The following interview contains spoilers from the new season of Arrested Development. If you have not already watched all fifteen episodes, please come back later. If Lucille Bluth was only going to star in one episode of the new season, at least it was an episode jam-packed with sex, lies, and buffoonery. And singing! And Lucille 2! And Kristen Wiig as young Lucille! In the series’$2 2006 finale, the Bluth family’s boozy matriarch (and head winker) attempted to flee from the SEC. In this season, she is placed under house arrest, sent to a fancy jail, is adopted into the Jade Dragon Triad, checks into rehab, gets cast in a musical, and — shockingly — decides to call it quits with George Sr. Jessica Walter talked to Vulture about the future of her onscreen marriage, binge-watching the new season, and loving all the crazy shit Arrested Development boss Mitch Hurwitz throws at her.
Have you seen all the episodes already?
I did. Of course. Yeah, yeah. I thought they were great. I was very happy.
Do you binge-watch?
We started Sunday afternoon. We had guests in our country house. Of course, we had to get to episode ten [Lucille’s chapter in the series]. We were a little blotto by then [laughs]. But it was great. We did take breaks in between. Then on Memorial Day, we watched the remaining five. We just had to! And in our country house we have a huge big screen, and it was fun to see it there.
The whole series opens with Kristen Wiig playing young Lucille. How’d she do?
I loved her. I don’t know her! But now I’m dying to play her grandma or something in whatever she’s got going. I thought she was spot-on terrific.
She really nailed all the things your eyes do.
I feel like I’m not even aware of that! I don’t really look at myself that way, but a lot of people said, “Oooh, oooh, she got the arched eyebrow.” I don’t know how to arch them! It just happens when I’m talking or something.
I should have said this first: Your legs are excellent! When you’re dancing in Tobias’s musical —
Awwwwww! Thanks! [Laughs] For an old lady, you mean, right? Everything else has fallen down except the legs. The legs are still there but the rest of me is gone. My face. Gravity. Wrinkles. But it’s okay! This is what 72 looks like. I embrace it.
What’s your secret?
My thing is swimming. I swim four to five times a week in a 75-foot pool and that must be it. I’ve been swimming since 1976. Plus, if you live in New York you do a lot of walking. I’m just very active. Swimming’s my form of working out. It’s gentle on the joints [laughs].
In the new season, Lucille is arrested immediately following the events of the season-three finale. And yet she’s still controlling the entire family from wherever she’s being held.
You know, Lucille is the most manipulative character in the family. In order to preserve her fast-fading lifestyle she’s gotta wheel and deal, and the machinations that occur are usually masterminded by her. I like to think of her as smarter than some of them. I’m not going to say who.
Well, she works everyone.
She knows how to hondle.
Is there a full version of Lucille’s villain song?
That was it. Mitch wrote that one piece. The whole point is Lucille’s not supposed to be a great singer but she just wants to get into the show so she can get on the boat and escape. So she auditions with this crazy song she’s supposed to have written. Lucille’s pretty angry when she sings it, isn’t she?
Pretty angry. Maybe not as angry as she was during the ramen fight.
I blew that seasoning packet right in his face! You know it was a guy, right?
I did. The show got the Real Housewives stuff exactly right. Do you watch any of them?
You know, I don’t. The funny thing is I love Andy Cohen. I was just on his show the other night with Elisabeth Moss — she’s so beautiful, you could die. And actually, I met Andy Cohen when I was on with the other Andy, Anderson Cooper. I was a guest on his show and Andy Cohen was his co-host, so I had the two Andys at the same time. I love them both. But to your question, I don’t watch the Housewives. Now you tell me. What did you think of the season? You can be honest.
I loved it. Most critics were pretty positive. Then there some who didn’t watch the whole thing before reviewing it.
Oh, boooooo. Boo. I didn’t realize that. When I’m in things I don’t read reviews because you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. My own review is I thought we did a really good job, and Mitch did a brilliant job wrangling the whole thing together.
The process sounded complicated! A labor of love for everyone.
It was, definitely. It was complicated in that we didn’t have all the material at the same time. We shot totally out of order, so sometimes you’d be saying things and you didn’t know why you were saying them. And then later on, when another script would come in, “Oh, that’s why I was saying that!” It was very challenging and an interesting way to work. I had felt from the beginning that I would either be really, really lousy or okay. Hopefully I was okay! But I’ll tell you, when we were shooting, everyone and everything fell right back into place. I especially felt that way about my relationship with Buster. Isn’t he wonderful?
Tony Hale said the smoking scene was very rough on his lungs.
I know, I know. The way he sits there and mutters to himself [laughs]. But that right there defines their relationship. Like mama bird with the little baby bird. Feeding the baby bird, but with smoke.
There were a couple of great throw-downs between the Lucilles, but it seemed like you and Liza Minnelli didn’t actually film at the same time. Was it all green screen?
I’m not going to comment on which scenes were green screen but a lot of them were. I’ve been told by the powers that be: Do not comment on what scenes were green screen. Everybody knows some of them were but that’s all I’m going to say. No comment! [Laughs]
Then let’s talk about Lucille’s sex scene. Was that really you topless?
You know something? I don’t even know if that was me! I don’t remember! I only remember that I had a Velcro blouse and I ripped it open, fell back, we were kissing. I don’t know how they did that. Honestly, I had no idea.
So it was a surprise when you watched it?
I … you know, it must have been me. Nobody else was there. But they showed it so quickly, the way they cut it, that it was hard to see what was there. Which is good [laughs]. You know what I’m saying?
Lucille’s story ends on sort of a sad note: She tells George she wants a divorce. What did you think of that?
Well, it’s interesting. I thought, It’s a place to go! It’s sad, I guess, if they even do get a divorce. There were a lot of cliffhangers all over the place. They arrest Buster for Lucille Austero’s murder! I’m glad you’re so invested. That’s adorable.