Last Man on Earth finale postmortem: Will Forte on Mike's fate, that cliffhanger
SPOILER ALERT: This story contains plot details from the season 2 finale of The Last Man on Earth, which aired Sunday night on Fox. If you haven’t watched the episode yet, turn back now or Melissa might empty a shotgun in your direction.
It is safe to say that the season 2 finale of The Last Man on Earth had a bit of everything: A never-finished story about how babies are made. The DeLorean from Back to the Future. A candlelit hair-trimming scene set to “Falling Slowly” from Once. A Miller family collection of tombstones. Not one fart jar — two fart jars. A bequeathing of balls. A messy Sriracha prank. A mysterious drone shot right out of the sky.
“30 Years of Science Down the Tubes” also contained, as you probably noticed, a fair amount of drama. Much of the episode focused on Phil (Will Forte) saying what seemed to be a final goodbye to a fellow sole survivor, his astronaut brother, Mike (Jason Sudeikis), who has apparently contracted the deadly virus that wiped out almost every single Earthling. (The brothers’ graveside heart-to-heart was one of the show’s most poignant moments to date.) The episode ended with a cliffhanger by the sea: Our survivors spotted that government-conspiracy nut Pat (Mark Boone Junior) — whom Mike encountered in the spring premiere — along with two hazmat-suited men, riding to shore in a boat, armed with very large guns.
Farts, indeed. Along with questions. Many questions. Not wanting to be wrong as a dong all day long, EW dialed up Forte for a jarload of answers about that emotional, silly, poignant, ominous, cliffhanger-capped finale — and what lies ahead for Tandy & Co.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: That was a sad turn of events for Mike, after he heroically splashed down to earth and then pulled off some impressive pranks on his brother. At what point in the development of Mike did you decide that you were going to give him the virus?
WILL FORTE: I don’t know at what point. There are certain parameters that you’re faced with when you work with somebody like Jason. He’s so frigging wonderfully talented and popular that you can’t have him on your show forever, so we were lucky to have him for as long as we did it. So once it was clear how long we could have him, we started trying to figure out how to get him in in the best way possible and out the best way possible, and that seemed to make the most sense. It was an interesting way to have another little glimpse of the virus and put our cast in that situation they hadn’t been in for a long time. Well, our cast had never been in it, but the first time having to see somebody with the virus. And yeah, it felt like everything seemed to check out: Somehow he could get exposed to the virus; he’s not necessarily immune. Everything seemed to make us feel like that was the right way to go with it.
As you were getting really good stuff from the brothers and seeing these scenes unfold, were you like, “Maybe he doesn’t have to get the virus? Maybe there’s a cure?” Did you have any second thoughts?
Well, he’s not a doctor, I’m not a doctor. Nobody knows for sure it’s the virus. Certainly it looks like it is. As with everything, we will always leave ourselves a little wiggle room… We certainly think about that. I mean, look, if it was up to me, I would have Jason Sudeikis be in every single show I’m ever on for the rest of my life. It was nothing but pure joy to get to work with him again, from a quality-of-show standpoint and just from a personal friendship standpoint…. It certainly was a job for him, of course, but I think he went into it realizing he had a chance to work with a bunch of friends. There were a bunch of people on our crew and writing staff that have known him for a long time. But at the same time he lives in New York, he’s got a little kid, another one on the way. He can’t stay out here forever, because he’s one of the most gifted, talented people out there, so he’s got a million people asking him to do stuff. So we were so excited to get him for as long as we did.
So what you’re saying to people who desperately want to cling to hope, it’s possible that Mike doesn’t have a hemorrhagic fatal virus but somehow has contracted another illness of which coughing blood is a symptom, such as acute bronchitis, tuberculosis, pneumonia? Yes, I spent a little time on WebMD.
