'Last Man on Earth' Creators on Appealing to Moms and 'Hipster Friends'

Will Forte, Chris Miller and Phil Lord explain why their one-man Fox comedy will appeal to a mass audience.
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From left: Phil Lord, Will Forte and Chris Miller at the premiere of 'The Last Man on Earth'

The Last Man on Earth is not your average network comedy.

Among the reasons Fox's forthcoming comedy stands out is that it's a one-man show — or at least it begins as such. Will Forte stars as Phil Miller, presumably the only person left alive after a mysterious virus wipes out the rest of humanity. When he fails to find other survivors, his only prospect for friendship is a volleyball he's named Gary.

Watch more Watch Will Forte Talk to God in 'The Last Man on Earth'

"We initially thought that it would be more of a cable show, but then Fox came in and was very behind the idea," says Forte, who also writes and executive produces the series with the duo behind The Lego Movie and the Jump Street franchise, Phil Lord and Chris Miller.

When Lord and Miller approached the Saturday Night Live veteran about collaborating on a series, they had recently inked a three-year deal with 20th Century Fox Television to develop their own projects as well as others'. "I don’t even care if you’re in it," Lord remembers telling Forte, his friend of nearly two decades. "I just want to put your voice on television."

After only three days, Forte had a treatment for the entire season. A week later, it sold as part of a multinetwork bidding war. In that process, Forte had become so attached to the principle character that he decided to star, as well.

Read more 'Last Man on Earth': Will Forte Casts Mary Steenburgen, Talks Challenges

Forte acknowledges that he was initially skeptical of how the quirky single-camera comedy would fare on broadcast — not only with viewers, but also with the executives calling the shots. "I thought that they were going to say they were into it and then make us change all this stuff so that it's more network-friendly," he says.

But as the series readies for its March 1 launch, one fueled by critical buzz, the creators insist Last Man is more or less the same show it would have been had it landed on cable with the exception a few F-bombs. "I like swearing, so it was a little tough at first to think that I couldn’t swear at all," says Forte. "Every once in a while, there's a [scene] where you think, 'Oh, the cable version of this would have been different.' "

Still, Forte suggests the benefits of being on network television — namely, the opportunity to attract a larger audience — outweigh the language restrictions. And his partners, Lord and Miller, contend that the series will have mass appeal because it centers on a question with which everyone can relate: What do you do when you’re all alone?

"That's something that anyone can imagine," says Miller, noting that the show's themes become more universal as the season progresses. Adds Lord: "I knew it was something that our hipster friends would like, but when I showed it to my mom and she loved it, I thought, 'mission accomplished.' "

Meet Phil's other "friends" in this sneak peek at Sunday's special hourlong premiere.

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