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NYCC ’21: The Y: THE LAST MAN Cast Recounts Its Pandemic Filming


If one word could describe the feeling coming off talking with the cast and producers of Hulu’s Y: The Last Man, it would be community. Over and over again, the actors talked about how close they felt to their fellow cast members, to the crew and the showrunners.

Y: The Last Man poster on display at NYCC

Y: The Last Man, based on the hit Vertigo comic by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra, was filmed under unusual circumstances. The post-apocalyptic show was set to start filming in April of 2020, but was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Ben Schnetzer, who plays Yorick Brown, the Y of Y: The Last Man, put it this way: “I remember the first call. They’re going to delay it for two weeks. Cut to seven months later.” Juliana Canfield, who plays Beth Deville on Y: The Last Man, added “We were supposed to start on April 13, 2020, but then we didn’t know if we’d get to make the show at all. All of us were just so happy to be working and be on set after all this time sitting and wondering if we ever would.”

Y: The Last Man's Juliana Canfield and Ben Schnetzer
Y: The Last Man’s Juliana Canfield and Ben Schnetzer

Once on set, due to quarantine and travel restrictions, cast and crew couldn’t leave Toronto without facing a lengthy quarantine before returning to work. Nina Jacobson, an Executive Producer on the show, explained, “We were trapped in Toronto for the entirety of the shoot. If you left, you had to quarantine.” Ashley Romans, who plays fan favorite Agent 355, had this to say about being stuck in Toronto: “I didn’t feel constricted by the city of Toronto, but did feel constricted about the border being closed. It felt claustrophobic.” But, Nina Jacobson added, it had benefits, “The pandemic created an incredibly close camaraderie.”

This camaraderie reverberated throughout the production. Olivia Thirlby, who plays Hero Brown, credited it to being a show headed by women, “I don’t think I ever worked on something that is so collaborative. I don’t think I’ve ever been so respected by a showrunner or a director. I think that’s because it’s a show run by women.” Her costar, Amber Tamblyn (Kimberly Campbell Cunningham) agrees, saying about showrunner Eliza “Eli” Clark, “She’s the greatest showrunner ever.” But her praise didn’t even there. Amber said of her fellow Y: castmates, “Every single one of these actors is the greatest I’ve worked with and could carry their own show.”

Y: The Last Man Showrunner Eliza Clark and Amber Tamblyn
Y: The Last Man Showrunner Eliza Clark and actor Amber Tamblyn

Juliana Canfield was worried about disappointing longtime fans of the comic, saying “Going into a property with such a dedicated fan base, I was worried. But I’ve seen such a thumb’s up from the fans.” She’s never read the source material before, and plans not to until after the show is finished. She elaborated, “I never read the comics before I got the part. I went into the audition very context free. I’m just going to stick the scripts and when we’re finished, then I’ll go and read them as a fan out of pure interest.”

Showrunner Eli Clark, on the other hand, has definitely read the comic. She went so far as to say “It’s my favorite comic book.” But even with it being her favorite comic, she felt the 20 year old source material needed an update for today’s audience, adding, “I think the conversation about gender diversity is different in 2021. Just because half the population dies doesn’t mean that the patriarchy or white supremacy dies. The show feels gendered but it also tears away what gender means. It’s central to the adaptation. The daughters of the Amazon are hunting trans men. I don’t want to humanize [the Amazons’] point of view. Sam’s story is about being a man there, and about the ways that women have been harmed by men that he recognizes. With Roxanne, I wanted to give you a new Amazon.” Present day politics also affected the writing of the show. Eli said, “I was thinking about the conspiratorial mindset of America right now.” She’s happy that fans of the comic don’t know every twist and turn the show will take. “I love that people think they know where it’s going and they don’t,” she commented. Y: The Last Man co-creator Brian K. Vaughn praised the changes during his own NYCC panel, saying “It’s a creator’s nightmare to have a show that is way better than the comic.”

How did Eli Clark keep everyone so upbeat during production on a post-apocalyptic show filming during a pandemic? Ashley Romans explained, “Watch the show and the stakes are high. It’s post-apocalyptic. The apocalypse, we all lived through it. What really fed what happened on screen is Eliza created a really intense community. It felt like a theater troupe. We experienced quarantine together. We all have four choreographed dances that we all learned.”

The cast of Y: The Last Man having fun backstage at NYCC
The cast of Y: The Last Man having fun backstage at NYCC

Throughout my interview with the cast and producers of Y: The Last Man, the sense of community and mutual admiration between them all reverberated not just in their words but also in the way they looked at each other while answering questions. It was evident that there was a lot of mutual caring and respect shared amongst the group. It has definitely benefited the show, as each episode gets rave reviews after they drop. From talking to the folks involved in the show at NYCC ’21, they are definitely excited, as am I, for what’s to comes in season 2.

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