Oh, jeez. [Laughs.] Phil 2, the second Phil, is dead. That is 100 percent. Gordon is dead. We haven’t seen Jason in his coffin. But that doesn’t mean… I didn’t see George Washington in his coffin, and I know he’s dead. So you don’t have to see somebody in their coffin. And I am talking about the President of the United States. I know there are probably living people with the name of George Washington. And they’re alive…. That proves my point the other way.
Now, you didn’t show Mike bleeding out of every orifice, which, as Pat explained, is the symptom of the disease. So does Mike have a little more time, which means —
We’ve had a couple butthole-bleeding shots but we decided to tastefully edit it out. But Jason was very good to give us all those angles.
Indeed. Since we didn’t see all that bleeding, it means there’s time for another visit in season 3, even if he is dying. Can you talk about the possibility of seeing Jason early in season 3?
Well, I’ll be honest. We usually only have a couple tiny little traces of what are going to happen. I remember going into season 2, we said Gail [Mary Steenburgen] is going to start becoming a doctor, and Phil [Other Phil, played by Boris Kodjoe] is going to get appendicitis. We said Mike is going to come down at some point. We were thinking maybe his arc was going to happen in the beginning of the season, but then for schedule stuff, it turned into the situation that it became. And thank God, because I can’t imagine it happening any other way now. So I can very honestly tell you I don’t know because we don’t know yet. Everyone’s off on vacation. We get back in the writers’ room June 1. We have a bunch of ideas here and there, but we’re interested in pushing into new territories, looking ahead.
Actually, what I will say is, to me, I can’t imagine a better, more emotionally satisfying ending than what we did. I’m not saying that everybody will find it emotionally satisfying. He’s one of my best friends, like a brother, so watching this is a very emotional thing for me and also the end of this really wonderful period I got to work with him. So to bring him back after doing that, we want to be true to the viewers and not jerk them around. We would only do something like that if there was a really good reason for it.
With the seeds of stories that you are working on, how will this experience impact Phil, seeing his brother get the virus?
Phil/Tandy has grown this last season and is trying much harder. I would say that everybody would probably think that. [I read] a couple comments about how at the end of the 16th episode, people were excited that Tandy finally got a win, and in [episode] 17 how he stuck up for Mike. Yeah, I think people are noticing that, and it doesn’t seem to come out of nowhere. We’ve been doing little things, subtle and not so subtle, throughout this second season that show how he’s trying harder. So it’s all a plan. It feels like we’ve earned these little things. That’s my opinion, but other people might not think we have….
And he’s becoming a dad…
Especially now that he’s got a kid coming on the way, I think that emotional step, he’ll keep trying to move forward, but he’s definitely never going to lose his innate Tandy-ness. And I think this will likely bring the group closer together. I can’t remember if we cut it out in editing or cut it out in writing [for time], but Todd [Mel Rodriguez] has been upset with Tandy because he felt like he was ignoring him because of the situation with his brother. We were going to have a moment between them, without any words, when he comes back, Todd knows what Tandy’s just been through in Phoenix and then everything is good between them.
The grave scene, in which Mike realizes that Phil had to bury their parents and make a tombstone for him as well, was very poignant. What sticks out to you about filming the scene? Was that a powerful scene for you guys to shoot?
It was. Those are my parents’ names, Patti and Reb. And there was a guy who was like a brother to me. It was a very emotionally resonant moment. [Fun fact: Forte’s very alive mother, Patti, made a cameo in the pilot’s flashback birthday scene. In season 2, she returned in voiceover form, reading the fake letter that Phil created to prank Mike.]
NEXT: Everything you wanted to know about fart jars and that Ghost-inspired haircut scene…[pagebreak]
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s talk about the haircut scene. Please tell me you actually had “Falling Slowly” playing in the background for the inspiration when you filmed that scene. And it also feels like someone may have watched Ghost?
WILL FORTE: [Laughs.] We definitely had “Falling Slowly” playing every single time, but even when “Falling Slowly” is not actually playing, it’s playing in Jason and my head. Yeah, that was great, and originally we were going to have the song be “Unchained Melody,” like they did in Ghost. When we thought of it, we described it as, “Oh, like the pottery scene in Ghost!” so that was in our hearts and minds as we were setting out to do that. But then it just seemed to make way more sense to do “Falling Slowly.”
