Did 'Last Man on Earth' Really Kill Off That Character?

Last man on earth still - H 2016
Courtesy of FOX

Last Man on Earth has frequently welcomed in new characters over its past two seasons on the air, but for the first time it’s saying goodbye to one of its regulars (warning: spoilers ahead).

Picking up shortly after the appendectomy surgery that served as the show’s midseason cliffhanger, the Fox comedy’s second episode back confirmed the death of the Phil Miller played by Boris Kodjoe. Evidently, being one of the last people left on the planet and not having a trained doctor among you can prove problematic.

According to Will Forte, the show’s creator and star, the writers actually intended to kill off Kodjoe’s character long ago. “At the end of the first season, we always thought that the second Phil was only going to be in the first episode of the second season and that was going to be it.” he tells The Hollywood Reporter. "But we loved him so much that we asked him to do more."

Although Forte is responsible for having new faces regularly pop up in the show, he feels like the introductions may have been a little rushed in the first season. “It happened so frequently that you didn’t get a chance to know the characters that well, especially Gail [Mary Steenburgen] and Erica [Cleopatra Coleman] who were coming in at the very end,” he says, adding that it’s the reason why the second season started off with two episodes that featured only Forte and Kristen Schaal’s character, Carol. “But going in, you have no idea if people are just going to be bored out of their skulls by watching one person. We just didn’t have that information, so we had to take our best guess.”

Turns out you can blame Mary Steenburgen’s acting chops for Phil 2’s death. “Mary Steenburgen is one of the greatest actresses on the planet and we had hideously underused her,” says Forte, “so we came up with this fun plan to have Gail start doing little medical procedures a bit at a time to where she’s the person with no medical experience but somehow the most medical experience so that she has to deal with [the appendicitis]. We went into this season know this was all going to happen.”

But decisions like this one don’t come easily. “Every step of the way is hard,” acknowledges Forte. “Very rarely does something just lay itself out because there are so many characters who you want to deal with. You want to service every character you have in every episode and it’s just not realistic. Some castmembers have to have a lighter show every once in a while.” And in Kodjoe's case, no more shows at all. Adds Forte of his departure: “It was very hard because he was part of the family.”