7:00pm PT by Paige Phelan
'Last Man on Earth': Mel Rodriguez on New Phil "Stress" and Season 2
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the April 26 episode of The Last Man on Earth, "The Tandyman Can."]
Tucson, we have a (new) Phil Miller problem.
After roaring heroically onto the scene in last week’s episode of the breakout Fox comedy, the handsome new Phil Miller (Boris Kodjoe) continued his streak of occasionally shirtless perfection this week — fixing up appliances, building things and even rigging up a hot shower, much to the satisfaction of the show’s female characters, especially Carol (Kristen Schaal).
Less satisfied with the most recent addition to the “Alive in Tucson” gang? The group’s other two men,
Phil Miller Tandy (Will Forte) and Todd (Mel Rodriguez). While the resentment is pretty much par for the course for Phil/Tandy, it’s a 180-degree turn of events for Rodriguez’s normally happy Todd. Fueled by jealousy and doubt, he ended his suddenly rocky relationship with Melissa (January Jones).
“We’re starting to see possibly a chink in his good-guy armor,” says Rodriguez. “Everything was cool when it was me and Phil and the girls, but then this dude shows up. It’s going to add some stress, and Todd [doesn’t] handle stress well.”
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Rodriguez, who has been making the comedy rounds with parts on Getting On, Better Call Saul and the now-canceled Fox show Enlisted, about what’s next for Todd.
You’ve been all over TV comedies these days. What about Last Man on Earth sets it apart from the rest? What makes it unique?
Last Man is different from anything I’ve ever seen or done. Mainly, we are encased within this bubble. On some other shows, we all create [a bubble], but on this show we’re really forced to, in some capacity, only have one another and be forced to coexist. You will always have that one person who would rather not be there or have other people not be there. In a day-to-day way, usually when we go on set, there’s not a ton of people there besides the crew. Sometimes it will be all this crew and just me and Will or me and January. I remember being on the soundstage and it just being really quiet. You really feel like this little thing in this vast world.
Much has been made about the twists in this show; your arrival was one of the earliest. How far in advance do you know what’s going to happen? Did they tell you upfront, or do you just learn as you go along?
I did get some hints [early on] because Will and I are friends, so when we talked about doing it, he [told me] this will be the path of your character, and this is what will be going on. But I didn’t know Boris was coming, and I didn’t know Mary [Steenburgen] and Cleopatra [Coleman] were coming. We get these few scripts, and things will literally change on the day, too. We’re on set with some of the greatest comedic writers in the world — all SNL dudes — and they are just so quick. It never feels stagnant.
After a rough patch last week, Todd let his jealousy overcome him and broke up with Melissa. Is this perhaps some shade of what he was like before the virus hit?
Coming in, we didn’t talk about [the virus] too much, I did think for myself: "We all had two years to ourselves post-virus. What happened?" We’ve all been through the spectrum in some way, and we’ve really gotten to see Phil’s spectrum. Todd probably had his own meltdown where he was, like, putting out cigarette butts on chicken thighs and leaving dirty plates, and then decided one day, "I’m going to pull it together here and start tucking in my damn shirt." But anybody on this show is capable of anything.
Are they capable of being killers? We saw Todd and Phil/Tandy voice their desire to kill new Phil at the end of the episode.
I don’t know if we’d go that far. Maybe, if you can kill someone in a funny way. I don’t think killing is [particularly] funny, so probably not.
Now that Todd and Phil/Tandy are united by a common enemy, how will we see the relationship change between them?
We [do] have this enemy in common, and Tandy is obviously very threatened by him as well. He was just about to score the world and was so close, and he had it all ripped away so quickly. It’s a lot like Survivor, in which people create these alliances. This definitely might lead to Phil — or Tandy, now, — and Todd having some new conversations and hanging out because [before] Todd was really disappointed in Tandy — I can’t say that name without laughing because it’s just so stupid. I love it so much.
Fox announced a few weeks back that the show would be coming back for a second season — a much more pleasant turn of events than last year at this time [when Rodriguez’s show Enlisted was not renewed]. What was your reaction to the news?
The first reaction is just like, "[This is] amazing, and we get to do more of these [episodes] with these people!" We’re constantly laughing so hard. January and I are always cracking up and getting Mary to crack up. Mary will actually get us to crack up a lot. Then there was, "Oh great, we get to maybe cover some of this stuff that people were questioning and you hear a lot of stuff on Twitter about." We’ll have more time to explore things. You can only do so much in 13 episodes, so we’ll have a bunch more to do and say.
Switching gears, you are also on Getting On, which HBO announced was returning for a third and final season. Is there anything you can tease about the final run? How much do you know about how it will it end?
I know nothing. [Showrunners Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer] get together, and they just hide out. We get all six episodes at once, and then we read them straight through on the first day; it’s almost like you’re doing a three-hour thing. I’m hoping it won’t be our final season. The girls on that are just so wonderful; I feel like it should have some more seasons to explore. I hope we get a chance, but we’ll see.
Will Todd and Tandy follow through on their promise? Does the name Tandy also make you laugh? Sound off in the comments below.
The Last Man on Earth airs Sundays at 9:30 p.m. on Fox.