- The team behind
- Beware of Agent 355
- 'The Last Man' is an average Joe
- How Y: The Last Man’s creative team has subverted familiar trans stories
- The future
- Hi, Eliza! I’m loving the series, and the changes you made to the original comic. How soon into developing the series did you think it was important for trans people to be represented, and to have that point of view of the world post-event?
- I that scene in the fifth episode where Dr. Mann says that not everyone with a Y chromosome is a man and explains why. It could have been a throwaway line to explain what happened with trans people with the event, and instead, you made one of the main characters, Sam, trans. What was the genesis of Sam?
- Did that scene with Dr. Mann come from conversations that the writers were having among themselves?
- Elliot Fletcher has said, “In this world, post-event, gender is somewhat irrelevant.” In the comic, Yorick has his gas mask on all the time, but then on the show, he has it off fairly often. And I’m watching thinking, no, put your mask back on! But then I remember they think he’s trans. So, when did you have that moment of oh, Yorick could take off his mask because people just think he’s trans?
- Yeah, you told Variety, “Yorick’s maleness is not what sets him apart in the world, it’s his Y chromosome.” Gender is diverse, and I think that this show will make people question things in a good way. I don’t think people would expect that from this sci-fi, post-apocalyptic type series, but then [executive producer] Nina Jacobson was saying how the team was excited to “blow up the binary.” So, what does blowing up the binary mean?
The team behind
Y: The Last Man is available on Hulu now but the title of the TV adaptation of the comic series may be misleading according to the show's creator.
Newsweek spoke to showrunner Eliza Clark, the 'last man' himself Ben Schnetzer and his co-star Ashley Romans about the new sci-fi drama series which sees half the world's population die in the first episode.
«I've been a fan of the comic for 10 years and I think it's a beautiful story.
There's incredible characters and the worlds are so interesting,» said Clark who was tasked with updating the story of Y: The Last Man from when it was first published in 2002 to today. «Brian K.
Vaughan and Pia Guerra who created the original, I'm a big fan of them both and they were very generous to sort of say, 'we wrote this 20 years ago, please, do your thing'.»
Many people come into Y: The Last Man thinking that every man in the world (except one) is dead but this is not the case. The creators and cast of the show want to be clear that it's actually almost every being, human and animal, with a Y chromosome who die.
«For me, the most important thing was reflecting the diversity of gender. That is the sort of reality and truth of the world we live in.
» Clark stressed that the titular Yorick (Schnetzer) is just the last human alive with a Y chromosome, and that there are actually, because chromosomes and gender are separate, plenty of trans men who survived.
«I think it just adds to the richness of the landscape and the world that we're working in. I loved the book but we're just sort of taking it into 2021.»
Yorick (Ben Schnetzer) explores an abandoned New York City after a deadly event in «Y: The Last Man» on Hulu.Rafy Winterfeld/Hulu
Schnetzer's character Yorick wakes up one morning after a catastrophic global event and finds himself, and his male pet monkey Ampersand, to be the last remaining beings with a Y chromosome.
Clarifying the landscape for Newsweek, he said: «Yorick is the last cisgender man in the world but there's a great number of men that still remain after this event takes place. And there was a great number of men who populated the cast as well alongside myself.»
One of the core cast members is Elliot Fletcher (Shameless) who plays trans man Sam Jordan. Sam is caught in a tough spot when he must constantly explain why he's one of the few men left alive.
Reflecting on what it was being one of the only cisgendered male cast members on a female led show, Schnetzer said: «As far as just the team of individuals that we were working with, it was just one of the most freakin' inspiring, creative, dedicated group of individuals I've ever worked with — irrespective of gender.»
Beware of Agent 355
Almost certain to be one of Y: The Last Man's breakout stars is Ashley Romans who plays the mysterious but unstoppable Agent 355. She's tasked with protecting Yorick, the new president's (Diane Lane's) son, and she has a lot of opposition as more people become curious about the existence of the last man on earth.
«I came to be a bad ass through really awesome stunt coordinators and stunt women and fantastic writers. A lot of people came together to make that character very bad ass, but sure I had a lot to do with it too,» Romans told Newsweek.
Ashley Romans plays the enigmatic Agent 355 in «Y: The Last Man» on Hulu.Rafy Winterfeld/FX
Not letting her get off with being so humble, showrunner Clark added, «This woman is one of the most capable human beings I've ever met in my life and besides from being an incredible, genius actor, she is a force.
