Warning: This story contains plot details from the season 4 finale of The Last Man on Earth, “Cancun, Baby,” which aired Sunday night.
Oh, farts, indeed.
In the season 4 finale of The Last Man on Earth, Tandy (Will Forte) and his fellow survivors packed up their belongings, unsuccessfully blew up the Zihuatanejo drug-and-death-hiding mansion — a.k.a. the gingerbread house of corpses, a.k.a. the raging carnival of horrors — and optimistically set their sights on Cancun. Or, as Gail (Mary Steenburgen) kept calling it, “Cancun, baby!” But then the group pit-stopped at a farm in Tapachula, which Tandy and Mike (Jason Sudeikis) had previously located on their heat-seeking map and found a gaggle of goats (but not those humans living underneath the field). After spotting a yellow lab while he was sadly burying Clancy the robot dog, Tandy had an epic epiphany and persuaded the coastal-focused group that this plot of paradise right here — what with its abundant fruit trees, goats, and non-robot dog — was actually the better place to permanently settle. Or, as he would call it, to “make like a tree and put some roots down.” But when he said contentedly, “It finally feels like things are going to be okay,” one by one, his fellow survivors (minus Mike, who said goodbye again) piled out of the train-carrying truck and urged him to come have a look. “I mean, there’s just something peaceful about being in the place where you know you’re going to,” he continued, “… die.”
That last word was uttered as he too caught a glimpse of a most unsettling sight: dozens of gas-mask-wearing individuals, surrounding the group from every angle. Who are they? What do they want? What do Mike’s armpit hairs smell like? Is this possibly the last episode of the ever-daring post-apocalyptic comedy that we might see, given its struggle in the ratings? Put on your goggles and unsoft hats as these questions and more are tackled by Last Man creator and star Will Forte.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, these people in gas masks seem super-friendly and not ominous in any way.
WILL FORTE: I certainly don’t want to give any spoilers away. … We don’t know exactly what would happen, but we do have a really fun idea for what would happen with these people that we’ve seen. It’s kind of exciting. This was a pitch that was talked about for years and years, and I always was nervous about it and wanted to prolong it for as long as possible, because I always loved the idea. But I didn’t want to make that move too early, because the show changes to something else by having that amount of people show up. But finally, it seemed long enough into our run to make that move, and the way that somebody came up with the pitch made me realize that, “Oh, okay, I’m totally comfortable with this.” It feels very much like our show the way we would handle this — if we were given the chance to go to a fifth season — but also an exciting way to close off the season.
How much of a threat do they pose to our group? And given that they all are in masks and have been living underground, can we assume that they think the virus may still be active?
I can’t really answer the question as to the threat. Right now I want people to think that it will pose a tremendous threat. Fred Armisen [played] a cannibal serial killer and he certainly didn’t seem that threatening, so we definitely want to strike that balance between threat and comedy, and we’ll do what we feel like is the right thing. But at this point, we definitely don’t want to turn the show into straight drama. The tone of the show should remain roughly the same — although we skip around from tone to tone at times — but certainly it’s a new situation our characters are in with this amount of people coming out. I think it will be handled in the same way that most of our situations are.
We put those gas masks on them for a reason — to make them seem more ominous. Another reason is we probably would want to cast some super-kick-ass person. We’ve been having so much fun with the people that we got to work with this year, Kristen [Wiig] and Jason [Sudeikis] and Fred and Chris Elliott, so we would most likely want to try to bring whoever we can — the most exciting person we could get — so that helps with that.
Or maybe they’re all famous people, and based on past experience, they’ll live no longer than 10 seconds and we’re about to see mass carnage?
Well, I guess it depends on how many famous people we can get. In a perfect world, we have Jack Nicholson, Bono — just as many people as we can get — and nine of the 10 get shot and killed immediately, but then the one person we somehow can rope in for a three-episode arc will live and we’ll go from there. This situation is really fun for us because it’s so open-ended that we can really do anything. It’s kind of like at the end of season 2, in which the three people were showing up in hazmat suits on the boat. At that point, we had no idea who were going to be the three people we didn’t know — we had no idea — so it was really fun to figure that out, and I think it’d be just fun to figure out who’s the leader of this group and what is this group all about. [The writers and I] are all on the same page in terms of who this group is, what they represent, and how we’re going to deal with them.
