End-of-the-world comedy The Last Man on Earth ended its first season on a pair of pulsating question marks. Just where do banished Phil (Will Forte) and his forgiving ex-wife Carol (Kristen Schaal) think they’re driving off to? And will Phil’s stranded-in-space astronaut brother, Mike (Jason Sudeikis), ever join him on Earth? The quirky series will start floating answers our way when it returns to Fox on Sept. 27 at 9:30 p.m. ET. What’s that? You want at least a few hints before then because you are an extremely impatient person? Read on for our Q&A with Forte, the show’s star/creator/executive producer/writer (and Emmy nominee in both acting and writing categories).
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was the biggest challenge for the writers coming into this season?
WILL FORTE: Season 1, we had fun ideas to create twists and turns, but for the second season we wanted to break up the pattern. It seemed like people got used to us introducing new characters. A lot of the times our twist would be to bring in somebody, so we’re trying to that break that mold and find other ways to take the story in different directions. It’s been exciting but it’s been a challenge.
Speaking of that, you rolled out a healthy-sized cast (January Jones, Mel Rodriguez, Cleopatra Coleman, Mary Steenburgen, Boris Kodjoe) that we were starting to get to know before Phil and Carol left. When will we see them?
I’m being tight-lipped about their participation and how they’ll be a part of the story. But I will say that they’re not in the [first] script. And then we’ll go from there.
When we talked in May, you said that you were too interested in these characters to leave them behind.
I do love all of them as people and performers. I’m sure we’ll check in on them in some form throughout the season. But how we’ll do that, we’ll be keeping a little bit of a mystery. … Tuscon is in the rear-view mirror. At the end of season 1, Phil is kicked out of Tuscon and Carol comes out and decides to stay with him and they ride off into the sunset. They’re trying to figure out their next step and figure out their relationship.
The audience did get used to the idea of the show gradually introducing new cast members. Should we expect at least a few new ones, but perhaps the timing will be a little different?
We loved introducing new characters new season. The last thing we want to do is use character introduction as a crutch. So we’re trying to find interesting ways to have the stories move around with the existing group. It’s always nice to know that in your back pocket, you could introduce a character and if you needed to move a story along. But we have a lot of very different types of story lines planned for this season that hopefully are as satisfying as the ones last year.
What about one in animal form or ball form?
We are very excited to introduce a new ball, and she is — oh my God, that’s a spoiler! I guess the cat’s out of the bag! Let’s just say it’s a very different type of ball. And the ball community is going to have its world rocked.
Wow. How big of a role will Jason Sudeikis play in season 2?
This is one of the funniest people on the planet, so we hope to use him as much as possible. But whether he stays up in space or what happens with him, that’s something we’re going to keep a secret. He’s been up in space for awhile. I have to do a little fact-checking, but I don’t think you have an unlimited supply of oxygen or food up there, so at a certain point, if I was up in space, I’d start realizing that it’s not a sustainable situation and make some big, scary decisions. We’re going to bring out as much Sudeikis as we can. He will not be in every episode this year, but we are excited about how we’re going to use him.
How do you plan to use that character?
The situation that Phil and everybody else went through on Earth is so unique. To imagine that up in space is really fun. We definitely want to explore what it would be like to be up in space on your own. You’re isolated as is when you’re on a mission, — even when it’s a fully populated world — but then the danger element that comes in when nobody starts answering your radio calls to Houston. What do you do? How do you figure it out? A fair amount of desperation would set in. Yes, we definitely want to explore him up in space, but yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s not up in space forever.
Should your theory be right that one may only have a limited supply of oxygen up there—
If we find out that there are oxygen-making machines in those things, then he might just stay up with there forever. As you’ve seen with this show, we just want to keep it very realistic. [Laughs]
When can we expect from a reunion between Phil and his brother?
It’s a big Earth and who knows if he would ever able to find me, especially if I’m not in Tucson anymore? … We’re still figuring out what his character is. He’s definitely an overachiever. He’s an astronaut up in space; Phil is a temp. So certainly I would say that Phil has always been jealous of the attention that his brother, Mike, gets for being such an outstanding person. But then again, they do come from the same family, so they share a lot of traits as well.
What excited you about having Jason onboard? Was it that the idea of developing a sibling relationship for Phil? Or that ability to cut to space, where there was another man in an even more isolated world?
What doesn’t excite me? Jason is one of the funniest people on Earth so to get to write stuff for him is just a joy. I never thought he’d have the time to do something like this he’s so busy. We feel like we won the lottery because he’s somebody who can take anything and make it funny. it really just opens up the world so much and it’s going to be so fun to find ways to use him.
Which adjectives would you use to describe Mike? We’ve only seen him floating around and looking forlorn …
He’s an optimist but he’s very lonely. And it’s tough to keep your spirits up when you’re so isolated. You saw what it was like for the people down on Earth and that feeling of isolation. Imagine he’s been up there for so long — that’s such an isolated situation already that he’s dealing with. To then be sending radio messages back to Houston and getting no response, I can’t imagine how cut off you’d feel from the world.
What’s in store for the Phil-Carol relationship? They’re giving it a go as a couple again? God bless her, by the way.
Yeah, somehow she’s giving it a go. She sees something in Phil — it’s her little project. And Phil is so delighted to get a second chance, he’s really come to his senses and he’s realized just how wonderful Carol is. So they certainly will have their same problems to a degree. They’re very set in their ways, but this season they’re trying to meet in the middle — and be patient with each other and look at the good things. But it’s not going to be super easy all the time. They’re still going to be on each other’s cases a fair amount of the time.
Phil’s likability was really strained in the middle of the season. How will he come off this season? Do you push it some more?
He’s done some despicable things, but in our minds he’s not a bad person — he just spun out a little bit because of the situation. He was the person who figured out how to collect all these people by putting up the “Alive in Tucson” billboards, so as a result he feels this weird sense of entitlement, and when things don’t go his way, it drives him a little bit crazy. So what we’re doing in season 2 is retain Phil’s essence. He’s still bumbling and has weird impulses, but he also is trying to be a better person and learn from his mistakes. Carol somehow takes him back and forgives him so he wants to prove to her that she didn’t make the wrong decision.
We last saw them drive away from Tucson. What hints can you give about where they’ll wind up? It’s a big country …
It’s a very big country. They could go anywhere. The hints are: Where would you want to go if you could go anywhere — except for Tucson? We do wind up in a really fun place that may or may not rhyme with Shite Shouse. And have a lot of fun there. We really had such a fun time last year doing all the wish-fulfillment stuff and breaking different things. We have a real doozy lined up for the first scene back. … The premise of the show allows us to do some crazy things but still be realistic because of the situation we’ve created. There are so many things you could do if nobody was around to stop you. We’re able to do these crazy things that other shows might not be able to do. We’re trying to push it a little bit more and have a little more fun with those things. … [Also] there were a lot of unanswered questions. Like, how do cars still go? In our heads, it was like, when we would have a lamp running, we’d have a generator. You’d siphon gas and you’d have a generator running and then you have a lamp. So we’re going to try to show a bit more of how they solve these problems. In the first episode, we show Phil doing just a teeny bit of the siphoning process — we’re trying to keep it as honest as possible. I’m sure there are definitely are some survivalists or experts in the world coming to an end that would probably be jumping all over this show, “Wait!!!,” because it’s so crazy.
Can you give us a tease about what happens in the White House?
I’ll just say that Phil and Carol are doing things that no decent Americans should be doing to the White House.
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