«So most of the stunts that you see on screen are Ashley, you should be afraid of her, because she is a bad ass. She could take us all.»
Much , Romans' character, the show as a whole pulls no punches and depicts the dystopian world with gritty realism and harrowing repercussions. Even 'the event' which sees every person in the world with a Y chromosome die in unison doesn't shy away from the fact that husbands, brothers, grandpas and sons are all dead, leaving their surviving loved ones devastated.
Schnetzer says it was definitely considered how viewers would perceive such a dark show after a tough 18 months in the real world. «We were , this could either really pop and be a bold, fun parallel to dive into, or people are gonna be so done apocalyptic stuff. Hopefully it's the former.»
Yorick finds himself to be the last human alive with a Y chromosome, but that's the only impressive thing about him according to the actor that plays him, Ben Schnetzer.Rafy Winterfeld/FX
'The Last Man' is an average Joe
While Agent 355 is formidable and possesses a number of skills that make her so deadly, Yorick is comparatively normal. We meet Yorick as an average Joe — a pet monkey-owning struggling escapologist who's unknowingly caught in a fractured relationship. Schnetzer admits he loved the fact that he was unexceptional, rather than a hero-in-waiting.
«It was always what was more exciting for me. What happens if it's a real burden for him? If it's a real reluctance, you know, he doesn't want to be this, he didn't ask for this. There's a line, a panel in the graphic novel where Yorick says, 'with little power comes little responsibility'.
«I read the pilot and it was just awesome, and really exciting, and just a really fun, dynamic, very original character.» Schnetzer continued, «That really hooked me and then I started reading the graphic novels kind of throughout the audition process, and got hooked on the graphic novels. It's just a very fun, it's just a kind of endlessly rich and exciting world to dive into.»
U.S.-based viewers can watch the first three episodes of Y: The Last Man on Hulu now while U.K.-based viewers will have to wait until September 22 when they drop on Disney+.
Each following episode of the 10-part season will drop weekly.
Elliot Fletcher plays Sam, a trans man who survived in «Y: The Last Man» because he does not possess a Y chromosome. Rafy Winterfeld/FX
How Y: The Last Man’s creative team has subverted familiar trans stories
One of the biggest questions circling around FX’s TV adaptation of Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s Y: The Last Man was how it would update a 20-year-old story about gender for a less gender-essentialist era.
The first issue of the comic introduces a cataclysm that abruptly kills off all men and male animals on Earth, except two: New York escape artist Yorick and his Capuchin monkey Ampersand.
The story never much addresses how the event affects people outside the simplest gender binary — for instance, the comic mentions transsexuality only in passing, and in regressive, derogatory terms.
For showrunner Eliza Clark, addressing the comic’s simplistic view of gender was a major goal for the TV version. “I wanted to make it clear early and often that Yorick is not the last man on earth, and that what sets him apart is his Y chromosome, not his maleness,” she tells Polygon.
With that in mind, the series’ first season introduces other trans men, mostly minor characters Yorick meets on the road. Where Yorick has to remain masked or hidden in the comic, because the slightest glimpse of him pushes women into rage, lust, or a desire to exploit him, people on the show generally just shrug and assume he’s trans.
“I think it’s a fascinating reversal of the types of stories we usually see,” Clark says, “with Yorick being questioned about his identity in ways he never has before.”
That conscious subversion of familiar, rote media stories about trans characters shows up in other ways as well.
Y: The Last Man centers a trans character as one of its protagonists: Sam, a 20-something New York City performance artist who starts the story as the roommate and support system of Yorick’s sister Hero.
As the first season has unfolded, Sam has become one of the show’s most complicated characters, a conflicted, sensitive guy pulled between loyalty to Hero and his own survival.
Sam’s story arc this season involves a series of challenges that are frustratingly standard in LGBTQ-focused stories, identity questions, bigotry, and romantic conflict. But all these story elements break the usual mold, because his transness is never the primary issue in any of them.
Apart from a brief nod to the difficulty of getting testosterone and maintaining transition treatments in the middle of an apocalypse, Y: The Last Man largely gives Sam individualistic, personal problems to navigate, rather than positioning him as a generic representation of trans men, or assuming being trans is his entire personality, rather than a comparatively small part of the picture.