And what have you heard back from Bono and Jack Nicholson’s reps at this point?
They’re saying definite maybes. Jack Nicholson is signed up, tell Fox and 20th [Century Fox Television, which produces the show] that Jack Nicholson is signed up. Say you heard it from somebody else, obviously.
Sure. Speaking of death, any more info on Hugh Laurie’s demise? Was he a fighter to the end?
Oh yes. He was House, yeah. For a second, I got really nervous, because I thought you were saying that Hugh Laurie actually died. It made me really sad for a second. I met him at SNL when he hosted. The interactions I did have with him, I really liked him.
Shouldn’t Melissa [January Jones] have forced Jasper [Keith L. Williams] to come with the group when they left Zihuatanejo? Isn’t it a little cruel to leave a kid by himself there, even if he’s been given a self-driving car with coordinates to Cancun?
Yeah, we probably should’ve. Nobody could look at us and say, “Oh, what responsible people.”
And now that they’re not going to Cancun, don’t they need to double back to let him know that the plans have changed?
That’s a good question. So much thought goes into this stuff, and we debated this stuff forever,. At a certain point, though, things can get crazy, you have to finish the episode, and then all of a sudden it’s like, “Yeah, let’s do this,” and toward the end of the season especially, we write as many as we can before we start, develop a little bit of a pad, and before you know it, you’re just scrambling to get an episode out. This year, I feel like we’re a little more ahead of the game, but we love Keith, the kid who plays Jasper, so certainly he will be involved in some way. I’m sure we will cross paths from him again.
Are Mike and Jasper now the group’s hope for rescue?
I mean, if you’re thinking about that, then you have to think about Kristen Wiig, you have to think about Chris Elliott, who else is out there. Who knows? Lewis [Kenneth Choi] could still be alive, maybe he survived the plane crash. Probably not.
Tandy seemed to enjoy the smell of Mike’s armpit hair, which was given to him as a gift after Tandy gave him his rat-tail. What did Jason Sudeikis’ armpit hair smell like?
He will be happy to know that his armpit hairs didn’t really have a ton of smell. I don’t know if people know this, he himself does not have a sense of smell. But hopefully he reads this so he can feel good about himself.
Neutral is what you’re saying.
Yeah, totally neutral. At one point, I think I pulled out some of my armpit hairs, because he had done it so many times, I felt guilty. I don’t know which take we used, but definitely he was ripping them out. You can see a little grimace of pain in him every time he does that, because he would always come out with a couple strands.
Wow. So it wasn’t stunt armpit hair. He committed to character.
Oh my God, Jason goes for it. He’s wonderful.
Now I’m wondering: Is there something you need to tell me about the fart jar? Did you guys go real on that too?
No, no, there was no fart in that jar. … I’m not saying that I’ve never done fart jars in my life, but this was a case where there was no fart in that jar.
This show is often pushing the limits of gross humor. What was the grossest joke that you wanted to get in an episode of the show but couldn’t?
Well, I will tell you, in this episode, there’s one instance [in this episode, Mike] brings up “goat piss” and I brought him “lemonade” — because it’s pee in a vase — and then we messed around a little bit with that area, and he used the phrase “goat piss” again. Well, they would let us say “goat piss” once, but they wouldn’t let us say it again. To me, I was like, “What the f— is that all about?” If you can say it once, why can’t you say it a million times? But they wouldn’t let us, and they made us remove the sound from the second “piss.” It’s just a little absence of sound and it’s just so weird to me. … They let us get away with a ton, so I don’t want to complain too much, but that’s just the weirdest thing to me, when you can say something on the air, but you can’t say it a second time. And it’s the word “piss.” Who cares?
Clancy the robot dog was as disturbing as he was amusing. What was the process like in figuring out what he should look like? He is captivating and alarming.
