Will Forte on the 'weird' similarities between The Last Man on Earth and the coronavirus pandemic

The Saturday Night Live alumnus joined q's Tom Power to talk about the current resonance of his post-apocalyptic comedy, as well as his new Quibi project Flipped.
'There was a lot of stuff that we would take educated guesses on in terms of what a world would be like going through that situation,' Forte told q's Tom Power. 'But there were some that were closer to the mark than I thought they'd be.' (Getty Images)

Fans of Will Forte can't help but draw comparisons between his Emmy-nominated series The Last Man on Earth and the current coronavirus pandemic.

The post-apocalyptic comedy series (which wrapped up in 2018) begins in 2020, one year after a deadly virus has swept the planet. Forte plays Phil Miller, who believes himself to be the last person alive.

The Saturday Night Live alumnus joined q's Tom Power from his home in Los Angeles to talk about the resonance of that series now, as well as his new Quibi project Flipped.

Here's part of that conversation.

You were one of the creators of the show The Last Man on Earth, which is about a virus that wipes out the Earth in 2020. What went through your mind when you heard about this pandemic? 

It's very interesting because I had forgotten about the timeline of the show, so a bunch of people started sending me screenshots of the pilot where it said, I think, "2020: one year after the virus," and everyone thought that I had the shining. 

It's been weird because there was a lot of stuff that we would take educated guesses on in terms of what a world would be like going through that situation, and it seemed like a lot of the stuff, in my mind, were exaggerations. I mean, clearly, a lot of them seem like exaggerations, but there were some that were closer to the mark than I thought they'd be.

Somebody sent me a picture of Kristen Wiig the other day, who did a couple of our episodes, and we had her going through a store. Basically, she didn't have a hazmat suit, so she made her own suit — like, just a bunch of garbage bags, and gloves, and ski goggles, stuff like that — and man, I have seen pictures of hospital workers who don't have PPE stuff and they've been doing kind of the same thing. It's just pretty crazy, what's been happening. 

Guest star Kristen Wiig in The Last Man on Earth, 2017. (Kevin Estrada/FOX)

Did you learn anything from The Last Man on Earth that you're applying to your life right now?

Absolutely nothing. Just how useless I am in this situation.

Do you have a quarantine project that you're working on? Are you going to come out of this thing with a skill that you didn't have before? 

Well, we're writing a MacGruber TV series. We're still not officially picked up, but we're hoping to be soon and it's looking good. So we're doing rewrites for that.

Will Forte in the 2010 film MacGruber. (Michaels-Goldwyn/Kobal/Shutterstock)

I want to talk about Flipped for a second. This show is sort of a crime show, it's sort of a story about these failed creatives — my favourite part is how it makes fun of home reno shows. Are you a home reno show fan? 

I didn't know any of those shows at all and then about a year ago, I went down to work in New Zealand and there were a ton of those shows on; I got super into it. So I'm a latecomer to it, but they're fantastic. 

The thrill that I get out of watching them, or the satisfaction, is the same that I get out of watching The Bachelor. I'm a big Bachelor fan, too. I can't put my finger on why my personality craves these shows, but I do love them. 

Each of these episodes is like 10 minutes long. You come from SNL, where a sketch might be seven to 10 minutes. Do you think that background helps making a show like this easier? 

There are 11 episodes, each one is about 10 minutes long, so that's roughly the length of a movie. Basically, it's just a work week like any other work week. It doesn't really affect the way you shoot it, but it is interesting the way that people watch it.

It's pretty fun because my buddies who wrote it, Damon Jones and Steve Mallory, are such good writers. The fun thing is that every episode ends with a cliffhanger. I don't know, I really, really like the form of it. When you're getting a good solid cliffhanger every 10 minutes, well, that's just more cliffhanger bang for your buck. Right? Isn't that what everybody wants?

Before you go, I understand you're going to be in the new Scooby-Doo movie, Scoob! — we wanted to know: what's the secret to being Shaggy? What's the secret to doing the Shaggy voice? 

Oh, man. I'll tell you, it was terrifying. You do not get more iconic than that Shaggy character and that Shaggy voice. Casey Kasem was just untouchable; he's amazing. And then Matthew Lillard I thought did a great job. So it was tough coming in, I mean it's exciting and an honour, but then it's scary. I just remember what it was like to be at Saturday Night Live and to have to do George W. Bush after Will Ferrell. This is that same situation where it's such an honour, but it's also kind of terrifying. 

I watched so many different YouTube videos from people who can do amazing Shaggys and they would do tutorials on how to do different voices. So I'd watch the ones on Shaggy and there's just a raspiness to the voice that I just can't get. I just had to experiment. 

This transcript has been edited for length and clarity. To hear the full interview with Will Forte, click 'Listen' near the top of this page.

— Produced by Chris Trowbridge

Miss an episode of CBC q? Download our podcast.



To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?