Fox’s bittersweet comedy “The Last Man on Earth” added new characters as its debut season progressed, but the show’s core remained its apocalyptic Adam and Eve: Phil (Will Forte) and Carol (Kristen Schaal). Initially, they had no choice but to be together. By the finale, they realized that they might be made for each other. We talked to Forte and Schaal about their comedic journey.
You two met on “Flight of the Conchords,” right?
Schaal: I was sitting on a curb between scenes because the budget for that first season was so low there was no place to go. So Will and I met and just sat on the street talking.
Flash forward a few years, Will, and you’re thinking of a “Kristen Schaal type” for the role of Carol ...
Forte: That was in the pitch. And we thought, “Why not go to Kristen Schaal and see if she wants to do it?”
Schaal: Because there’s not another one of me. And if there is, God help her. I want to give her a hug.
Forte: We had a familiarity as friends and co-workers ...
Schaal: We’ve had sex. (Pause.) Sex with each other. (Pause) On the show.
Forte: She’s married, so ...
Schaal: So don’t get any ideas, Glenn!
Hey, I’m married too.
Forte: Don’t rub it in guys!
Schaal: It’s nice. You should try it.
Forte: I will. Fine. (Long pause) I’m just not saying when.
Since you brought up the subject, Will, your character on the show, the show you created, seems to have real issues with commitment.
Forte: As a 44-year-old man who’s still single, I will admit to some eerie similarities to my own personal life. Phil’s forced to marry Carol, and, yes, when you’re pushed into it, you fight it if you have a natural leaning toward a fear of commitment.
Schaal: It feels like a weird kind of death sentence. The finality of it. This is who you get.
You weren’t afraid to have Phil pushing back and making him mean sometimes. Were you ever afraid of losing your audience?
Schaal: Forte’s not going to make anything that’s not bold and unusual and maybe even alienating. He’s an artist. And that’s what an artist does: They shoot themselves with a shotgun in the stomach because no one’s buying their paintings, and then after it’s over it’s, “Holy ... that was what we needed!”
Forte: Or it could just be that I forgot that audiences don’t necessarily like it when you take someone you’ve set up as likable and change them so you can’t root for them anymore.
Schaal: But it was always about shifting allegiances. When Carol first appeared, everyone’s like, “Carol’s annoying!” And then it turned into: “I don’t know how I feel about Phil.” To me, that’s interesting. You guys keep talking. I have to go to the bathroom.
Did you ever feel limited by broadcast network constraints?
Forte: There are very rigid standards-and-practices notes. We had to scale back this one sex scene, and then we went on the CBS daytime show and they showed an extended version of the scene we weren’t able to show on prime time. Now, I like clean stuff. But I like to do some dirty stuff sometimes too.
Schaal: Dirty stuff? What did I miss?
That was an insanely quick trip to the bathroom.
Schaal: I’m fast! Especially for a girl!
Forte: Did you wash your hands?
Schaal: Of course I did! Now what were you talking about?
Forte: The sex scene that we had to alter. There is such delight in her sex scenes, but there is one little element I wish I could have put in, this crazy final orgasm sound.
Schaal: I made a great sound! It doesn’t even sound like an orgasm. That’s the thing. It’s this weird noise, like an animal. Hughueeehho!
Forte: It might have been inspired by my beard.
Schaal: Maybe! I didn’t pull the fur aside for the kiss. And I regret that. I would have liked to get some lips.