We were going to get this little robot dog, like an actual robot dog that looks way more like a toy, and it was way smaller than we thought, just not great, and then … hang on one second. My friends just showed up. Two of them work on the show, so I’m going to ask. [Confers for a minute with his friend]
It was the robot dog that barks a couple of times, then flips, like a Sharper Image-type thing. For some reason, it showed up and it just wasn’t right, so we had a long discussion. … It was always going to be a toy robot dog with a taxidermy head on it, and then [Ben Lewis, our property master] just found this robot thing and it just seemed like the right thing to do. There was a lot of discussion because we all love dogs, and we thought that this could be a polarizing thing to have something like this.
But there’s something about this thing, when it is riding around on the set — to me it’s kind of cute, and I feel like in the absence of dogs, I could see somebody trying to build some kind of dog-like thing, and I get it. So certainly we aren’t a bunch of dog haters on the show. There was much discussion — and the room was totally split — and I just said, “We’re doing this,” and we did it, and I’m happy we did. But I understand if people are not super-excited about seeing a taxidermy dog’s head. Then you think about that this used to be a living dog, and his death, but in a way, that’s kind of what the show is. When we introduced this dog the very first time, we had zero idea that the dog would be so heavily in the show, and then in a weird way, this dog seems kind of like the thesis statement for the show. It’s a weird thing, and it took on this other meaning. So I understand people not wanting to see that, but I don’t think people want to see the whole world population dying as well. … It’s a world in which the entire human race has evaporated except for a couple people, so it seems situationally appropriate.
What hint can you drop about next season, assuming you get one?
Looks can be deceiving.
The show has been struggling in the ratings. When Phil says, “Guess it’s time we say our final goodbyes,” was there any part of you thinking this could be last episode, even though it ends on a big cliffhanger?
No. If we got a fifth season, we’d probably be thinking that was our last season. Early in the season, we were thinking, “Oh, let’s try to find a way to wrap it up just in case.” And then we thought later, “Let’s not put that pressure on ourselves. Let’s just write a good episode and try to do what we do,” because we didn’t want to make it easy on them. If they want to cancel us, that’s fine, go ahead and cancel us, but we’re not going to put a little bow on the show for them.
As a creator, you want to make it harder on them to say goodbye to it.
Yeah. They’ve been wonderful to us. I have no hard feelings if they do cancel the show. I think they like the show, but it’s a business, and you got to get certain ratings. Do they advertise us a bunch? No. I will say our ratings were a little better in the first half of the season, and then we go away for a couple months and people don’t really know we’re coming back, because they don’t really say we’re coming back. And that’s a little bit of a shame. By the way, we asked to do it in two parts. That helps us, so I guess I can’t bitch and complain too much, because that’s part of what makes it possible to do 18, is to write it in two arcs. But I think that Fred’s stretch, those, to me, were three of our best shows we’ve ever done. All we can do is make the best shows we can, and I’m proud of the shows we did, so I can’t control the ratings. I know we have some hardcore followers, and I don’t know how the rest of it works.
If Fox executives on the fence about renewal are reading this, what would you like to say to them?
I would just say, “Thank you for letting us do four seasons of the show.” At this point, I would love to have a chance to keep working with these wonderful people that are now a family, but I also understand that we’ve gotten a chance that not a lot of people get a chance to do, which is to stay together for four seasons, so I have nothing but appreciation for what they’ve allowed us to do. It’ll just be a blessing if we somehow get a chance to make more of them. …
I just want a chance to try to come up with an ending that people who do watch the show would appreciate. I just so appreciate the fans that we have, and they’ve been so good to us. I just want to honor them by coming up with some kind of conclusion that would, I don’t know, not necessarily make them happy, but give them closure. I don’t know what the ending would be. I can’t even say it would be a happy ending. I just want it to be an ending that makes sense.
I’ve had a lot of time to think about the show and what it’s meant to me, and it does feel like there’s a real possibility that we’re not coming back. It’s just a very emotional experience, and I am just super-appreciative, and if we got a chance again I would just do everything I could to try to wrap it up in a fitting way. For people who watch the show — and for me. It’s been four years of pretty stressful, crazy work and not seeing family or friends. I owe it to everyone who works at the show and everyone who watches the show to try to … land the plane on the aircraft carrier. That’s the commonly used phrase, right?