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SYFY WIRE Y: The Last Man

How the pandemic reflects on FX's 'Y: The Last Man,' and why they changed the pace from page to screen

By Tara Bennett
Y The Last Man Pilot Yorick and Amp

In development at FX since 2015, Y: The Last Man finally gets to be seen by an audience when the adaptation of Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra's comic book series finally hits the network on September 13 exclusively on FX on Hulu.

Today at FX’s virtual TCA summer press panel featured the showrunner Eliza Clark, executive producers Nina Jacobson and Mari Jo Winkler-Ioffreda and their cast revealing more specifics about how the series will be similar to, and differ from the graphic novel.

Y: The Last Man was originally published by Vertigo from 2002 through 2008, and tells the story of a biological event that suddenly wipes all men, except for one: Yorick Brown. From the top, one of the primary changes in the series adaptation is the clarification that the event has wiped out every living creature with a Y chromosome.

The series also takes the pilot to set up the large ensemble cast of characters prior to the event, so context is given to set up their journey’s in the season, and seasons explained showrunner Eliza Clark.

“It’s so important to understand who these people are before the event happens because so much of the season is about how their identities change,” she explains. “The aftermath really deconstructs everyone’s sense of self in order for them to become something new.” She acknowledged that this approach slows the rather breakneck pace the graphic novel set in quickly explaining the early days of the event. “The book is so fast and in your face, but it was for the good of show which is driven by character that we meet them all before.”

The series pilot, with these creatives attached, was originally set to begin shooting in April 2020, but the global pandemic delayed that until October 2020. However, executive producer Nina Jacobson said observing the world's response to a real global emergency only helped exacerbate the explorations about tribalism that Brian K. Vaughan features in the narrative.

“Brian wrote Y: The Last Man post-9/11, and it only underlines the tribalization we’ve seen,” Jacobson observed. “We started and shutdown during COVID, and through that we learned a lot about how America responds to a crisis. Where 9/11 was unifying, this has not been. Brian and Pia expected polarization, but through this we have not proven ourselves to be people who come together.” She said that is reflected in the direction the series takes, especially as Diane Lane’s President Brown has to deal with partisanship that rises even in the ruins of disaster.

Something else the TV series does is lean into the female gaze perspective which reflects the majority of women behind the adaptation, from Clark down to the directors and DPs.

“I talked about a lot with Nina and all the directors and DPs about the female gaze,” Clark said. “Yes, the series has violence, tragedy and death, but we are very specific about how we chose to photograph it and present it. My intention was to not make intimacy or action gratuitous. Intimacy, nudity and violence is born from character, and has a point of view.”

She said that also extends to how the cast is filmed, which is with minimal makeup and reflective of the post-society dynamic. “It’s visceral, real and raw. We have an incredible group of actors who were all game to be barefaced. Their roots were growing in, and they all looked insane. But we’re all living through pandemic. We’ve all seen what happens to us physically. Our DPs really wanted to photograph the beauty of real skin, and the ways people are without all of the trappings to face the day in a patriarchal world.”