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Last Man on Earth: Will Ferrell cameo discussed by Will Forte

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[SPOILER ALERT: This story contains plot details about the episode of The Last Man on Earth that aired Sunday, Oct. 4.]

The Last Man on Earth unleashed a zero-gravity surprise at the end of its season 1 finale by panning up to deep space and revealing that Phil’s astronaut brother Mike — played by creator/star Will Forte’s Saturday Night Live buddy Jason Sudeikis — was alive and searching for any sign of life on his home planet. The winning second episode of the post-apocalyptic comedy’s second season also concluded with a shiny shocker on Sunday night, and this one centered on an even bigger SNL alum: Will Ferrell.

In the final minutes of “The Boo,” which aired Sunday night on Fox, Phil (Forte) drove Carol (Kristen Schaal) to Malibu, where they quickly and fortuitously located their group of old friends — and, for Phil, enemies — Melissa (January Jones), New Phil (Boris Kodjoe), Todd (Mel Rodriguez), Gail (Mary Steenburgen), and Erica (Cleopatra Coleman). There was a new face in the bunch, too — a harmless looking man named Gordon (Ferrell). Gordon seemed to be fitting in just fine, even exchanging verses of Snow’s “Informer” with his friends. But then something crazy went (a licky boom-boom) down, as Carol announced her return by jumping out in front of everyone and yelling “Boo!,” which caused the startled Gordon to have a heart attack and drop presumably dead. (You can watch that scene below.)

You have questions. We have Will Forte on the line. 

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Well, that was quite an introduction — and ending — of an character.

WILL FORTE: Yes. We’d had this idea actually toward the end of the season but had already worked out all of our story lines and thought that we could maybe find a better place for it. It just kind of worked out that this seemed like the best place for it. But yeah, we had a lot of fun, and somehow the secret was kept, so we’re very excited about that. 

How did you choose Will Ferrell to be one of the last men on Earth?

Well, he’s just one of the most awesome people in the world. First of all, he’s perhaps the funniest person on the planet. Second of all, he is open to doing weird little things like this, so we thought we would take a shot and see if he would have any interest. And luckily for us he did.

How did you pitch it to him? And what did he think of the heart attack twist?

We have the same manager so I pitched it to her. He was in Sweden at the time. So she said she would try to get in touch with him. We pitched it out. We said, “We will have you in and out. We promise it will be the quickest thing.” And, of course, we didn’t live up to the promise, and it took much longer than we thought. He’s just the nicest person in the world, so he just kept having to fall in the sand over and over again. There was sand all over the place. And every time he fell in the sand, I felt such guilt, like, “Oh my God. Please forgive me.” I cannot say enough about what a tremendously wonderful person he is. It was such an honor to have him be a part of this.

You guys are friends, right? Had he told you that he was a fan of the show from last season?

No, I didn’t even know if he had seen it at all. He’s buddies with Sudeikis, so I think that might have helped. I have no idea what tipped the scales in our favor but we pitched it as an odd little thing, and I think he appreciated the joke of it. And he was totally game … I love the guy. I don’t get to hang out with him very much. I got to know him a little bit when he would host SNL, and I had written for the MTV Movie Awards when he did a couple sketches. And we’re both from the Groundlings family and the SNL family, so you end up feeling a pretty close bond to the people who came before you and after you. I’m a UCLA Bruin, and he’s a USC Trojan, so we can only get so close, but I love the guy and he’s one of my comedy heroes. You’d have to ask him how to describe it. I would probably describe it as we’re best friends, but you’d have to ask him.

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Did you always know that you would kill him off immediately or was there talk of doing something less drastic to him and having him in play? He could have just run away. You know, fight or flight. 

The plan was always try to get somebody who would be a very fun big name and we thought trying to have the smallest time commitment possible would help us. We didn’t think about the aspect of having him run away. Because we always had it tied into a story line on the other side, which I’m not going to say what that is. It was always part of the plan to have it be short-lived … It works into the future story line and somehow indirectly his character plays a part in future episodes, although more in spirit than physical presence … But there is not definitive proof of his death. We certainly leave the episode in a downer note because it looks like a worst-case scenario. But you never know. We always like to keep people guessing, so who knows if he’s going to hang on? (laughs) You gotta tune in. 

I don’t like his odds with the medical care available on the planet right now. 

