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, 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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.