The following interviews were conducted at New York Comic Con with the cast of FX on Hulu’s Y: The Last Man…
While Y: The Last Man hurdles toward what may very well be its final episode, only earlier this month at New York Comic Con did Flickering Myth have the opportunity to speak with the show’s cast — a cast whose shared connection will surely outlive the show.
Depending on who you ask, they might give you a different answer on whether 2021 was the right time for Brian K. Vaughn’s beloved graphic novel — in which every person with a Y-chromosome (except for one) drops dead — to hit the small screen. Inadvertently, the source material became fiercely more topical as our own world got to experience something of the “apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic” ilk, but whether its newfound relevance helped the show or hurt it is up for debate.
The fact remains that Hollywood’s plans to adapt Y: The Last Man existed long before Covid happened. Since the mid-2010s, FX had been developing the show through a series of production delays, retoolings, casting changes, creative differences, and even a failed pilot in 2018.
At New York Comic Con, executive producer Nina Jacobsen described the process of going back to the drawing board after realizing that the initial pilot “wasn’t becoming the show we hoped it could be” and bringing on current showrunner Eliza Clarke and a largely new cast.
“We had the unusual position of being able to say, especially after the pandemic hit, ‘If you’ve been with the show and you don’t want to be with the show, you can leave. You don’t have to stay with it because you signed up in 2018.’” Jacobsen continued, “And so we only had people we really wanted to stay, staying, and then we were able to recast … [bringing] on cast who were all super committed to being there and really excited to be there.”
It just so happened that the Y: The Last Man adaptation we would eventually come to see was about a month out from production when the world shut down.
One of the new cast additions was Ben Schnetzer, the titular “Last Man” (aka Yorick), whose personal excitement for the role was building when he got the dreaded Covid call.
“We got these jobs. We had flights booked,” recalled Schnetzer. “I remember the first call we got, where they’re like, ‘We’re gonna delay it for two weeks.’ And then, cut to seven months later.”
Actress Juliana Canfield, who plays Yorick’s girlfriend Beth, had worries about if she would ever return to a set at all. On the looming threat of Covid in those early days, she shared, ”I was sort of like, ‘I don’t know when we’re ever gonna get to make this show or if I’m ever gonna get to be on set again in my whole life. Like, is this whole part of my life just over?’ And luckily it wasn’t.”
In the midst of a pandemic, the cast and crew, of course, did eventually return to a thoroughly locked down Toronto to begin filming. Despite having to make some concessions, including limiting the number of background actors per scene, wearing a mask on set all day, and keeping shoot days to a fairly concise 10 hours, production of the show was in full swing. And with the cast and crew stuck in Toronto, strong bonds began to form on set.
Jacobsen recalls, “I do think that the pandemic created an incredibly close camaraderie … It really brought people together as a close family and allowed their characters to really thrive…”
As Agent 355 actress Ashley Romans recounted, Clark brought her stage background to the show to build a sense of community, treating the cast more like a “theatre troupe” than a traditional TV ensemble.
She shared, “… We really had each other to lean on because the city was closed and because we couldn’t come and go. We all experienced quarantine together. This is that trauma bonding that happens and these people are like my family now.”
Each interview with members of the cast, who were split apart in groups of two, seemed to reaffirm the previous one’s sentiments. Hero actress Olivia Thirlby claimed her experience of working on the show was “wonderful” and one of the most “collaborative” sets of her professional career.
She shared, “I don’t think I’ve ever been so respected as an actor to go to my showrunner or my director and bring them my ideas or my questions or my hesitations and be met so fully in that process.”
Schnetzer thinks that even without a pandemic forcing the cast and crew into a bubble, they still would have emerged from the show as an “extraordinarily close cast,” but admits the show’s unique limitations made it a particularly remarkable experience.
“But shooting under these circumstances, I’ve never had a more familial experience with a team,” he said. “It’s been kind of like the most rewarding experience of working on something that I’ve had.”
When Flickering Myth asked about how Clark manages such a burgeoning, expansive cast of characters, she joked, “I make them fight to the death.” In earnest, however, she continued, “Every single one of these actors is like the most incredible person I’ve ever worked with, and they could each carry their own show.”
Despite FX’s abrupt cancellation of the show last week, Y: The Last Man’s journey isn’t over just yet. The network’s decision was based on challenges from Covid-19 filming restrictions and actor contracts rather than small viewership, so Clark and company are currently shopping the show around to other outlets. Regardless, as the future of Y: The Last Man hangs in the balance, the mutual admiration between the cast would make it difficult to imagine a scenario where they would be anything less than teeming for the chance to tell more story.
Based on DC Comics’ acclaimed series by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra, Y: The Last Man traverses a post-apocalyptic world in which a cataclysmic event decimates every mammal with a Y chromosome but for one cisgender man and his pet monkey. The series follows the survivors in this new world as they struggle with their efforts to restore what was lost and the opportunity to build something better.
Y: The Last Man stars Ben Schnetzer as Yorick, Ashley Romans as Agent 355, Diana Bang as Dr. Allison Mann, Olivia Thirlby as Yorick’s sister Hero, and Diane Lane as Yorick’s mother, Congresswoman Jennifer Brown.