Warning: The following story contains spoilers about Sunday’s episode of The Last Man on Earth. Proceed at your own peril.
Earth to Mike Miller — welcome home!
In Sunday’s winter premiere of The Last Man on Earth, Phil’s spaced-out brother returned to his home planet and quickly found himself terrorized by individuals both real (Sons of Anarchy‘s Mark Boone Junior, channeling his inner pirate) and imaginary (Room‘s Jacob Tremblay, portraying “Young Phil”). The episode, which was reminiscent of the show’s solitary-themed pilot, focused entirely on Mike as he adjusted to his new reality.
Below, executive producer and star Will Forte explains his decision to completely ignore Phil, Carol and the rest of the core group in this first episode back, discusses Boone’s stealth casting, and answers the episode’s biggest question: Do zombies exist in Last Man‘s apocalypse?
TVLINE | Why return with an episode solely focused on Mike?
Well, from the beginning, one of the things that got us most excited about the show was the isolation, and the opportunity to really do whatever the heck you want to. Obviously, last season, we showed a little bit of that. And then as time went on, more and more characters were introduced, so the stories became a little bit less about the isolation. Going into [Season 1], we had no idea what people’s patience level would be with just seeing one dude muck around in this world. Looking back, we probably wished we [rolled things] out a little more slowly. So that was why, at the beginning of this season, we spent some time just with Phil/Tandy and Carol alone. And then we thought this would be a good chance to explore it again with Mike, who has a totally different experience when he [arrives on Earth].
TVLINE | The episode also gave us some insight into the apocalypse itself.
There are a couple questions that we always wanted to deal with like, where are all the bodies? That was something we really wanted to get to in the very first [episode] of Season 1. But as we were doing the writing of the episode, I think Fox was not too excited about showing a dead body in a comedy. I understood that, because, like, you’re making this first impression.
TVLINE | There’s a line in the episode where Mark’s character says something about having seen people hovering between life and death. It sounded like he was referring to zombies. Was he?
No, he’s not talking about zombies. He’s talking about… stragglers. People who were neither here nor there.
TVLINE | How did you keep Mark’s casting under wraps?
I don’t know. We’ve gotten pretty good at keeping secrets. Fox and 20th Century have been very patient with us, because a lot of times there will be things that could probably help us on the promotional side, but we love keeping secrets. I think that’s one of the things people like about the show. Like when Will Ferrell came in, we were able to keep that under wraps. [But] I’m sure if [it leaked] that Will Ferrell was going to be on the show, a lot more people would’ve watched.
TVLINE | Jacob made a great Young Phil. Fair to say you were a fan of Room?
It is such a wonderful, powerful movie. Brie Larson is so amazing in it, and Jacob is right at her level the whole way through. I was like, “Oh, my God — this kid would be willing to play a young me?” It was very exciting to have him be part of the show. I feel a little guilty because of the language we had him say. But he’s got to seem like a realistic young version of me, so there [had to be a lot] of fart and turd talk.
TVLINE | Did you instruct him to study past episodes to get a handle on Phil’s mannerisms?
No. His parents watch the show. I think that’s one of the reasons they agreed to let him do it. We just had him come do his thing. He’s a better actor than I am, so essentially, me giving him any kind of note [would’ve probably] hurt his performance. [Laughs] So I just stayed out of it. (Reporting by Vlada Gelman)