Will Forte was always destined for greatness. Before joining the cast of Saturday Night Live, he began his career as a writer working on shows like the Late Show with David Letterman, 3rd Rock From The Sun, and That 70’s Show. Forte spent eight years on SNL providing the world with many laughs and unique characters like Tim Calhoun and The Falconer, but those pale in comparison to his most notable character of all; the hilarious, but troubled Macgruber. Starting out as a parody of the popular late 80’s series, MacGyver, the MacGruber sketch ended up becoming a feature film that although didn’t excel in the box office, has since become a cult classic.
Since leaving SNL, Forte has been using his comedic talents in all different mediums. He has guest starred and provided voice work to numerous live action and animated television shows. He also scored big screen acclaim, co-starring in Nebraska, which was nominated for six Academy Awards. Forte has always had the acting chops and talent to be a leading man, and that opportunity has finally come with his new series, The Last Man On Earth.
Forte is the star, writer, and executive producer of the new Fox comedy along with Phil Lord & Chris Miller (The Lego Movie, 22 Jump Street). Forte plays Phil Miller, the lone survivor of the apocalypse that has wiped out all life on earth. The series is unlike anything else on television, and shows Forte’s impressive comedic range.
Recently Pop-Break joined a roundtable discussion with Forte and he shared details on coming up with the concept of the show, how he would handle living in a post-apocalyptic world, and an update on the sequel to Macgruber.
How is it for you guys to be promoting and discussing this product that you’ve all been working on for so long and being very limited in what it is you’re able to say until the public gets a chance to check it out on Sunday night?
It’s definitely tricky. It’s been tricky because we want to find that right blend of explanation and description of the show, but we also want to save some of the fun surprises. And I guess, unfortunately, we’re not going to know until after Sunday if we’ve struck the right balance. I feel there are so many discussions. I know that I am more on the side of keeping the secrets. But then again, I’ve really never been in anything that people have gone to go see, so I’m not a marketing genius by any stretch. And pretty much every episode ends with a twist, or a cliffhanger, or a new development, so it’s pretty fun.
How did you come up with the concept?
We knew that it was the right thing for us to work on, because once we settled on this concept it just jumped out at us. It was almost hard to stop typing, because it just was really like we had talked about, so many different areas and we’re trying to figure out how to turn it into a show, and then this just leapt out at us and it immediately felt like the right thing to do.
If you were suddenly the last person what would be the first thing you would run to do, because you could do anything?
A lot of the things that I would do are things that I actually do in the pilot in the first couple of episodes, a lot of wish fulfillment stuff. It doesn’t take much to make me happy, so if you give me a steamroller and some breakables I’m pretty good, or a flamethrower.
But another thing that I think would be at the top of the list would be going and finding all the classified information that’s out there in Washington, D.C. and just figure out what really is happening with all these conspiracy theories. I love that stuff.
As you’ve developed the show and as you guys have even figured out where you want to place Phil, what can we look forward to into how he’s going to grow and really what the point of his journey is for you guys as you’ve been crafting it?
It’s very hard to answer that question and not give away some very tightly held secrets for what happens down the line. I guess the best way to answer it is that we had a plan from the very beginning. We pitched the show with the general outline of the whole first season already pretty well thought out, and we certainly had to buckle down and figure out a lot of intricacies and pain in the butt stuff, but the big, bold strokes of the season were already formed. And Fox loved the idea and really supported us, and liked how we had envisioned the arc of the first season. They were really great about giving us just a ton of creative freedom. They were great partners.
I think we always saw this as more of a cable show, to be honest. They claimed from the get-go that they didn’t want to change the tone of the show, and I think I went in with an eyebrow raised, thinking, okay, well when’s it going to come out that we have to change it around? And they were great. They stuck by their pledge and let us make this different type of show. We’re so happy to have had this experience. It was just a great, great experience with Fox.
You’ve played a lot of different characters, created a lot of different characters, what feels special about Phil to you?
