Ben Schnetzer on Y: The Last Man and His Awkward Nude Scene - VRGyani News and Media

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Monday, October 18, 2021

Ben Schnetzer on Y: The Last Man and His Awkward Nude Scene

From showrunner/executive producer Eliza Clark and adapted from the DC Comics title by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra, the drama series Y: The Last Man is set in a post-apocalyptic world after an event has wiped out every mammal with a Y chromosome, or so it seems until one cisgender man, Yorick (Ben Schnetzer), and his pet monkey inexplicably turn up alive. While the survivors in this new world are struggling to figure out what comes next, Agent 355 (Ashley Romans) suddenly finds herself in the unique position of being by the new president’s side, as she tries to get answers for why her son didn’t meet his demise.

During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, Schnetzer talked about the wild process of waiting for the show to finally start production, getting used to wearing the straight jacket, his awkward nude scene, how complicated the Yorick-Agent 355 dynamic is, bonding with his mask, and the open collaboration with the creative team.

[Editor’s note: This interview was done prior to the recent announcement that Y: The Last Man has been canceled by FX on Hulu and will not be moving forward with any further seasons there.]

Collider: We actually last spoke in a trailer on the backlot of Universal for the Warcraft junket, and I appreciate you talking to me again. This show was probably already in development even then, but it didn’t fully exist yet. Because this is a property that has been in development for quite some time – it was going to be a movie, and then a TV show, and it’s been evolving as a show – and you were hired in a recasting and thrown right into it all, how quickly did you have to find your footing and figure out this character and his place in the story?

BEN SCHNETZER: As things played out, it wasn’t a whole lot of time at all, but then that whole COVID-19 thing happened and delayed us for quite a few months. I got cast in this thing in February of 2020, and we were supposed to start shooting it in March of 2020, so it was a pretty quick turnaround. As soon as I got the gig, I dove into the source material and read the graphic novels. I had heard of the graphic novels. I was aware of them beforehand, but I hadn’t read them. So, as soon as I got the gig, I read all of the graphic novels and was diving into the script and gearing up to do the show. And then, COVID delayed that until September, when we went to Toronto to start shooting. We started shooting Episode 1 in October 2020. Before I got cast, there was a changing of the guard in showrunners, and then they did a re-jig. So, I ended up having a lot more prep time than I probably needed or planned on. It was really great to just be able to indulge myself and dive into reading biographies of Harry Houdini. I spoke with a really helpful, really cool dude named Jonathan Goodwin, who is an escape artist that worked as a real valuable consultant for me and was a real technical consultant, in a lot of ways. It was a very unique experience, needless to say.

RELATED: Olivia Thirlby Discusses 'Y: The Last Man' and Her Very Unusual Journey to Getting Cast as Hero Brown

Do you have of a new appreciation now, for anyone who has ever done that hanging upside down and getting out of the straight jacket trick?

SCHNETZER: Our stunt coordinator, Shelley Cook, is a total bad-ass. I actually worked with Shelley on my very first job I ever did. I did a television series called Happy Town that we filmed when I was 19 and had just finished high school. I remember showing up to work on Y: The Last Man, and it was tough because everyone’s got masks on during COVID and face shields and a lot of PPE, but I remember seeing Shelley’s hair and her body language, and I was like, “Wait a second, I think I know this person.” That was actually the first scene we shot of the whole series, that scene hanging upside down.

While we were quarantining in Toronto, Shelley was like, “I’m gonna send an inversion table over to your house, so you can practice hanging upside down.” I was like, “I think I’m good. I think I’ll be fine.” And she was like, “No, trust me. If you haven’t done this before, you need to get used to it.” And I’m so glad she did. She was like, “Just start out with 30 seconds and work up to a minute, and then work up to a minute and a half, and work up to two minutes.” Basically, I had two weeks to hang out, upside down in my apartment, to just get used to it and to get used to doing takes. It’s very bizarre, once you’re in a straight jacket and you can’t put your hands up, if you fall, it’s very disconcerting. So, big respect to anybody who does that for real.