Photo: Rafy Winterfeld/FX
Where so many trans stories focus on self-discovery and the process of coming out, Sam’s storyline is much more concerned with his identity as an artist in a survival-focused world. That element of his character came collaboration between the show’s development team and actor Elliot Fletcher (Shameless and Faking It veteran), who plays Sam.
“Because Sam is not in the graphic novel, we had a lot of creative freedom to develop him,” says Fletcher. “There were a lot of conversations about Sam as an artist, and about his relationship with Hero, how they became friends, and what their dynamic really is. Those conversations are always amazing, and continue to be amazing and very collaborative.”
“He’s maybe about to figure out his voice as an artist, and then this event happens,” Clark says. “Suddenly, he’s forced to struggle just for survival, and he’s asking himself, ‘Is there art in this new world? Who am I if I’m not making art, if I’m not an artist?’ All of that is really interesting to me as a writer.”
Fletcher says he and the series’ creators particularly worked to define Sam’s performance art process, which draws him away from other artists, because he doesn’t trust them to help shape his work.
At the same time, his creative side strengthens his relationship with Hero. “I think she’s one of the only people he really feels comfortable asking for advice, because she’s very blunt, and won’t sugarcoat anything,” Fletcher says.
“She also has a different perspective than him.”
Fletcher says Sam’s sense of alienation as an artist is one of the keys to his character. “His inner monologue is just, “‘God, I’m so alone,’” Fletcher says. “He does isolate so quickly when it comes to art, but with no space for his art anymore in the world, now the isolation is unwanted.”
Photo: Rafy Winterfeld/FX
Many trans stories in film and TV focus either on coming-out stories and self-discovery, or on facing bigotry and abuse. But when Sam deals with prejudice, it isn’t because he’s trans — it’s because he’s a man.
In the mid-season run of season 1, Sam and Hero wind up in a big-box store converted into a fortress by the residents of a local women’s shelter, who eye Sam with suspicion and hostility.
In episode 6, when one of their group tries to spend time alone with Sam, the others beat her.
“He has a lot of guilt already, of ‘How do I deserve to be alive in this moment, when people I loved before the event are not?’” Fletcher says. “So it just sort of piles on, ‘I’m alive, yet my life is hurting others.’ Being in the PriceMax with all of those women, it’s just a constant reminder for him, how guilty he feels, how unwanted he is.”
“I think it’s really interesting how Sam and Yorick’s stories echo each other,” Clark says. “Being a visible man in a world that is majority women is scary, and potentially fetishizing. It could be dangerous, or it could be great! It depends on where you are and who you’re with.”
Episode 6 director Destiny Ekaragha put her own experiences into shaping Sam’s scenes in that storyline as well.
“Being with a bunch of people who hate you because of who you are — as a marginalized person, I know what that is,” she tells Polygon.
“So it was very important to put that at the forefront, that he’s a human being dealing with other human beings who are not acting with the most grace.”
“For me, it was just really important to make sure that we didn’t lose sight of his vulnerability,” she says. “As a man, he’s not wanted here. So as Hero is starting to warm up to this group of people, you want the audience to think ‘But what about Sam? He can’t stay here.’”
At the same time, Clark says, Sam’s trans identity doesn’t play into the dynamic with the group at all. She wanted to be clear that the women in the group don’t see him as different in any way from the men who traumatized and abused them.
“I didn’t want to humanize any group of people who don’t see him as a man,” she says. “I’m just not interested in those people, not interested in helping people understand where they’re coming from, because I don’t.”
Photo: Rafy Winterfeld/FX
Also mid-season, Sam and Hero have a moment where they’re lying in bed together in a temporary shelter, and they kiss passionately — but Sam pulls back, without a word, and turns away, looking forlorn and resigned.
The characters don’t discuss the incident at the time, which raises a lot of questions about what’s going through their heads.
Fletcher says that scene also has nothing to do with Sam as a trans man — the reason he pulls back is because he’s afraid he and Hero (played by Olivia Thirlby) might not want the same relationship.
“Olivia and I spent a lot of time figuring out who Sam and Hero were together,” Fletcher says. “Prior to that scene, Sam and Hero have made out several times — they’re the kinds of friends who do something for shits and giggles.