What else do you remember about shooting that, with Jason lovingly shaving your head?
There were so many things going on. I was super nervous that he was going to snip off part of my ear or something like that, but he’s a talented hairdresser as well. What can’t that guy do? [The scene] was in this little teeny room, and it was great. That week was a real mess. I mean, it was wonderful, but it was so hard because you never [film] in chronological order, and the fact that I had that half-and-half hairdo for half the week and then not the other half — there were all these scenes that we had to cut for budget because the scheduling was so wonky. Normally if you’re at the house, you’d do a day where you’d just do everything that’s at the house. But we had to do the stuff that was at the house with the half-and-half haircut, and then come back later in the week to do the stuff in the house with the shaved-off hair. So it was very stressful to be like, “Oh, let’s get through so we can get everything that we need to get.” And you always have some Fox money person breathing down your neck, like, “Yeah, we got to finish this bit!” It’s the reality of it. You got to be efficient, smart with your money, it’s what you got to do, but we’re always going, “But this is art! [affecting an uppity accent] We’ve got to complete our art. We got to do our artistic scene about a fart jar!” [Laughs.]
I’m going to get to the fart jar in one second. But are you relieved to be done with the half hair, or do you miss it in a weird way?
Well, not a lot of people get that experience, so it was an adventure to be sure. No, not sad to see it go. It was really interesting while I had it, but it’s really nice to walk around like a normal person. After that, I’d been working on [the Netflix movie A Futile and Stupid Gesture], about the guy who started the National Lampoon Magazine, and there are a variety of hairstyles that we have to duplicate in this. So I had to wear four wigs, and for one of them I needed the back part of my actual hair, and the other part, I needed to shave the front half of my hair for a receding hairline type of wig. So as a result I had to walk around for three weeks with a real male-pattern baldness look. It’s like the dad from Mork and Mindy, and I would way rather do the half-and-half, because if you’re walking around with the half-and-half, people [think] there’s something maybe kind of punk-rocky about it. This is just complete, total dork that I had to walk around with. So I miss it in that respect. But I finally got to shave my head for that so it’s like a fully shaved head. The weirdest thing to me is thinking about doing the show, doing Tandy without some form of hair.
This could be your greatest challenge yet.
Which of the writers drew from his or her own life to pitch the fart jar idea?
I don’t remember. It might have been me. I don’t think it was me… Well… I can’t remember….. Certainly I probably fart the most of the writers — or publicly fart the most of the writers. I don’t remember, to tell you the truth. I don’t think anybody’s ever done a fart jar where they’ve saved it. I have farted into a jar before, and very, very quickly unleashed it on my sister. But yeah, I have not had a really scientific fart-jar experience like that, like the very scientific fart-jar experience in our show, in which he learns a ton about science.
The return of Pat (Mark Boone Junior) was exciting. What can you tease about what happens when they reach the shore? I didn’t see a welcome pound cake, but it might have just been hidden behind the guns.
This is one where I don’t know. That’s something we’re going to figure out. We knew how we wanted to leave it. That Pat thing was not just a throwaway. But that’s one of the things I’m most excited about these three for is how open-ended we’ve left it. And if you’ve noticed, there are two other people with hazmat suits. We made it a priority to obscure the faces so nobody knows who those people are.
Do you know who those people are?
We have a bunch of ideas. We are in the process of figuring that out. There are a ton of scenarios… We are going to have a lot of fun with those hazmat suit people, and I think it’s going to be really fun for the show. Honestly, we don’t know exactly what we’re going to do there…. But even the ideas that I’ve heard that are just the real general ideas and the thoughts that I have are really fun. So I’m super excited to start getting on that. The worst version of it is going to be great; the best version of it is going to be f—ing awesome.
To be clear, you’re saying that you have some ideas of what the characters are, but you haven’t actually cast the roles yet?
