LOS ANGELES | When Will Forte shaved half his head for an episode of “The Last Man on Earth,” folks unfamiliar with his work thought he was a crazy person.
“It was a lot of double and triple takes. With the big beard, people would walk to the other side of the street,” he says. Cutting half his hair, his beard and one eyebrow, “was just another level of ‘Is this person insane?’”
Instead, it proved to be the ultimate display of commitment. (Co-star Mel Rodriguez did it, too.)
Co-star Kristen Schaal said she was game to do it as well, but producers didn’t make the request. (“I was so psyched because I’ve had the same haircut for about 15 years,” she says.)
Created by Forte, the Fox series explores life after a worldwide disaster. One man – played by Forte – thinks he’s alone. Then, he meets Schaal’s character and they encounter a handful of others. Now in its third season, “Last Man” chronicles the rebuilding process and the comedy that’s inherent.
Forte’s “Saturday Night Live” co-star Jason Sudeikis turned up as his brother last season and promptly left, possibly a victim of the deadly virus.
“In the first season at about the fifth episode, I tacked that on as a fun thing to read at the table,” Forte says of the plot twist. Immediately, he thought of casting Sudeikis because “he’s always been a close friend.” Using the idea as a closer for the first season, he got his pal to sign on and agree to be the brother who has been living in space.
“And I said, ‘You know, that means you’re probably going to have to come back in Season 2 and figure out what happens with you up there.'”
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Sudeikis made the commitment and “Last Man” got a recurring character.
As much as Forte would like to say it’s plotted for seasons to come, the series actually unfolds as ideas come to the writers. He had created an outline for the first season but the second was “all uncharted territory. So, we’re flying blind now.”
This season, the characters are living in an office building north of San Francisco. They’ve gotten some of the amenities they didn’t have the first two seasons and they’re dealing with the idea of birth and re-population.
Schaal’s character is pregnant and she’s “a little more at peace now that she’s finally gotten what she’s wanted.”
The series’ end? “I have no idea,” Forte says. “I always get surprised when they bring it back each year. I have a feeling we’ll go out with some weird cliffhanger that never gets resolved.”
Certainly, writing and producing a weekly series has come with a steep learning curve.
Forte has had to consider story arcs, guest stars, the series’ dark theme and music clearances.
Luckily, the overriding theme – what would you do if you were the last person on earth? – hasn’t been a difficult one to consider.
“A lot of the stuff that’s in the show is the stuff that I would do,” he says. “That’s what made it so fun for us. As we’re thinking about wish fulfillment stuff, we just think of dumb, very doable things that wouldn’t take too much effort. Backing up a truck into aquariums – that kind of stuff is what interests me. It’s very sad.”