They’re both very impulsive, and before the event, just here for a good time. […] Because of the post-event world, they’re having to face feelings they were able to ignore before, when nothing meant anything.
Whereas now, anything you do has a whole butterfly effect.”
He feels Sam and Hero love each other too much to risk their relationship if it turns out they aren’t taking their desire for each other equally seriously. “It’s sort of out-of-body until that moment when he pulls away,” he says.
“He comes back in and realizes where they are, what the situation is, and that this isn’t just another one of their random makeout sessions when they’re drunk. This is a very serious moment, and it means much more than it used to.
For him, there’s a lot of weight on that kiss, and he’s not sure in that moment that she feels the same.”
Photo: Rafy Winterfeld/FX
Fletcher admits that even if these elements of the character have new flavors on Y: The Last Man, the focus on isolation and misery may be exhausting to people who are used to seeing LGBTQ characters only in terms of their pain and trauma. “Specific to this show, though, I think everyone is suffering,” he says.
“As much as I agree that the primary queer content we get is centered around suffering or discovery, or just unpleasantness — in this show, everyone is alone, everyone is fucking terrified,” he says.
“And for everyone involved, there will be moments of light. There are for Sam, definitely, in this season. I hope to continue that later on.
We do get to see more of who he is later on in the season, and I think that does bring a bit of light or happiness back to him, bringing in joy or inspiration.”
Clark similarly says that Sam’s story closely parallels what other characters on the series are experiencing. He’s in pain and he feels he’s alone, but everything he’s going through is echoed in other characters, in ways that give the first season its fundamental structure.
“I think so many people in this show are dealing with being the only one in a room,” Clark says.
“‘Am I the last of my kind? Am I the only scientist who can fix this? Am I the only member of my spy organization who’s left? Am I the only person with a Y chromosome?’ Much of Sam’s story of the first season is about being the only man in the room, and what that feels .”
New episodes of Y: The Last Man air on Mondays on FX on Hulu.
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by Christopher Rudolph 10/15/2021
When the Y: The Last Man comic series originally hit stands back in 2002, mainstream media wasn’t having nuanced, trans-inclusive conversations about gender identity. In the first issue, protagonist Yorick Brown is introduced as the only man to survive a worldwide event where a plague almost instantly kills every living mammal with a Y chromosome.
A lot has changed in the almost two decades since readers first picked up Y: The Last Man, and the long-in-development television adaptation, airing now via FX on Hulu, reflects that.
The TV version features a number of additions to the original comic, including an entire plot set in the Pentagon and a new character, Sam, a transgender man played by trans actor Elliot Fletcher (Faking It, The Fosters).
In fact, discussions around gender, chromosomes, and being trans come up repeatedly in Season 1, something that was a top priority for showrunner Eliza Clark (Extant, Animal Kingdom).
Clark spoke with Logo about updating the story of Y: The Last Man to reflect the world we live in, including trans representation, and how the show is ultimately about “escaping binaries” the world has built.
Hi, Eliza! I’m loving the series, and the changes you made to the original comic. How soon into developing the series did you think it was important for trans people to be represented, and to have that point of view of the world post-event?
Well, I would say that it was central to my pitch to be hired for the adaptation. I’ve also loved the book for 10 years, and I have always wanted it to be a TV show.
But, at the same time, when I heard that it was available, I had the question of how would you do this now in this world? Because I think I wouldn’t want to make anything that equated chromosomes to destiny. I don’t want to make anything that has an essentialist view of gender.
But I also felt one of the things I d best about the book is that it’s really about how human beings desire to put labels on things and to put things into binaries, and examining all the ways in which oppressive systems inform our identities. So, I feel it’s logical in the world of Y: The Last Man to also break down gender binaries and that kind of thinking.
Because ultimately the truth is… and the science supports it, too, is the world is so much more interesting and varied. And chromosomes aren’t people’s gender. Getting to play in a landscape that really examines the sort of broad spectrum of humanity is way more interesting to me.
I that scene in the fifth episode where Dr. Mann says that not everyone with a Y chromosome is a man and explains why. It could have been a throwaway line to explain what happened with trans people with the event, and instead, you made one of the main characters, Sam, trans. What was the genesis of Sam?
Sam was one of the first characters that I felt was necessary [to add] to the adaptation. He is a really interesting character for lots of reasons, beyond the fact that he’s a visible man in this world and that is uncomfortable or sometimes dangerous.
