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

"There are other actors in the show — and it’s kind of surprising how they fit into it," exec producer Chris Miller added
Will Forte in 'The Last Man on Earth'

The Last Man on Earth is getting some more company.

News that Mary Steenburgen has boarded the Fox comedy was revealed Saturday by creator and star Will Forte and executive producers and directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller at the Television Critics Association winter press tour. The announcement came mere hours after new Fox chiefs Dana Walden and Gary Newman described the comedy as a "big, bold swing," with Newman acknowledging that the show "makes us a little nervous but [also] very excited." 

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Though the trio was mum about details of her character, Steenburgen joins an expanding cast that includes 30 Rock's Kristen Schaal, Getting On's Mel Rodriguez, Mad Men's January Jones and Australian actress Cleopatra Coleman.

"There are other actors in the show — and it’s kind of surprising how they fit into it, whether by flashbacks, dreams or in the present-day," said Miller, who makes up half of the writer-producer-director team behind The Lego Movie and 22 Jump Street. "It’s not just Will going around and smashing things for thirteen episodes. TV shows are built on relationships, and it seemed kind of odd to make a show without any relationships."

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The single-camera, half-hour comedy tells the story of the sole survivor of a viral epidemic that's wiped out all of humanity — though the show never makes more than a casual mention of it. "It’s just a fascinating situation, and such a great area for comedy because I love comedy where there’s a lot of tension," Forte said from stage. "And even though this idea seems far-fetched, it very relatable because you’ve always heard, ‘What would you do if you were the last person on earth?’"

Among the difficulties of creating a show set in a deserted world is finding quiet areas to shoot. "Avoiding noise is incredibly hard," Forte said of the Chatsworth, Calif. filming location, which Lord revealed was in both a flight and train path. "To not have any cars in the shots, or in the reflections of windows, it turns out to be really difficult to shoot, too," Miller added, joking: "But all the money that we’re saving on all those extras, it’s working out well."

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The world of the show looks similar to today's Earth, with one crucial exception: there's no people. So, the team had to search for deserted locations, two of which include a rec center in disrepair and an empty, old swimming pool. Forte doesn't mind the vacant environment: "It’s basically just a dustier world — and in some ways more beautiful because there’s no pollution anymore, and you can see the stars at night."