Before premiering a new episode of Fox’s “The Last Man on Earth” at WonderCon Anaheim, star/creator Will Forte and executive producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller sat down with reporters to discuss the first season of the post-apocalyptic — although they were tight-lipped about what to expect from the remaining episodes.
The most Miller was willing to divulge involved the fate of Gary, the volleyball best friend of protagonist Phil Miller. “Gary, thankfully, due to the miracle doctor work of a bike-inflating pump, will come back to life, miraculously,” he promised.
Although they were reluctant to provide any concrete details about the remaining five episodes, Forte, Lord and Miller did discuss their approach to storytelling.
“This whole season is actually according to the outline that Will wrote,” Miller said, with each development planned out in advance, including the introductions of additional characters played by Kristen Schaal, January Jones and Mel Rodriguez.
The same goes for the way that Forte’s Phil has taken a dark, even villainous, turn.
“It’s been interesting to see the response when this guy that you make so sympathetic in the beginning kind of turns and you see the other sides of the personality,” Forte said. “Most people have many different sides to them, and in a heightened situation like this, who knows what would happen. The trickiest thing is — you never know when you lose somebody. Can they gain sympathy for Phil again? Without telling you where the story goes, we certainly don’t want you to hate this person with all your guts, and we hope to win him back at some point, but you just have no idea where that switch is, the point of no return.”
“The whole show is the arc of this character,” Miller added, “and it was always Will’s plan to have him kind of go crazy and have a dark period where he sort of needed to learn a lot of things. So we’re midway through that journey now, of him sort of learning to be a better person. This first season — hopefully there will be more — tells one sort of chapter of the story of Phil Miller.”
Fox didn’t announce the renewal of “The Last Man on Earth” until Wednesday, which meant Lord, Miller and Forte could only speak at WonderCon about the possibility of a second season.
“We’ve been talking to Will about it in the past week or two, just sort of thinking about some of the broader aspects of it,” Miller said. “Certainly things are left in a very specific way at the end of the first season.”
Forte, sporting a bushy beard similar to the one in the early episodes, said that “if we ever got a second season, I kind of have a plan that would require the beard again.” From a storytelling standpoint, he said, “Originally, we had a rough arc for the first season, but there were a ton of ideas that we had that [were left out]. So there’s so much stuff that we didn’t get a chance to cover that we would hopefully cover if we got a second season.”
And for a show that takes place after the end of the world, “The Last Man on Earth” has unlimited options for how it could expand beyond its current four characters. “I feel like we did talk at some point, if we ever got seven or eight seasons, maybe the last season is jumping forward a thousand years or something crazy like that,” Forte said.
“In theory we could just keep adding people for a thousand episodes,” Lord said. “I just like that the show surprises you. The possibilities are really broad and open, and I think that’s exciting.”
“The fun thing is that there’s so many possibilities with the show, where it can go and what it can do, and because it’s so serialized, it doesn’t have to be the same thing every time,” Miller added. “And the dynamic can always change. So in that regard, the limits are only what Will and the writing staff and we can think up.”
Ultimately, the show is about Phil and how he copes with being the last man on Earth, only to discover that he’s not. As Lord put it: “If you take away all of the societal pressure, like the police and stuff, how will people behave? And is this person going to be redeemable? Can he find that moral center in himself?” Or, more simply, “That’s the show: This guy’s the worst guy, and I still am rooting for him.”
”The Last Man on Earth” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.
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