Will Forte knows where the bodies are buried.
On The Last Man on Earth, Fox’s new hit comedy series from Lego Movie directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, Forte plays the titular Omega Man in a desert landscape largely free of other people. (He’s so far been joined by Kristen Schaal, January Jones, and, in the most recent episode, Mel Rodriguez.) But some have noted that whatever virus wiped out most of humanity also managed to leave a fairly clean landscape— there are no corpses anywhere.
This is purposeful, Forte says, part of a strategy of focusing more on character than circumstance. And the Star, who rose to prominence impersonating George W. Bush on Saturday Night Live, indicates that the dynamic between his character and Schaal’s, which has been dinged by some critics for framing a male character as utterly reasonable and a female character as unappealing and obnoxious, is rapidly evolving. “It’s a real roller-coaster ride that has twists and turns. She is so amazing at what she does.”
TIME: Has the success of this fairly idiosyncratic series been surprising to you?
Will Forte: Yes! For sure. I’m not used to people watching the stuff that I do. I usually go in with expectations of disappointment.
Does it get stressful to have to be in a post-apocalyptic world every day?
It’s stressful for a lot of reasons, but the world itself has nothing to do with it. It’s more about the real-world pressures of putting the show together. Behind the scenes, it’s this wonderful group of people. I get to work with a bunch of my longtime friends. I may look lonely at times, but I’m having a blast.
And you’ve been working with the show’s creators since the animated series Clone High in the early 2000s.
That, I think, has a lot to do with the show getting a good reception. I’ve always been weird, and into weird stuff that has a hard time finding mainstream success. Chris and Phil are so good at retaining a unique tone and a weird sensibility but being able to convey it in a way that is a little more palatable to a mainstream audience. They round out my crazy edges.
Some people have criticized the show for the relationship between your character and Kristen Schaal’s character Carol. They don’t get along, and he’s more rational, while she can be extremely annoying. Is this dynamic going to evolve?
Because I’m the only person at the beginning of the show, we have to create a sympathetic character or the show doesn’t work. When she’s introduced, it automatically seems like a foil. As the show goes on, you start to see that the characters you thought you knew are very different. I feel like the perception of both Phil and Carol will change dramatically through the season. It’s a real roller-coaster ride that has twists and turns. She is so amazing at what she does and she could not be more lovable as a person and an actress. The way we’ve written her character, people think, “What a weirdo.” But I will be very surprised if even the people who feel that way the strongest aren’t won over by her over the course of the season.
The show’s been on for less than a month, and already, two characters have been revealed in surprise twists. Is this pace sustainable?
I can’t go too much into it. What we set out to do from the very beginning was keep people on their toes. Different things happen through the course of the season. It’s not just the introduction of characters. There are twists and turns. We had it thought out from the moment we pitched the idea. We knew, roughly, the arc of the season and we didn’t change it.
Some plans we had didn’t make sense anymore as we thought it out. But the vast majority of plans we had, we carried out. That was the great thing about getting picked up to series right away. By not having a pilot, we were able to get a full chunk of the writing done and insert stuff we learned from later episodes back into the first couple episodes. It gave more richness to the characters. It was much more part of a master plan.
Are we ever going to learn more about why most of humanity died?
No! Not in season one. If we were to be lucky enough to get a second season, we might learn more. It’s more about hoping people would buy in and look at the situation before them. I’m sure people are wondering what happened, and we definitely allude to it. In the original pilot, we had written a little scene where I’m disposing of a dead body in the house I lived in. We took it out. It was just a decision we made with the network. We always wanted to address it, but I don’t think we ever talk about it. I kind of forget about it, and just buy into the world. I hope people don’t have too much of a problem with that.
Your bringing up the decision not to show a dead body reminds me: I have wondered where all the bodies went.
My explanation was always that it was a swift-enough-moving virus that it took hold and wiped out everyone in the world, but it was slow enough that people could tidy up all their affairs and die at home in bed.
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