[SPOILER ALERT: This story contains plot details about the episode of The Last Man on Earth that aired Sunday, Dec. 13. If you don’t want to know what happened, order your eyeballs to stop reading this page.]
Silent night, holy crap! night. It looks like the holidays in Malibu won’t be so sunny after all for Tandy and Co. “Silent Night,” the gripping midseason finale of the post-apocalyptic comedy ended rather dramatically — heartstoppingly, actually — as Other Phil Miller (Boris Kodjoe) flatlined after an unsuccessful appendectomy performed by three-star-chef/not-a-doctor Gail (Mary Steenburgen). Turns out, it wasn’t just bad gas. Farts!
No stranger to going out with two bangs, the twisty, quirky show doubled down on the dire: Stranded-in-space astronaut Mike (Jason Sudeikis) retreated to the descent module with Phil, his lone shuttlemate and the newborn worm affectionately named after the brother he presumes is dead, Original Phil Miller (series creator/executive producer/star Will Forte). Mike then Hail Mary-ed himself down toward Earth in his escape pod, which began violently shaking and catching on fire as he screamed for his life.
How will the group soldier on without Phil (the non-Tandy/non-worm one), who has proven their most resourceful and skilled member, albeit one who recently alienated everyone with bad behavior, which included professing love for Carol (Kristen Schaal) instead of Erica (Cleopatra Coleman), the mother of his unborn child? Where on Earth will Mike crash-land, assuming (which we are) that he makes it out of this predicament? Did Todd (Mel Rodriguez) really just pop and lock like that in the morgue? Emotional doggie bag in hand, EW checked in with Forte for some answers while fans begin the long wait until the show’s return in early spring.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why kill Phil now? Hasn’t he paid enough already for his behavior this season?
WILL FORTE: How do you know he’s dead? There are all kinds of books written about people who seem like they’re dead: They go up, they see themselves from space, and they’re looking down at their body, and then they go back in there. This could be one of those situations. Who knows?
Well, to quote Todd, “I’m not liking those odds.”
Between you and me — and I guess everyone reading this — I’m not liking the odds, either.
How long have you known that this was going to happen? And did you guys discuss all sorts of different ways for him to die?
Our original plans were that this character was only going to live for a couple of episodes, and we loved Boris so much and the dynamic between the two Phil Millers that we extended that. We’d had this plan for a long time because we wanted to put them in a very real situation that could happen and you’d go, “What the hell would you do in that situation?” It’s as real as it gets, and we wanted to make sure that we didn’t shy away from those situations.
How did Boris take the news?
He came into it thinking that it was only going to be for a certain number of episodes, and then we extended that for a long time. [Note: Kodjoe has been credited as a special guest star.] I think he knew the whole time: “Oh, yeah, this is only until that certain period.” And then I was like, “I wonder if he knows…?” and then it was literally the day of the table read that I went in there and said, “You — you — you — you know what’s happening here, right?” and he was like, “Oh, yeah, I totally know.” “Oh, okay, okay.” But he’s been so good in the show that there were long discussions about, “Is there a way to turn back or have the operation be successful?” And it’s like, “That just wouldn’t happen.” We do a lot of fun, whimsical things on the show that are a little extraordinary and fantasy world-type stuff, but this was something that we felt like we had to play it real. There was essentially no turning back because we had been working toward this for a long time and setting up all the stories to head to this. I had it in my head for a long time that this would have been the perfect way to end the first half of the season.
He’s been a fun adversary for you to play off of, and very capable and handsome—
I think there’s no shortage of handsome men for the ladies to look at on this show. Poll the ladies! [laughs] We’re editing the [spring] episodes right now, and in our second or third one back, I’m basically in my underwear. Right now, frozen on the screen in the editing room, I’m looking at the biggest hunk of fat hanging over my underwear. It’s so horrible. It’s like, zero muscle, no definition — I mean, there is definition in the amount of fat. You can see the great big — I would say beer belly, but I don’t drink beer, so it’s basically a whiskey-donut belly. I apologize to the female fans out there, for not having something better to look at.
Sounds like you’re going to have to step up your game.
I’m going to get on a big workout program. I have to for my own health!
Erica (Cleopatra Coleman) pushed Phil away, but then they were starting to reconcile. How will she handle this?
The best way to say it is that she’s devastated, and she’s the one who seems to be handling it the best. Everyone else is kind of just — weird stuff starts happening as a result.
How will this affect Gail? She reluctantly did that surgery, and I’m imagining she’ll be pretty traumatized. And she’ll be be needed to deliver a baby soon, right?
Well, obviously something this devastating affects everyone. Every single person is dealing with it in their own way, and it really shifts the group dynamic in different ways. Secret ways.
There might be some secrets.
