Chris Miller on The Last Man on Earth, 23 Jump Street/MIB & LEGO Sequel

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the last man on earth

From creator, writer and star Will Forte and executive producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller (the pair behind last year’s big screen hits The LEGO Movie and 22 Jump Street) comes “The Last Man on Earth,” a new post-apocalyptic series set to premiere on FOX with back-to-back episodes on Sunday, March 1st at 9:00pm ET/PT. The single-camera comedy chronicles the life and adventures of an average guy – and humanity’s last hope – who discovers what life is like when no one is telling you what you can and cannot do. ComingSoon.net got a chance to talk to Miller about the new series.

ComingSoon.net: Your kind of satire really speaks to me. Was there a point growing up that you and Phil learned what satire was and that it was something to which you really gravitated?

Chris Miller: That’s a good question. I took a class in college on satire and realized that all my favorite things growing up were satirical in nature. I realized it was my calling. There was a short while that I thought I would be a political cartoonist, and then I realized they’re pretty lame so I moved out of that business pretty quick.

CS: When you’re doing the work, do you think about satire, or is it just what’s funny?

Miller: Usually when we’re writing stuff, Phil and I are trying to make each other laugh. We have a very specific take that is both incredibly juvenile and appreciating things that are smart at the same time. It ends up working well for kids and grown-ups, but we literally never think about trying to hit some audience or some group of people. We just try to tell a story that’s engaging and make each other laugh.

CS: You happen to have picked another genre that I love, the survivors of the apocalypse. I love when the survivors go looking for supplies.

Miller: Oh yeah, that’s a great theme. We kept pitching. We had a much longer draft of the pilot about him figuring out how to syphon gas out of a car, figuring out how to operate a generator. One of the interesting things about it is he’s a guy who’s not a rugged mountain man. He’s a schlubby normal guy who doesn’t know how to do anything, so it’s about learning how to make and do things again.

CS: But he does stuff for fun too, right?

Miller: Yes, a lot of the stuff that he does in the show is entirely just for fun. He gets a flamethrower and burns a bunch of wigs in a wig store just because he can. It’s sort of one of those things where if you have no time concerns and no limitations on where you can go, what you can do, what would you do? It’s only the weird things he comes up with in his head.

CS: Will Phil Miller ever build a Mad Max car?

Miller: I don’t think he’s quite handy enough to build a Mad Max car. He’s trying to replace a door that he broke for several episodes and can’t quite figure it out.

CS: That’s a season-long arc.

Miller: Yeah, trying to rebuild a door. Actually, it is.

CS: So Phil Miller is obviously named after you guys. Are the other characters named after anyone real, like Carol?

Miller: Carol Bilbagian? Good Armenian last name. No, it’s really just a very specific thing and that’s the way that Will’s mind works. It’s very specific. He doesn’t even know where it comes from. Don’t ask him, because it’s like asking a centipede how it walks. Then it can’t walk anymore.

the last man on earth

CS: When watching Cast Away, I always sort of felt like Wilson the volleyball was a cheat, because they wouldn’t do a movie where Tom Hanks really doesn’t talk. Did you share that concern?

Miller: You know, it was a funny thing, because when re-watching “Cast Away,” while it is an ad for Federal Express and other things, it’s actually a pretty darn good movie. There’s this moment at the end of it where he comes back to civilization and he sees this massive buffet spread and he can’t handle it. It’s sort of like Jeremy Renner at the end of “Hurt Locker” when he goes to the grocery store and there’s 40,000 kinds of detergent and he’s just like, “I have to go back.” We ended up talking about that movie a lot as a touchstone and it sort of worked its way in Will’s head to being an important part. And the balls stick around for the whole show.

CS: Another genre I love are just sequels in general, and I’ve earned the nickname Franchise Fred, because I genuinely feel every movie should have sequels indefinitely forever.

Miller: That is the concept of the Jump Street franchise, is infinity, for sure.

CS: So did you approach 22 Jump Street from the perspective of “sequels are awesome” rather than conventional wisdom which is that they’re not?

Miller: Oh yeah, we generally are positive people and we don’t like mean-spirited humor much. That’s not to say we won’t do any mean-spirited humor, but we tend to shy away from that type of stuff. We knew we thought there’s a lot to say about sequels and they’re really hard to execute well, especially comedies. Luckily, Jump Street is a police procedural so it has a built-in sequelness to it already. That definitely helped. That’s why you can do 4 million Bond movies and no one’s like, “Oh, it’s the same movie.”

CS: If the Men in Black crossover actually happens, that could be the first time franchise merged since Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

Miller: I love that movie.

CS: I mean, Alien vs. Predator was sort of the same world already. Is that your way into a crossover, that it’s time for that sort of merging to come back?

Miller: Well, it’s very, very early on in this crazy fever pitch, but it’s definitely a really interesting concept that makes you think. Talking about it, developing it with Jonah and Channing and Rodney and the studio, we can’t just do the, “Hey, it’s the same thing again” schtick because we did that already.

CS: Especially because you did 20 sequels at the end of the last one.

Miller: Exactly. Those are canon, all 22 sequels. If we’re going to do something, it’s got to be different but still have that same very specific Jump Street flavor to it.

CS: One LEGO question. I love the idea that it’ll be four years later when the kid is growing up. Does that mean you have to wait four years to shoot the live action portion when Jadon Sand actually grows up?

Miller: Well, it comes out four years later. We’ll have to figure that out when we get to shooting. The live-action part, it’ll be several years before we shoot that part for sure.