Another very memorable scene for me is the one where you’re discovered naked in the cleaners and you have the three women freaking out by you being there. What was that scene like to do, especially since your character is going through a lot, in that moment?

SCHNETZER: It’s funny that you ask that. That was a really engaging and fulfilling and exciting and scary and also really fun scene to shoot. It’s funny, that was one of the audition scenes and I remember putting that on tape in my little apartment in London. It was a lot of fun to play with. Once we showed up and once we started having meetings with Louise Friedberg, who directed the first two episodes, and had discussions with (showrunner) Eli Clark. I remember Louise, at one point, said early on, “I don’t think these characters know they’re in a TV show.” That was a real hook for us, as a cast. We started thinking, “Let’s see what happens, if we root this thing in reality and if we don’t shy away from the darkness of these circumstances.” And so, we wanted to try to find the realism in it, but you also can’t deny the ludicrous nature of some of these situations and some of these scenes that these characters find themselves in. It was just a really fun day.

I remember most of my scenes in the second episode were me and Ampersand because Yorick is alone, and I think that was like my first scene with people. The other actors in the scene were so good and we had a lot of fun filming that scene. It’s interesting because we filmed that in February in Toronto, so it was cold, but there were all of these space heaters around and they were pouring warm water on me to make me look wet. I would ask our 1st AD before a take, “Let me know when we’re about to roll because I’m gonna need to stand outside for a minute to get cold. I’m way too warm right now. This is actually a really lovely temperature.” That’s one of those scenes on the callsheet that you look at and you’re like, “Well, I’m not gonna sleep the night before we shoot that.” You just go for it.

Your showrunner, Eliza Clark, has said that it’s not Yorick’s maleness that sets him apart in this world, but it’s his Y chromosome that sets him apart. How does that affect the way that you approach the character and his journey? Does that feel like an important distinction for you?

SCHNETZER: It does, yeah. It changes the fabric of this new world. Yorick’s role in it is different and it’s a little more nuanced than it was in the graphic novel. What sets Yorick apart is the fact that he is a scientific anomaly and with that still comes a whole host of responsibilities and burdens that he did not volunteer for and he didn’t ask for. He’s still reluctantly foisted with this role to play that he doesn’t necessarily want to be playing. He says, in no uncertain terms to his mother, “I’m not the guy to do this. There’s gotta be someone else out there who is better suited.” As an actor approaching all of it, there are certain themes that are really compelling to explore and that really run deep through the show. Once you start approaching the material and looking at the scripts, one script at a time, Yorick is much less concerned with the global implications of this event, and much more concerned with the domestic and personal and much more concerned with trying to find Beth. He’s just taking it a day at a time.

RELATED: Ashley Romans on ‘Y: The Last Man,’ Her Stand-Out Moment in Episode 4, and Her Character’s Relationship With Yorick Brown

The relationship between Yorick and Agent 355 is a very complicated one. What’s it like to explore a dynamic like that, where he’s terrified of her but he needs her, and she’s keeping him alive but she also probably wants to kill him about a thousand times a day. What is that like to play?

SCHNETZER: It’s been one of the most engaging and fun and endlessly compelling dynamics that I’ve ever been able to play, in a show or a play or a film because it’s so layered and because scene to scene, moment to moment, and beat to beat, what they need from each other changes. It’s these two people who are burdened with these huge responsibilities. 355 is a willing participant, in so far as she’s a professional, but she’s obligated to do this. He didn’t sign up for this. He’s not an obvious contender. To be able to have such a multi-faceted relationship and to play with so many different layers and to do it opposite an actor of Ashley Romans’ caliber, she’s so good. To be able to engage with her and key in with her, within the arc of one episode and sometimes within the arc of one scene, to be afraid of someone and have that be a real dominating force, but then at the same time, to be really dependent on someone, is a lot of fun.