Looking back, what was your favorite scene with Boris?
Oh, man, there were a bunch. One of my favorite scenes was something where I didn’t have any lines, which was just him giving the speech to Carol where he’s asking her to run away with him, and then at the end of that, Erica says she’s pregnant, and he’s standing on the steps. He was so good in that scene and just nailed it every time. And what people don’t know at home was that house is actually in Chatsworth — it’s not in Malibu — so on the side where we filmed that, there was some dude chopping up what seemed like a million trees and throwing them into this wood chipper. So right as [Boris] was about to start his dialogue, this wood chipper would start going. We went down and asked this guy if he could hang on for a couple of minutes. And he said, “Oh, yeah,” and didn’t hang on at all. So through this crazy cacophony of sounds, Boris just nailed this really awesome monologue every single time he did it. Especially down the stretch there, just everything he did, he was pitch perfect. And you’re going, “Why are we — he’s so good!” But we had to stick with the overall plan because I think what was best for the show was mixing it up, and always keeping people on their toes has always been priority No. 1. Jeez, I talk about story lines all the time where I get potentially killed off, so nothing is sacred here.
What are the odds we will see Phil again, besides maybe his lifeless body? Perhaps in a flashback?
You will feel his presence. Let’s just say that. There are only six of us on Earth, and he just left. His memory lives on in various ways.
The last man in space, Phil’s brother, Mike, is in jeopardy. You’ve talked before about a potential reunion between the brothers. What remote chance is there that he’s going to land on Earth anywhere near Tandy?
[deadpan] Yeah, it’s just too bad — two deaths in one episode is a real bummer. Who knows? I don’t know. I don’t know how this show goes. I’m watching this at the same time. They haven’t let me know what’s going on… No, I know what happens. We’ll see what happens. They make spacecraft pretty strong these days.
He didn’t even wear a special suit or helmet for re-entry. I’m worried about his head.
Made in America! They make the best descent modules. So we’ll see. But it’s not looking good at this point. It’s not looking good. So it would be a very exciting thing if he ever did make it down to Earth. But how the hell would he ever find the group? Why would he think they’re in Malibu? It’s an impossible situation. There’s no way. There’s no way.
If he did somehow miraculously survive this, would his journey likely back to Tucson give him — and us — the chance to encounter a few other survivors?
It’s a one-in-a-million chance that he’s even going to make it to Earth. In the event that he does, it probably would take him a while to find us, and who knows what he might encounter?
If, again, by some miracle he survived, how soon would you imagine that we would get that reunion, and could you tease what that would look like?
Well, Mike Miller’s a very smart person; he’s up in space for a reason because he’s got an incredible brain. So his powers of deduction are probably better than the average man. So if he were to somehow make it down to Earth, I would think that he, within a reasonable amount of time, would be able to figure stuff out. And who knows what he’s going to encounter down there, if he encounters anything? If he makes it through — He could blow up. The last thing you see could be an explosion.
Right… I almost forgot the biggest shocker of the episode: the revelation that Todd was in a hip-hop group called The Body Lockers. How long you been holding onto that gem, and how impressed were you with his moves?
I had no idea until we were doing this episode, and then some of the writers had said they had talked to him, and I don’t think his group was called The Body Lockers, but I think he was in some kind of hip-hop dance group. And his moves are really crisp and good! It was the easiest thing in the world to act that scene, because I was supposed to act like I’m really impressed, and I was! It was so fun to watch him.
When we return in the spring, do we pick up immediately where we left off, or will there be a time jump?
We are picking up… [long pause] where we left off. And we are picking up in a way… [another long pause] that is going to be a little different.
Sorry. As we get closer, we have to show clips of the show, so it’ll make more sense as time goes. But I think for the time being, I would just like to say: We have a very fun show that is completely different for the first one back in the spring.
Does the loss of Phil open the door for a new character?
We’re always looking for new twists, and last season we did a lot of character introduction. This season, we haven’t, obviously. Well, we did a little bit, with Gordon (Will Ferrell). We’ve done more character de-introductions than introductions. It’s safe to assume that we’re not the only people on the Earth. I mean, chances are. We’ve never been to other countries. It’s not crazy to think that there are still a couple people out there.
Which is why I’m wondering if this opens up the possibility of introducing a new cast member: Mike lands in Asia or somewhere, and he slowly makes his way back, meeting another survivor…
This is where my mouth shuts. Nice try.
Could you give us one cryptic clue about the show’s return this spring?
The first episode back is unlike anything the viewers have seen, but it’s like the viewers have seen at the same time…. It’s not in the first episode back, [but] in the same way that we knew about this Phil situation, there is one other thing that I have been so excited about, and it is going to be the dumbest-looking thing you have ever seen.