I would say things are not looking good for him. [Laughs] But who knows? Hail Mary passes sometimes get caught for a touchdown at the end of games … But most of the time they get dropped. Nobody remembers those drops, but they far outweigh the catches.

What else can you tell us about Gordon? I enjoyed his sweater, by the way.

Thank you very much. We took a long time trying to figure out the perfect beach sweater for him. We learn a little bit more about him in the next episode. And, you know, like any human, he’s got his positives and negatives. He’s certainly not a perfect person, and we’ll come to find that out.

Will there be bonus footage on the season 2 DVD of him rapping “Informer” with accordion accompaniment? Because that might help sell a few extra units.

Oh my God. We made Mary Steenburgen [who plays Gail] learn that whole song. It’s a really hard to sing if you have all the lyrics laid out in front of you. I don’t know how she did it. But she learned the song and even sang a version of the song for the end credits. She is as amazing as it gets. There is some pretty delightful footage of our cast singing that song. We’ll see what Snow offers to get that song out there — because we would have to pay some money to do that. 

Was “Informer” your first choice, or did you originally have another song but couldn’t get it licensed?

It was “Informer” all the way. There was never a second. For the end of the first episode, we even named the episode “Is There Anybody Out There?” I was prepared to cut every song in every episode so that we could spend the crazy amount of money it would take to get a Pink Floyd song. And until that last week, we had it cut to that song. It was so intense. But in our back pocket we had [LMOE composer] Mark Mothersbaugh, who was able to come up with something that I thought was just awesome. And it’s really tough when you have in your head this Pink Floyd song and then have to replace it, but we just never heard back from Pink Floyd. [Laughs] From the very beginning, we wrote it in there, and everyone was just saying, “There’s no way. It’s going to be too expensive.” And we just kept holding hope like, “Oh, Roger Waters will take pity on us. Maybe he’ll say, ‘I’ve watched your show. I like it. Here, have it for 10 bucks.’ ” Was not the case. So that was the only time “Informer” was in jeopardy was when we were trying to throw all chips in on “Is There Anybody Out There?” But there was nobody out there, so “Informer” lived.

Could Gordon return in flashbacks? Are you willing to say that there’s a possibility that we might see him again?

I am not prepared to affirm or negate anything with any story line. I always like to keep my secrets. But I would say this is a very busy person with perhaps the most lively career in all of Hollywood. [Laughs] I’ll keep it a secret but we’re counting our lucky stars just to have gotten a sliver of his time.

I’m guessing the group might be too pleased with Carol right now …

It’s a mixed bag because they certainly have missed Carol but … it was an accident. It’s not her fault. Most of the time you’re going to come out, and you’re going to scare some people. It’s a good prank and everyone laughs then they go and have a beer, but this was just like that odd time. But Gordon was basically a ticking time bomb, so this wasn’t Carol’s fault. 

Can you give us a one-line tease for next week’s episode?

It’s been six months since we’ve seen everyone, and their lives have moved on, so we’ll be seeing what’s happened the past six months. You’ll learn a little bit at a time how things have changed with the relationships. We’re really excited about it.

Another Fox sitcom, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, introduced a big comedy guest star and gave him a heart attack minutes after we met him. Coincidence, or tiny conspiracy to inflict harm upon former SNL cast members?

Oh man, I didn’t know that! I’ve been so busy. I knew Bill [Hader] was coming to the show. Is that what happened?

Yes, he became the new captain in the premiere and died about halfway through from a heart attack. 

That is hilarious! Oh my God, I had no idea. There’s something in the water. SNL cast members have to know that they have to eat heart-healthy foods; they have to make sure to stock up on omega-3s … But then again, who knows what’s happening with Gordon? [Laughs]

You said at the end of last season that you were worried that the introductions of new characters were getting too predictable and that you didn’t want to fall into any kind of pattern. Is this episode your way of saying that you will try to surprise us with new characters in ways we won’t be expecting?

Certainly our mantra is not to rely on character introductions for twists. This doesn’t mean we’re going to introduce a bunch of people — but it doesn’t mean that we’re not. This is what we chose to do this episode, and it’s either an anomaly or it’s going to be what we do at the end of every episode. That remains to be seen. I know the answer but [in a sing-song-y tease] I’m not going to tell you.