Editor’s note: The Fourth Wall is a recurring feature that is a platform for creators, actors, and industry insiders to bring the readers behind the scenes of the production process. In our latest installment, we removed the curtain on the writers’ room for the third season of Fox’s Last Man on Earth.
This part of the walkthrough looks at episode sixteen from Last Man on Earth’s third season. Previous installments of this walkthrough can be found here.
Last Man on Earth Season 3 Episode 16 – “The Big Day”
“Tandy and Gail face off in a major disagreement, on which the whole group must weigh in, and Carol is forced to choose a side. Meanwhile, Melissa, Todd and Erica each have major milestone moments.”
Written by Erica Rivinoja; Directed by Nisha Ganatra
DEN OF GEEK: Jasper is finally talking! Did this feel like something that had to happen before the season ended? Clearly his time with Melissa last episode made an impact on him.
ANDY BOBROW: I think there was a while where we thought we could keep him silent forever. When Will first started pitching the character in the room, it was all about just having this kid stare at Tandy while Tandy tries to get him to say “Thank you” and “You’re welcome.”
One thing that changed Will’s mind was when we cast Keith Williams and he started hanging out on set with Will. He just saw how natural and good Keith is. So that made it easy. And the other thing that made it easy was when we decided to do the time jump. Because none of us really wanted to do the story where he starts talking. That kind of moment, like where he says his first words, is the kind of thing that made us cringe. Okay, I’ll confess, I kind of wanted to do that moment. I even wrote the soliloquy. It was part of Keith’s audition. But it was cheesy and deep down I knew it.
It’s really nice to see Melissa “come back to life” and getting digs in at Tandy again. Were you anxious to get her back to 100 percent and working with the group like before?
ANDY BOBROW: Yes definitely. On one hand, I really like that we played her mental health thing relatively real, and we let it play out at a natural pace. On the other hand, it took her out of the lineup in terms of comedy. It’s good to have her back.
Talk a little on the planning of this wedding story. The episode even feels like it’s trying to keep viewers in the dark for a second regarding what this “Big Day” is concerning.
ANDY BOBROW: Well first, we decided to do this time jump, which wasn’t in the cards when the season started. Or, it probably was, but as one of many options. So once we settled on jumping ahead, the question was, what’s the coolest way to reveal it? Our first thought was Carol is cutting Tandy’s hair, which is WAY longer, and we see the hair falling onto newspapers with headlines like “Gail, Erica, Do Nasty” and “Tarry Stools Subsiding.” Anyway, we knew Jasper’s surprise would be he’s talking, and Melissa’s would be she’s healed. We toyed with other ideas for the rest. I can’t remember a lot of them.
One of the ideas was Todd had converted to Islam. We also talked about mentioning some new character who came and went in the intervening six months. Like there would be a tombstone with Steve Buscemi’s passport on it, and the name “Carl.” And we had Tandy going on and on about how Carl’s death was not his fault, but you’d see a cannon in the lobby and the wall would be splattered with blood. But the wedding felt like a real nice way to play a trick on the audience and also give Tandy a platform for getting us up to speed.
By the way, wonderful reincorporation of “She Drives Me Crazy” from all the way back. What a nice way to turn it back into this anthem of love for the two of them.
ANDY BOBROW: Thanks. I think Mel’s soulful version of that song redeems the original.
It’s nice to see Gail taking some ownership of Carol’s birth, and even getting redemption of sorts over the whole Phil 2 death at the same time.
ANDY BOBROW: Definitely. At different times, we talked about maybe having Gail quit doctoring for good. There’s no logical reason why she is designated the doctor. In the next episode, she points that out. That’s not too big of a spoiler.
That baby-in-jello set piece is really horrifically hilarious. Did you play around with the execution of that before filming to see how it’d go, or did you want the experience to be somewhat spontaneous?
ANDY BOBROW: Oh man. Our line producer, Steve Burgess, formerly worked on The Office. When he saw that in the script, he was like, “I know how to do this, we put lots of stuff in jello at my last job.” But our prop guy, Greg Finnin, brushed Steve aside and would have none of it. His professional pride was on the line. His first thought was to use ballistic gel, that stuff they shoot bullets into. But he researched it and that stuff is actually too stiff to get your hands into. The solution was regular gelatin, but at a much higher concentration than normal. The bummer for Will was that the gelatin had to be really cold. I think there were three jellobabies ready to go, but we only needed one.
That end beat with Erica is exciting stuff and probably long overdue for a lot of viewers. Were you eager to have finally spent enough time in the story to get to this pregnancy happening?
ANDY BOBROW: Yasssssssssssss. I mean, the way time moves in our show, it’s real slow. Most episodes take place over 2 or 3 days, and most start right where the previous episode left off. So we could really draw out these pregnancies for 100 episodes. But the viewers would rebel. We had to pull the ripcord and get these babies to term.
Did you know that this pregnancy is what you’d be framing the season finale around, or did it just feel like it made sense as you made it further through the year?
ANDY BOBROW: It was one of a few options we discussed at the beginning of the year. We weren’t dead set on it. But as the season played out, it just bubbled up. I think a big factor was that it was time for them to start showing. And all of us were really nervous about doing a show with pregnant women in it. I think when you see a pregnant woman on screen, the story has to be about that, and we honestly didn’t think we were up to the task. There are familiar comedy concepts – the food cravings, morning sickness, moodiness, nesting – but all of them feel very well-trodden. I mean, I’m sure there is a show that can do a fresh original take on the issues around pregnancy, but we all felt like we wouldn’t do it justice. Even the thought of doing a birth episode, which we’re obviously doing next, was a challenge, because we’ve all seen a lot of birth episodes. But, as you’ll see, we put our stamp on it.