’s going to be jealous?

MacFarlane: Yea, exactly!  You remember that!  What an amazing scene in that movie where she sings that incredible song.

You never hear about that, and it was Kathleen Turner, but they didn’t think about doing a record.

MacFarlane: Yea, right, exactly!  So, we thought was a cool idea, really excited about it.

When does it come out?

MacFarlane: The end of September, September 25th it’s looking like.  And the episode premieres on the 30th, so it’s great timing.

american-dad-seth-macfarlaneDo you have any other projects lined up?  Are you thinking about doing some theater?

MacFarlane: It’s so funny that you would ask that. I started in theatre.  I went to the Boston Conservatory, and majored in musical theater.  But, you know, I love doing animation so much, and I have a bunch of other shows coming out this year.  With that and with touring with the record too, were going to be doing some shows on the east coast and out here in LA.  I think it’s going to keep me pretty busy this year, and I’m really excited about it.

When you do your recordings is it embarrassing or are you afraid you’re overacting?

MacFarlane: It used to be embarrassing.  In the beginning, because you listen to yourself so much, you think, I must look like an asshole right now – or sound like an asshole.  And then, you just get to that point where you’ve done so many ridiculous, ridiculous things in the booth from screaming, to having orgasms, to whatever your director is asking you to do for this character, you just lose your inhibitions.

You have no shame.

MacFarlane: Yea, you have no shame, exactly!  You’ve seen the show, you can’t – come on, you’ve got to just check it at the door, and just do whatever.

To catch up on all of our Comic-Con 2012 coverage, click here.