Well, there are two ways to go. We have ideas of who our dream cast would be, and we’ve already started with the approach, and these would be the kind of people you would write for. It would be fantastic and fun and we’ll figure out something awesome for them. If it’s not them, we might go more towards creating a character and then finding the appropriate person for the character. Right now it would be more about getting these people first…. Even if the two people in hazmat suits fall out of the boat and drown before they make it to shore, we’ll still figure out something that’ll be fun and neat for us.
Is it safe to assume that the drone came courtesy of Pat and his crew, or is it possible that there’s another unknown party responsible for that?
I guess my answer to that would be that it’s always unsafe to assume anything with our show, and that is a story point I would like to leave a little vague. But yes, it’s a fair question.
Was the plan always to have Pat return in the finale after you introduced him in the spring premiere?
No, it wasn’t, but it did come up when we were doing that episode. It was so awesome. It did come up at some point during that week: “Oh, s—. We should have him come back at the end of the season!” And then that grew into the thought, “Oh, my God, it’d be awesome to have two other people in hazmat suits!” To think that it’s just him and then have these two other guys. Or women. Or animals.
Will there be a time jump to kick off season 3, or do we pick up where we left off?
We’ll pick up where we left off. That’s something I can tell you. No time jump…. Well, you know what?
Please don’t take that away from us.
If somebody had the most awesome idea that involved having to jump through time, we would do it, but we would definitely at some point come back for these people making it to land. There’s no way we’re going to skip over that.
NEXT: DeLorean joyrides and what’s next… [pagebreak]
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You drive the Back to the Future DeLorean in this episode. How did you get your hands on one of those, and is it harder to drive than we might think?
WILL FORTE: It’s kind of old now. You’d think that they would go into the future and put some new automotive parts in there and stuff, but no, they kind of have the same old parts. It was super cool. It was awesome, really fun to get in there, just to add to the list of cool experiences I’ve gotten to, like shooting a flamethrower and running over stuff with a steamroller. Riding in the Back to the Future DeLorean is not too shabby….
I don’t know how many exist — I don’t know all that — but the most exciting thing was when we went into the music session to do the music. We already had the footage of the car zooming down the street, but we had the Back to the Future music in there as temp and I remember our music supervisor going, “Yeah, good luck,” and somehow they let us use it! I’m very appreciative. It would be fun either way, but to be able to do it with the music I think that helped that moment so much when you first see it.
Did you get it up to 88 miles an hour?
I did not get a crack at 88 miles an hour. I had to go around curvy sidestreets, and it’s also like a treasure. A national treasure. An aging national treasure. So I was very respectful.
We leave the season with two pregnant women, Carol (Kristen Schaal) and Erica (Cleopatra Coleman). When will that come to a head, and how much of a problem will that pose for the group?
There are so many different ways to go. We talked about this, and this is another case of: We’ll figure it out. Usually each episode only goes over a span of two or three days, and so it is possible that we could actually get through multiple seasons without them ever giving birth. But at the same time, whatever’s best for the story…. If we were able to do the schedule like last year — I really enjoyed the two-part [season] — then I could see some kind of little time jump in between the two chunks. But yeah, we definitely are aware of the pregnancies, and we’re going to have a lot of fun with that. It would be scary to be pregnant in this world with no doctors. A lot of fun and interesting stories I think can come out of that stuff.
What’s the most cryptic hint you can just leave us with about season 3?
We just don’t know. Even the stuff that I think that I have all planned out, everything could change once we get in the room and go, “Oh, it makes more sense to do this, right?” Anybody could die at any point, even me. Anybody could come in at any point… We have always liked to keep people guessing, and hopefully we can continue with that.
Answer this: Will we see Gail’s vibrating massage finger at one point?
I know that Mary Steenburgen really wants to— No, Mary’s the best… That is a [network] standards and practices issue, and I would guess that they would say that we will not see it…. But if you come to the set I’ll show it to you.
The Last Man on Earth