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 ten from Last Man on Earth’s third season. You can find previous installments here.
The Last Man on Earth Season 3 Episode 10 – “Got Milk?”
“The first moments of the deadly virus outbreak are revealed through a special lens.”
Written by Maxwell R. Kessler; Directed by John Solomon
DEN OF GEEK: So this episode certainly continues your tradition of coming back from a break in a crazy, different sort of way. It makes sense to get some distance after the big moment you go out on in episode nine with Gail, but was this flashback idea always the plan? Was anything else, like a Lewis backstory episode considered?
ANDY BOBROW, Executive Producer: We really had not planned on doing a standalone guest-star episode this year. In fact, the next episode up, episode 311, was intended to be our mid-season premiere. We shot it (and it’s a great one, you’ll see) and we had it slotted for the mid-season premiere up until pretty recently. It was late November when we learned that Kristen was actually interested, but the whole thing kept threatening to fall through over money or scheduling. By the time we had a signed deal with Kristen, it was Christmas and we were already shooting 315.
When we decided to pursue Kristen, the plan was to use her to end the season somehow, so we scheduled her to shoot the final production week of the season. And then as we were getting closer to a deal, like late early December, we decided if we really get this actress, we should give her a whole episode and air it first, like we did with Jason last year. It was very freeing when we decided to just rip ourselves off and do the standalone trick again. Now, I guess you could say the solo-surprise-guest-mid-season-premiere is our thing. I’m happy to do one next year if we get the chance.
Where did this idea of this whole Pamela Brenton character come about and how much of her was coming from Kristen?
MAXWELL KESSLER, Writer: It was more of a writer’s room thing, I think. We developed this idea of a rich, out of touch lady having to deal with the reality of the apocalypse—someone who’s always had the ability for others to solve her problems for her suddenly unable to even spend her money. The idea provided joke after joke, so that’s how we knew there was something there.
Will then pitched it to Wiig, and they came up with a bunch of great stuff that further solidified the character. So you know, team effort (Go Team!)
ANDY BOBROW: Kristen and Will were talking and texting a lot, and she would just pitch stuff she wanted to do, like she wanted to sing and dance in some capacity. Will came in one day and said “Kristen wants to sing, and I was thinking what if she’s singing a syrupy love song to her husband at some charity thing.” We never ended up doing the particular song thing, but it led us to that charity event, which really set the tone for Pamela.
She has a very Tandy sense of humor, which I can only assume means they’re going to meet and hit it off super well.
MAXWELL KESSLER: Well, you know what they say about assumptions: when you make them, God does to you what God does to people who masturbate. (Just saying, be careful. It’s a dangerous world out there.)
You guys have done a really good job at holding off on flashbacks or revealing too much about the virus. Why finally give in here and show the genesis of it all?
ANDY BOBROW: You and I have done all these “behind-the-scenes” interviews and I’ve always said we don’t want to do flashbacks because other shows own flashbacks, we don’t want to be like other shows, and yet here we are breaking that rule. I’m gonna come clean now and say we’re not that principled. We didn’t want to do flashbacks until we came up with a cool one and threw our flashback rule out the window.
MAXWELL KESSLER: Truth is I just think we were waiting to find a way to do it that didn’t feel like someone told us we had to—or that seemed like we ran out of ideas. From the opening shot, our long-time viewers are seeing a part of Last Man mythology that is wholly separate from everything they’ve seen before, but it is totally informed by—and informing—the world and characters they love and know so well. It’s exciting for the fans. I wish I could watch it with them.
There’s some great reverse engineering that goes on here with the drone in fact being Pamela’s. It’s also a useful way of pinpointing in the timeline exactly when Pamela sets out into the world.
MAXWELL KESSLER: Our timeline is perfect, and our show mythology has no flaws. No need to look it up. You can trust me on that.
ANDY BOBROW: Dirty secret here, which you guessed correctly. When we shot the drone stuff, we had no answer in mind as to who was flying that drone. We just knew that whenever we revealed the person flying the drone, it would seem smart. So it’s like we laid a little Easter egg without knowing what it meant, just knowing that it would mean something cool when we got around to explaining it. The footage of Gail here was something that we actually shot last year during that episode and never used. So we were able to repurpose that drone POV footage from episode 216. The shot of the gang holding up signs, we didn’t shoot a drone POV angle of them last year, so we had to re-shoot it for this episode, and I’m sure you can find plenty of continuity problems if you look.
Introducing the idea of people being in bunkers through all of this certainly opens up the possibility of more people entering this show over time. It paints this world to be a lot bigger than it seemed to be.
MAXWELL KESSLER: We also discussed airships, but Marvel currently has copyright on that from that giant stupid thing from the first Avengers movie. Remember? It was like a giant aircraft carrier held in the air by giant fans? So lame. Plus it’s like—What, are we gonna do that lame thing that they did in The Avengers? No way. So we stuck with bunkers.
ANDY BOBROW: We may have uncorked something here that we want to re-cork. We’re always aware that if the world gets too many more characters in it, we risk losing the sense of loneliness that works so well for us. So far, we’re being cautious about unleashing the hordes.
You guys blow the opportunity, but it would have been pretty cool if Kristen Wiig suddenly entered the group with a talking dog. Think of the audience you’d be opening up to.
MAXWELL KESSLER: The Humane Society has very particular rules about talking dogs. Ultimately, it wasn’t worth bribing them.
You guys must have got that Betsy DeVos joke in at the very last minute, huh?
ANDY BOBROW: We shot it in early February, and it was while she was being confirmed, so we were thinking we might have to change the name if her confirmation fell through. It’s funny, at some point last year, we started realizing that our timeline starts in about 2019, and that we could start pinning our timeline to actual events in the real world. Back when Donald Trump’s campaign seemed like such a long-shot, when no one assumed he would win, we joked that if he really wins, we could say he’s the one who started the virus. We haven’t gone that far officially, but we reserve the right.