He’s lent his considerable talents as an actor, writer and voiceover artist to all sorts of ensembles including Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock, The Lego Movie, That ‘70s Show and Nebraska, but now Will Forte is on his own—literally—as the star of the Fox series The Last Man on Earth (Sundays, 10/9c, beginning this weekend).
Forte plays Phil Miller, survivor of an unspecified virus that has wiped out life on Earth—or so he thinks, having found no living souls on a cross-country RV expedition. He moves into a Tucson mansion he decorates with souvenirs like Babe Ruth’s bat and the Presidential rug from the Oval Office, and spends his days blowing up stuff and talking to inanimate objects, like Tom Hanks and Will Smith did in Castaway and I Am Legend.
In other words, he goes a little nuts, as Forte admitted he’d do too.
“My family hated the beard at first and then they were bummed when I shaved it off. My niece and nephew were terrified of me, and now they miss it. I’ve had a lot of experience shaving body parts for comedy.”
Would you want to be the last person on earth?
No way! The negatives far outweigh the positives.
What are those positives?
You could go find out all the secrets at the Pentagon, rifle through desks. That’s something that’s always fascinated me. Wish-fulfillment stuff. I think I would just go around and break things. It has been really fun to break a lot of stuff.
How long would it take before you went crazy?
I guess that depends on what kind of person you are and what your mental state was before something like this happened. [When the series begins] I hadn’t seen another person for about two and a half years and then I started going crazy. I tried to make a go of it at first and then it got to be too much.
But you do eventually run into someone else—who drives you nuts. Which is worse, that or being alone?
Being alone, for sure. Obviously, I’ve never been in this situation, but I can’t imagine the despair you would be in if you were alone and thought that there was nobody else out there, because then what does anything matter anymore, you know?
What grabbed you about the premise?
It’s such a crazy situation but it’s oddly relatable and we try to handle it in a somewhat grounded way. If you buy into the premise, then pretty much whatever happens after that is basically stuff that could actually happen.
Is it difficult to act by yourself?
It’s tough. It is a daunting, challenging situation but I think we’ve figured out ways to make it entertaining.
Have you ever spent much time alone?
Yeah. I was a big troublemaker, I would always push the limit with my mom so I would go to my room a lot.
You grew quite a beard for the role. Was it liberating not having to shave?
It was a double-edged sword. It was very liberating but it was a real pain in the ass. Every time I would eat, my mustache would get pulled in with whatever I was eating and tug on my upper lip—it got quite painful sometimes. And it absorbs everything, drips everywhere.
Pretty much exactly what we’d do in this situation.
What did your family think of the look?
They hated it at first and then they were bummed when I shaved it off. My niece and nephew were terrified of me, and now they miss it. I’ve had a lot of experience shaving body parts for comedy. For 30 Rock I would shave my chest and when that grows back it’s very itchy.
How did the show come about?
[Executive producers/directors] Chris Miller and Phil Lord gave me my first job in the MTV animated show Clone High, so I’d known them forever. They had a deal with Fox and asked if I wanted to try to write something. We got together for a couple of weekends and finally hit on this idea. It’s incredibly tricky to write but it’s also very rewarding when you figure it out. I haven’t been in a writers room since That ’70s Show in 2002, before I left for SNL. I had wonderful training from that and Third Rock from the Sun. We put a lot of time into each script. The acting alone is a full-time job plus being in there with the editing and being part of the writing process—I had no idea how much work it would be.
What are your favorite SNL memories?
There are so many. It was my life for eight years. Those Tuesday night writing sessions were so much fun. I still miss it and miss them. As the people who I did the show with leave, it’s easier to not be there, but it was very difficult the first year because I saw my old buddies doing it. I’ll always love and always miss that place.
Was Nebraska a stretch for you?
Yeah. It was terrifying because I’d never done anything like it. It was both comedic and dramatic. It was the experience of a lifetime but I had several lapses of confidence along the way. I never thought I’d get the chance to do something like that, and that was the biggest surprise. If I ever get a chance like that again I will jump at it.
What projects do you have coming up?
Moonbeam City is an animated show for Comedy Central. It’s really awesome and fun. Seven Days in Hell is an HBO movie with Andy Samberg and Michael Sheen. It’s about tennis.
Will there be a MacGruber sequel?
We’ll get a chance to do it at some point. The first one was a financial disaster but I have no regrets about that movie. We have a really fun first act. We’ve got to figure out what happens in Act 2.
What are you watching on TV?
I have not been able to watch anything, even The Bachelor, which I usually watch religiously. I’ve been working around the clock. I watch SportsCenter—I’m a big sports nut. There are a lot of shows I cannot wait to see: Fargo, Mad Men—I’m still behind on that. Breaking Bad, I was an enormous fan, I got to the end of that just before we started on this. What a show that was.
Would you be a good Bachelor?
No. I like keeping my private life to myself.
Do you have a personal and career to-do list?
No, I don’t. I’m in a very fortunate position where I’ve gotten to have a lot of dream jobs. Going into comedy, SNL was my goal and I got to do that. David Letterman was one of my heroes and I got to write on his show. Nebraska was just complete gravy. To have that experience and get to go to the Oscars with a movie that was nominated it was beyond my wildest dreams. This is just more gravy—but I love gravy.