NYCC 2021: Y The Last Man Cast Interview | Screen Rant

With the first season of comic book adaptation Y: The Last Man wrapping up in a few weeks, Screen Rant got the chance to speak to Eliza Clark (Executive Producer/Showrunner/Writer), Nina Jacobson (Executive Producer), Mari Jo Winkler-Ioffreda (Executive Producer), Ashley Romans (Agent 355), Ben Schnetzer (Yorick Brown), Olivia Thirlby (Hero Brown), Amber Tamblyn (Kimberly Campbell Cunningham), Elliot Fletcher (Sam Jordan), Juliana Canfield (Beth Deville), and Diana Bang (Dr. Allison Mann) at New York Comic Con.

The first season takes the word of the original Y: The Last Man graphic novel and makes some major changes. It keeps the original premise of an apocalyptic event that wipes out (almost) every human with a Y chromosome but adds a notable new character in Sam Jordan, a transman navigating this new, Y-chromosome-less world. The series also explores nuanced and important ideas beyond the usual dystopian future, including the concept of the female gaze, women upholding the patriarchy, and the complexity of the gender binary.

RELATED: How Y: The Last Man Used The Female Gaze To Handle Nudity & Violence

With only three episodes of the season to left, the series has started to build toward a huge season finale - and the most recent episode spoiled a major story twist from the Y: The Last Man comics! However, the show has yet to be officially confirmed for a second season, although it has been doing well with audiences and critics so far.

At NYCC 2021, Screen Rant spoke to the actors and creators of the series about the changes to the comics, the characters themselves, and what it's like to be filming a post-apocalyptic show during a time that feels almost apocalyptic itself.

(Interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)

Screen Rant: With the pandemic and everything that's been going on in the world, how do you feel it's impacted your ability to keep the show feeling essentially hopeful or optimistic and not feeding into the sort of darker kinds of thought that have been prevalent in the last year? 

Eliza Clark: I love the book, and I know the book is really funny. And one of the things that was important to me in adapting the book was that we update the conversation about gender, and it's my point of view and the point of view of the show, that it's not good that everybody with a Y chromosome dies. That that is actually horrific and sad and that the world actually does need all of us. And so the beginning of the show is pretty sad and pretty scary.

But, you know, the whole first season is about how these people are clinging to the identities they had before. I mean, Kimberly is a really great example of that, I mean she wants everybody in the world to go back to what it was before and she's closely aligned with patriarchy, and her all of her power comes from her proximity to men. But, you know, I think the show starts to get weirder and funnier and more bizarre. And there's a line in this episode where a character says, "Why are you helping me?", and another character says, "I don't know, maybe hell isn't other people". And I think that that is the spirit of the show, that there are villains here, but we're going to understand them, but we're also going to explore communities that do work, and that work together and they take care of each other.

And I was nervous about doing something that could be interpreted as essentialist, I really did not want to make a show that equated chromosomes with gender. So, central to my adaptation was trying to figure out how to make a broader point about gender diversity. And I was also really interested in exploring the ways that women uphold patriarchy and white supremacy. We in the writers' room talked a lot about that photograph from the Women's March of the three white women wearing pussy[cat] hats with a Black woman in front that says, "white women voted for Trump" like that was something that we were trying to explore with the series.

I forgot your question, but I think we wanted to make something that felt current while maintaining the sort of fun, and road trip and adventure of the sort of central characters.

Has it changed the way that you feel about creating or acting in a post-apocalyptic show, and are you actively trying to avoid creating parallels?

Nina Jacobson: Well the truth is, it affected us enormously. We were getting ready to shoot, we were just at that precipice when we got shut down for COVID. I think experiencing being in the States, and to see how people respond to a crisis, and to see how we as Americans respond and how divided how conflicted we are. The lack of trust and sense of betrayal by the government and lack of trust in systems of power. That was so striking that I don't think we would have known to incorporate that before COVID.

We never imagined that it was going to be kumbaya and everybody's just one big happy family of getting along all the time and that's not what the adaptation ever was, it was always about the way in which a crisis can both divide and unite us. But I think that the insights that we got from seeing really how we respond and how hard it is for people to actually support each other as opposed to destroying each other, was something that was very much integrated into the show as when we came back that had a big impact on all of our scripts.

Mari Jo Winkler-Ioffreda:  I would add to that, the show was never intended to be about a pandemic - it's speculative fiction, but it was hard not to see parallels right in terms of what COVID did. We were very observant of those systems and even, you know, the sort of reality of our unhealthy planet and the consequences of that, so it made us really dig a little deeper and really go deep into the failure of those systems. And it's ultimately optimistic in terms of people changing and systems changing but it got dark, in terms of just the weight of the pandemic, for sure.

Diana Bang: So they're talking about the systems at large, but for me as an actor, thinking about the day-to-day, it's sort of like living in a pandemic kind of helped me feel the things that I was reading in a deeper way. I tried to use whatever I was going through to throw it into the script. I mean it was really hard to be alone during the pandemic, away from family, away from friends and I think it reflected in performances for sure.

What is your favorite change that the show has made from the source material?

Ashley Romans: I mean one of the things that I love is an origin story that has nothing to do with my character and we're not supposed to know yet so I'm not going to say. But, yeah, you'll see later, an origin story that I love. I really love how the Culper Ring is dealt with in this show. It's less comic-book-y and more truth. This is a very real thing you have Black Ops, you have no red tape, you have government corruption, basically. And I really love how that's dealt with, and I really love how Jennifer Brown gets comes into power, which is really cool.

So for your characters, obviously you're existing in our world when this cataclysm happens. Do you think that there is another sort of pop culture post-apocalyptic character that your character envisions themself as? 

Ben Schnetzer: Oh my gosh that's such a good question. That's such an interesting question like, who does your character, want to be like, who do they see themselves as, not who are they. I remember doing a lot of watching of 28 Days Later, I love the movie, when it came out I remember seeing it in theaters, and when we first got to Toronto to shoot we had still had to quarantine. Yeah, so I was in quarantine just like watching 28 Days Later a bunch, and I kept like texting Eli [Eliza Clark] ideas, just basically like scenes from it, I love it. So, maybe delusions of grandeur of being, you know, Kelly Murphy in 28 Days Later.

Juliana Canfield: I hadn't thought about that, and I'm not an aficionado of comics so excuse me if I give you some horrible lame answer, but I think that my character, she's in her late 20s, so probably Katniss Everdeen. There's something about the situation and the huge disparity between those who have access to anything and those who don't, and this is maybe like Hunger Games. After the end there's more chaos, I think. Yeah, I think that might be someone she would identify with.

Do you have one word that you would use to describe the end of this season? 

Ashley Romans: Confrontation. Or I think a better word would be collision.

Olivia Thirlby: Can I use two? Buckle up!

Elliot Fletcher: I'm going with two, too. Find yourself.

NEXT: Why Y: The Last Man Needs To Be So Different From Its Comic Origin

New episodes of Y: The Last Man stream Mondays on FX on Hulu.



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