Kristen Schaal on Being ‘the Last Lady on Earth,’ Having Fake Sex With Will Forte, and Avoiding Playing the Nosy Neighbor

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Kristen Schaal. Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

What you would you do if you were the last woman on Earth? Would you end it all, for fear of being alone for eternity? Would you search desperately for any sort of human contact? And if you found that man, would you break into a craft store and plan the perfect wedding? In The Last Man on Earth, Kristen Schaal plays Carol, who, as it turns out, may not be the last woman on Earth. But before the third episode's big reveal, she had the last man on Earth, Phil (Will Forte), say "I do" so that they can get down to business: procreation, duh. We wanted to know what it might be like to have that amount of responsibility for humanity, so we called up Kristen Schaal, who explained exactly what she would do if she ended up alone on Earth, what it was like to make out with Will Forte's huge beard, and where she thinks her Mad Men character ended up. 

So, Last Man on Earth. I don’t know if you remember, but after the Paley Center panel in October, you told me about it and said I couldn't tell anyone. And I didn’t!
Yes, thank you, Jesse!

I was like, "Okay, this is very serious."
It was very serious! It was!

Did it feel serious?
It felt very serious. Very serious. Because Will is very serious about having the twists and turns be a surprise.

Was it hard? Did you feel like you’d want to tell everybody?
Not at all. Not at all. It was really fun. It’s fun having a project that you’re working on. Everybody’s got different things they’re trying to get off the ground that they’re sort of working on here and there, so it didn’t feel like a big deal. Everyone just assumes that you’re trying to get something going around here, anyways.

They’re not like, “Oh, you’re working on a TV show?!” in L.A.
Right, and if you were, it would just be like, maybe it will come out and maybe it won’t. You just don’t know.

Did you ever imagine you’d play such a weirdo on network television?
A weirdo?! Take that back!

No, I won’t. Your character is ... they really let her be as weird as Will's.
Yeah. Did I ever think I’d play a weirdo on network TV? Yes, I always imagined that. But I thought it would be in a less significant capacity. My fear was always that I would be, like, the neighbor. I don’t want to name characters because I don’t want to hurt certain people’s feelings, but one of those characters that I grew up with and enjoyed very much .. I knew that’s where I was headed and sort of dreaded it a bit. Nobody wanted them around.

That is a weird energy, to have to keep being like, “Get out of here, Carol!” Because those shows still have it. Even modern-day sitcoms have that person in so many of their …
As the butt of a joke. Yes.

You have a strong comedic voice. Did you fear that you’d have to temper it more for a part like this?
Absolutely. Yeah. I’m fine with tempering it for the job at this point, because I spent so many years doing lots of voice-over [work], and now I’m doing more on-camera work. It’s really enjoyable to do on-camera work. I don’t know which jobs I would turn down anymore. [Laughs.] I used to be really solid, “I’m only doing weird things.” I still feel that way, but there gets to be a point where you get really lonely and just want to see people. That’s why this show is such a blessing.

The tone of the show is so specific, and it’s able to be both broad and subtle, both hilarious and sad. Tone is so important on television. Are you just acting and next thing you know it comes together with that energy, or does everyone sit down to discuss?
No, it just comes together. The script sort of directs you how it’s going to go, and then Will and I come from the same comedic sensibilities. We’re just always on the same page. For me, at least, I never play my characters like they’re comedy characters. They’re always just regular people to me, and whatever the situation is for that character, it’s always serious. It’s dead serious, everything that Carol does. This show especially is never winking at the audience at all. They are in it. [Laughs.]

I heard Will Forte say in an interview that when he pitched the show and started talking about your character, he said, “Think Kristen Schaal.” Do you hear that and get excited, or do you also get like, “You don’t know me!” Do you read a script that’s written for you and see a person imagining your voice?
No, I mean, usually things aren’t written for me. I have to write them for me, which is so hard! I was just very flattered. It was one of those things where I was like, “Oh, cool!” I knew Forte knew who I was and we were kind of friends, but not that in touch, so it’s really exciting that I left an impression on him.

That you were, like, floating in his head.
Yeah, exactly!

How much involvement did you have with developing the character?
I wanna say quite a bit. The writers and Will and everybody, they’re building the bones and muscles of it, but I definitely have the freedom to put my own spin on it, and flourishes, et cetera. I get really protective over my characters and their feelings. Which is hard because she’s gonna get crushed over and over again. Not to spoil, but she is. So in that regard, it's good that I’m not in the writer’s room. So I’m not like, “I think Carol wins this one! And that one as well. You know what? I think Carol’s going to actually be the hero.” [Laughs.] Will is very open to any ideas I have, and we have a really nice back-and-forth relationship with my input and his.

Can you describe, as vividly as possible, what it’s like to kiss with Will Forte’s beard?
[Laughs.] You know what, that’s one thing that [when] I was watching I wished that I had done more. I wish I had taken my hands and cleared it out. What is it like? You know, I’ve never kissed an animal, so it’s hard for me to compare. It’s hard to find the lips. It’s hard to know if you’re kissing lips or not. It’s almost the least intimate kiss I’ve ever had. It’s just not quite skin. It’s not lip-to-lip. There’s a barrier. Yeah, there’s a barrier of hair there. Yeah. Gosh. That’s what it’s like.

So, in the last episode, you had sex. You got to be, what I wrote down here is, “you got to be the sex weirdo.” What did you think when you read that? Were you like, “Awesome!”?
I thought it was funny, and I liked her vivaciousness in the sack. I was like, “Ooh, Carol is a sex bomb. She’s a sex bomb who loves to craft. Alright!” Then I was like, even later, as we kept doing the series, I was like, “I don’t get why you are not into Carol after that scene.” I was like, “She is hot to trot, ready to blow. Give it to her!”

I feel like if you’re the last two people on Earth, he should've been like, “Well, at least, I’m not gonna be bored.”
Yeah! Maybe on the other side of it there’s the fact that this is it forever. Whatever’s coming at you, even if it’s kind of good, there’s a thing of like, “This is it forever. This is it forever.” Then it’s Carol’s weird camp-talk shouts. I can see Phil’s side of it, too. But he’s gotta loosen up, right!

Yeah! I have a brief Last Man on Earth lightning round. If you were the last person on Earth, would you be more of a Carol or more of a Phil?
I think I'd be more of a Phil.

Okay, along that line, what would be the first social norm that you'd give up?
That’s a great question. The first social norm ... apologizing. 

What would be the first thing you'd steal? Or what would you want to steal? It doesn't have to be first — you'd probably steal water first.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. The first thing I'd steal ... I'd probably get some sweet jewels. Like Carol, I would grab some nice rings and maybe like a sapphire-encrusted tiara that I would just wear and I would pretend that I was the queen of the world.

What animal would you miss the most, including animals you could eat?
I guess I would miss a cow because I really do like beef. I would not miss their company, but I would miss their provisions.

This might be a weird one, but how long before you think you'd kill yourself, and how would you kill yourself?
Oh, yeah. Yes! That's a great question. I mean, I feel like it would maybe be two days [laughs]. I don't know. Yeah, it might be two days. I would probably do it with pills.

Lastly, Mad Men is ending, which you famously once appeared on. Can you imagine where your character is wherever the final season is going to start? Where is she? What is she doing?
I guess she's probably a mom, I'd say she probably has three kids. She moved to Minneapolis and her husband works at the museum of art there. And she is just a social butterfly. [Laughs.] She wanted a man, she knew how to get it.

And you know what, that's a good man: He likes the arts, he's a member of high society.
Yeah, and she's enjoying her life, but the winters are killing her.