It’s been a very rich relationship to explore, for sure. We’re so familiar with the graphic novel and also so familiar with what the relationship grows into, Ashley and I really wanted to take our time with the origin. There were a few times when were filming Episode 4, which is the first time Yorick and 355 set out together, and we’d be like, “No, we’re not there yet.” They don’t know each other yet. They don’t have the rapport yet. They’re still very suspicious of the other person. They’re very resentful of the other person. They’re very skeptical and paranoid. In spite of themselves, they really bond and grow fond of each other. I just am a fan of that relationship. I really enjoyed telling that section of the story.

With everything that Yorick goes through, how different will he be, by the end of the season?

SCHNETZER: It’s the most drastic change he undergoes, as a human being, over the course of these 10 episodes, than he has in the 27 years leading up to it. That was something I really wanted to explore. I wanted to give Yorick a lot of runway, and a lot of room to grow and to mature and to navigate these totally uncharted territories and waters. It was really fun to be able to find a starting point and a launching pad for him. In a lot of ways, he’s a really generous spirit, which is so fun to key into. He’s a generous human being, but he’s very naive in a lot of ways and he’s very immature in a lot of ways and he’s very solipsistic in a lot of ways and he’s very privileged in a lot of ways. It’s really exciting to find a character who’s flawed and imperfect and who’s reluctant, and to set them off leash on a trajectory and put them through the ringer, to be able to find these moments where these lessons get learned and these moments of growth take place. He starts having to think about people other than himself, before he thinks about himself. I’m really excited for people to see all 10 episodes of this season. I’m so proud of what we’ve done, as a team, and so humbled to be amongst the company of this cast and crew.

What was it like to have to wear the mask? Are you bonded with the mask?

SCHNETZER: It’s a love/hate thing. In the wintertime, it fogs up a lot. The props team on the show is so amazing. They would put new glass in it and get wet wipes between takes. Depending on how cold it was outside and my internal temperature, it would fog up quite a bit. You can see it in Episode 4, when Yorick and 355 are in the flea market, and it looks like Yorick is holding onto 355 as they walk through. That was me just holding on to Ashley because I couldn’t see anything through the mask. And then, you’d get to the summer months and it certainly started getting a little toasty in there. It’s his cape and cowl, so to speak. I remember the first costume fitting, when I put on the mask and the poncho. It was a really powerful moment, as an actor, to step into that for the first time. It was a big deal and it’s a real honor to wear the mask.

It’s really a part of his survival.

SCHNETZER: It totally is. One of the things that I also think is really compelling and really rich in our adaptation, building off of what you Eli said about his maleness not really being something that sets him apart, as the season goes on, Yorick does find safety in being able to take it off. He’s not as dependent on it, as he is in the graphic novel. That adds a real richness and a lot of fun, in the adaptation that we’ve done.

How collaborative is the conversation with the creative team? Do you have a sense of what Season 2 would look like and where things would be headed next? Did you ask those questions, or do you prefer not to know those answers until you have to?

SCHNETZER: This has definitely been the most collaborative creative team and the most involved I’ve ever been, creatively, as an actor, as far as input into the content. As an actor, it’s helpful to have a framework given to you, and then you can start coloring in and contributing some shades or textures or flavors. For Season 2, I’m waiting for the kick-ass writers’ room and Eli Clark to give us an outline. Beyond that, they’ve been so open to our input. It just feels like a very rich and very collaborative experience and process. It’s a really rewarding show to work on. I really hope that people enjoy watching it, as much as we enjoyed making it.

I know some creative teams are very stingy with that kind of information.

SCHNETZER: Yes. With Eli, you could be like, “Is Episode 10 ready yet?” She’d be like, “No.” And you could say, “Can you tell me what happens?” And she’ll be like, “Yeah, sure. Let’s have lunch.” She’s a hell of a leader. Needless to say, I’m a fan.

Y: The Last Man is available to stream at FX on Hulu.



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