Just the same way it is with Yorick, he also is an artist in a world where he’s wondering if art exists anymore. And his trajectory is very exciting to me. But the scene you’re talking about in Episode 5 is maybe my favorite scene in the first season, in part because I think it’s so important.
It’s an opportunity, having a scientist who can actually speak to the science of sex and gender and chromosomes. And basically what she’s saying is, “Don’t take a myopic kind of small view of what we’re trying to do here. This is way bigger than the idea of bringing back cisgender men.
” It is tragic that everyone with a Y chromosome dies and it’s not… [comic creators] Brian K. Vaughn and Pia Guerra, they weren’t interested in making a show that was about , “Men are from Mars and women are from Venus.” And I’m certainly not interested in that.
The people in this world and in this show are hopefully really well-drawn, three-dimensional characters who have so much more to who they are than their gender.
Did that scene with Dr. Mann come from conversations that the writers were having among themselves?
We had a lot of experts come and talk to us at the beginning of the year about lots of different things, including escape artistry [laughs].
We met with GLAAD, and we had this really amazing conversation where Nick Adams from GLAAD gave us a kind of primer on all of that really exciting, interesting stuff that’s in that monologue. So, the seed of it was from this conversation we had with him that we found so fascinating and exciting.
But I will say that every single person in the writers’ room from the very beginning was about bringing the story that we all loved into the world we’re living in now, and wanting to recognize the diversity of gender.
Elliot Fletcher has said, “In this world, post-event, gender is somewhat irrelevant.” In the comic, Yorick has his gas mask on all the time, but then on the show, he has it off fairly often. And I’m watching thinking, no, put your mask back on! But then I remember they think he’s trans. So, when did you have that moment of oh, Yorick could take off his mask because people just think he’s trans?
Well, we thought it was really interesting for both Sam and Yorick, and for the other transmasculine people or men in this world. So, both Sam and Yorick are wearing a mask at the very beginning of the season.
And then, depending on where you are and who you’re with, your gender is either incredibly important or not at all.
So, the book is all about the worlds that you travel in and the different kinds of communities that form and the rules they have, is completely dependent on where you are or sort of whether or not Yorick has to wear the mask. Or whether or not Sam has to hide.
Yeah, you told Variety, “Yorick’s maleness is not what sets him apart in the world, it’s his Y chromosome.” Gender is diverse, and I think that this show will make people question things in a good way. I don’t think people would expect that from this sci-fi, post-apocalyptic type series, but then [executive producer] Nina Jacobson was saying how the team was excited to “blow up the binary.” So, what does blowing up the binary mean?
Okay, so for example, when we made the main title sequence I interviewed a bunch of different places that make these main titles. And one of the things I said was I think the show is about escaping the binary, and that’s sort of the idea behind our main title sequence.
It’s interesting because people have this idea of gender that really is scientifically inaccurate and just so narrow. The show, in general, is about escaping binaries. I’ve talked about this a little bit, but for me, the whole first season and the show generally is about identity.
It’s about who we were before and who we can become, and asking questions about, what does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be a woman? What does it mean to be a person? And also asking questions about the systems that conspire to inform identity in ways we don’t even know about.
So, capitalism and white supremacy and patriarchy and cis-heteronormativity and all of that, all of those systems, are the air that we breathe. We don’t even realize the ways they’ve been ingrained in us. And white women uphold white supremacy. It’s not as easy as oh, the world no longer has cisgender men and everything is perfect, because I think the truth is there are lots of ways in which we have been socialized and taught about ourselves that we probably should be freed from. So much of the first season is about watching these characters, and some of them cling to the things they know. If you’ve seen it, Amber Tamblyn’s character, Kimberly, is obsessed with a binary idea. She talks about bringing men back, even though there are plenty of men in this world. Her entire life is tied to patriarchy. And that’s where her power comes from: her proximity to men. She is desperate to bring it back. But there are other characters who are discovering the things that they thought were them, but really weren’t and are letting go of the trappings of their old life and becoming something different. So escaping the binary is about gender, but it’s about everything. It’s about the ways that human beings are labelers and meaning-makers. We to categorize, and sometimes we do that to the detriment of our happiness.
Y: The Last Man Season 1 is streaming now on Hulu, with new episodes airing on Mondays.