'The Last Man': An Odd Premise, Says Its Creator, But Oddly Relatable
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
It is the ultimate apocalyptic fantasy or nightmare really. Imagine you are the last person on Earth. You might start talking to yourself, and you might start to go a little crazy.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE LAST MAN ON EARTH")
WILL FORTE: (As Phil Miller) I get it. Nobody's coming. Well, guess what? I don't even care. I don't need people. OK. I can make it work on my own. Watch me.
MARTIN: That is Will Forte playing the lead character in new TV show aptly titled "The Last Man On Earth." And as you heard there, he is determined to just survive in this brave new world. Will Forte doesn't just star in the show. He created it, and he joins us now from our studios in New York. Hey, Will. Thanks for being with us.
FORTE: Thanks for having me on.
MARTIN: Oh, man, Phil, he is not going to go down without a fight this guy.
FORTE: Who would go down without a fight?
MARTIN: (Laughter) Who is Phil at his core?
FORTE: I like to think Phil is pretty much just me if I was in that situation. It's such an absurd premise, but I feel like it's oddly relatable. Everyone's thought about, you know, what would you do if you're the last person on Earth.
MARTIN: I know. It is a strange thing that tends to come up when you think of, like, worst-case scenarios.
FORTE: Yeah. And so I just thought, what would it really be like? How do you get plumbing going again? Electricity? I wouldn't know how to do anything.
MARTIN: How did you come up with Phil's coping mechanisms? He gets to break things, which I suppose is every man's fantasy to get to run cars into each other.
FORTE: Yeah. I always respond to all the Letterman stuff of dropping things off buildings. And now that there are no people around, Phil Miller just finds a flamethrower and flames up mounds of toilet paper and wigs.
MARTIN: (Laughter) Why are all the people gone?
FORTE: There has been a virus that just swept through the world. And somehow, Phil is immune to the virus. We don't spend a ton of time talking about the virus. And we don't really ever see dead bodies. So you just kind have to go with it.
MARTIN: That's not the interesting part anyway. Like, just move on. There's been a virus. We can all kind of accept that.
MARTIN: So another one of his coping mechanisms - Phil talks to God.
MARTIN: He also gets some tips about this kind of survivalist living from watching "Cast Away." Let's listen to a clip of this.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE LAST MAN ON EARTH")
FORTE: (As Phil Miller) I got news for you, Tom Hanks, I will never ever talk to a volleyball. Balls aren't people, dude.
TOM HANKS: (As Chuck Noland in "Cast Away") I know.
FORTE: (As Phil Miller) Balls are for fun.
MARTIN: We should say, you know, this isn't just - is it OK to say this? That's it's not just a one-man show?
FORTE: Well, who knows?
MARTIN: Who knows? OK, who knows?
FORTE: There's definitely twists and turns. You know, we've thought about this, obviously, for months and months and months and months and, you know, are trying to preserve the secrets that we have. But we definitely, from the very inception of the idea, had a plan for the whole season. Now if it were ever to go longer than a season, we have no idea what we would do.
FORTE: We have big problems. So I hope people enjoy the season, but not enough so goes into a second season. I don't want to do all that work.
MARTIN: Are you serious?
FORTE: No, I do want to do that work. And we do have some plans if it were to keep going on.
MARTIN: I mean, it is - it's really funny. But there are some heavy, serious themes embedded in this. I mean, we joke about how his coping mechanism is to just act on every whim and to be able to fulfill his every desire that doesn't have to do with other human beings because there aren't any. But there is something in there about what happens when you're not held accountable.
FORTE: Yeah. There's really a good deal of time to delve into those areas of what is life really all about and what these rules that are created for a society that's filled with people - what makes sense now? Like, stop signs. Who cares anymore about stop signs? Why do I have to wear pants? I don't wear pants ever.
FORTE: So a good deal of this show is me walking around in my underwear with a pair of hiking boots on.
MARTIN: I mean, it's a lot of you in this show. So does it create a lot of pressure on your character to be likable?
FORTE: It does. But also the scenario in which he finds himself - it's hard not to feel great sympathy for him. So the scenario did most of the hard work for me. But it's a little different than most stuff on TV, obviously, 'cause, you know, it's very rare that there's no talking in a show or, you know, a person talking to himself. But we feel like we got it right in the sweet spot.
MARTIN: Will Forte is the creator and star of the new TV show "The Last Man On Earth." It premieres this evening. Will, thanks so much for talking with us.
FORTE: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.