Well, the exciting thing about this character is that it feels—I’m used to the experience at SNL, where I was an absurd character all the time, all these over-the-top characters, and had so much fun. It was such a blast. But I don’t know that people ever really got to know who the heck I was. I was just the dude in these huge, thick mustaches every week.
I guess that’s a bad way to answer this, because I do have an enormous beard in this show. But this is a chance to play a character that’s a little closer to who I am in real life and be a real person. In a lot of ways I felt some real similarities to the character that I got to play in the movie Nebraska, and this is a combination of the SNL craziness side and the Nebraska slightly more subdued side.
What are some post-apocalyptic or dystopian movies and books that are mentioned and thrown out in the writers’ room?
Well, a ton of stuff. There are a bunch of very obvious ones that you would think of from the get-go, Omega Man, and I Am Legend, 28 Days Later, the first part, when he’s walking around the empty streets. But one of the big things to me was my fascination with the show Life After People. I loved that show. I was so fascinated by it. The parts of those movies that I just brought up that I always love are the parts where the character’s just wandering around an empty city. That is so fascinating to me and it always makes me wonder what it would be like if I was that person and what I would do. So, that was a big deal to me.
How long do you think it would take you to go insane being the last man on earth?
I think I would go insane pretty quickly. Actually, you know what, I might last a little while, because I get kind of a hyper focus going, so I think I would probably get into some weird computer game that would take my mind off stuff for a while. But inevitably that would wear off and I would go crazy pretty quickly. I’m starting from a place of near craziness anyway, so it’s debatable that I’m not already there in a land with people.
You have such great comedic timing. Is it always a natural ability that you’ve had, or have you had to try to hone it over the years? You worked at SNL, but you just have some great comedic timing.
Thank you very much. I feel like being at The Groundlings. I’m sure most of you know The Groundlings, it’s a wonderful comedy improv theater in Los Angeles, and it’s become such a family to me. And you get there and you just feel protected and safe, and you really get to get this wonderful confidence being on stage. I don’t think that I would ever have found any kind of comedy timing if I didn’t feel so safe in that environment. I would give all that credit to The Groundlings and thank you for the compliment. That’s very nice.
You’ve recently become quite active on social media. Are you looking forward to that instant fan feedback you’re going to be receiving when the show premieres?
I’ve been dragged into the social media thing, there’s really no way around it, and I do agree that it’s stupid to not try to get out there in any way that you can. I’m so proud of the show and I want people to see it. It’s not really in my nature to post stuff, what I’m doing from moment to moment, but it is important to me that people give this show a chance, because I’m so proud of it, so I’m doing whatever I can to get the word out there. And, yes, I am looking forward to it if it’s positive.
I’m the biggest MacGruber fan and quote it on a daily basis. Can you give us any updates on the sequel?
Jorma, John, and I have been so busy. John Solomon is working on the show with me. He’s writing and directing some of the episodes, so we’ve been going nuts on that. Jorma is very busy with his own stuff. But we already have about half of an outline done, maybe more than a half. And the way we outline it is so in depth that by the time we actually sit down to write it, which I believe we’re planning to do in about a month, that’s my goal is to just get right in there, I think we’ll have a script pretty quickly.
And it does feel like there are some very real possibilities of places that might let us make it, which is very exciting. Before we would bring it up, just a dream scenario of trying to find somebody who might let us make it, but it seems like it could actually happen, which is very exciting.
CATCH WILL FORTE’S NEW SERIES, THE LAST MAN ON EARTH EVERY SUNDAY ON FOX AT 9PM.
Al Mannarino is the managing editor for Pop-Break. He is also host of the News Over Brews Podcast, Loot Care Unboxed, Backstage Break, and the producer of Behind the Brews. He graduated Rowan University with a degree in Radio/TV/Film & History and is currently a Promotions Assistant for Clear Channel Media + Entertainment. When he isn’t writing he is either trying to build his own TARDIS or taking a nap. Follow him on Twitter: @almannarino