FX’s “Y: The Last Man” is set in a world where a cataclysmic event has decimated “every mammal with a Y chromosome but for one cisgender man and his pet monkey.” Though this means that people who were assigned the male gender at birth, but identify as women are killed as a result of this tragedy, the showrunner of the series, which is based on the fan-favorite comic book series by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra, says “Y: The Last Man” is a project “that affirms that trans women are women, trans men are men, non-binary people are non-binary.”
“What was exciting about the book was it takes this kind of idea that a world that is filled with mostly women — and the book is definitely sort of more skewed toward the idea of a world of women — that it’s not necessarily just a paradise because women uphold systems of oppression, like patriarchy and white supremacy and capitalism,” Eliza Clark told reporters during a panel for “Y: The Last Man” at the virtual Television Critics Association press tour Friday. “And I think that there’s so much more that can be explored within that, because gender is diverse and chromosomes are not equal to gender.
“And so, in our world, in the world of the television show, every living thing, every living mammal with a Y chromosome dies,” Clark said. “Tragically, that includes many women. It includes not binary people. It includes intersex people. But that’s also true of the survivors. And we have a world that is, I think, that is central to my understanding of the show, our understanding.”
The 10-episode series, which launches Monday, Sept. 13 on FX on Hulu, stars Ben Schnetzer as Yorick Brown, the one surviving cisgender man on the planet, and Diane Lane as his mother, Jennifer Brown, and “follows the survivors in this new world as they struggle with their efforts to restore what was lost and the opportunity to build something better.”
In addition to Schnetzer and Lane, the ensemble cast includes Ashley Romans, Olivia Thirlby, Amber Tamblyn, Marin Ireland, Diana Bang, Elliot Fletcher and Juliana Canfield.
Clark continued: “I think every single person who’s working on the show, from the writers to the directors to the cast and the crew and producers, we are making a show that affirms that trans women are women, trans men are men, non-binary people are non-binary. And that is part of the sort of richness of the world we get to play with. I mean, the show is asking questions about what is gender, what is identity, what makes a man, what makes a woman, what makes a human being, and what are the parts of our identity that have been imposed upon us by society and what are the parts of our identities that are truly us? And you can ask the actresses about this, but their characters start in a very specific place. They are who they are before the world ends.
“And then, over the course of 10 episodes, and hopefully over the course of the series, they will change drastically…” Clark said.” And though it’s a big idea, an apocalyptic universe, it is, at its core, a performance-based character study. And just to sort of flag from the earlier question about horror, I think the show is also very funny. And ultimately, my view of this world is optimistic. A really horrific thing happens and a lot of people die. But there’s an opportunity to sort of examine the systems that create identity and grow from them and change them.”
First put into development at FX in 2015, the adaptation received a pilot order in April 2018 and was ordered to series a year later. Barry Keoghan was originally set to star in the main role of Yorick Brown, but dropped out of the series after original showrunners Michael Green and Aida Mashaka Croal exited over creative differences in 2019. Keoghan was later replaced by Ben Schnetzer and Clark took over as showrunner.
“Y: The Last Man” executive producer Nina Jacobson says that Vaughan was “adamant” that he wanted his comic to be updated for the year that the show is being made in to reflect changes in views of gender since he wrote the graphic novel in the early ’00s.
“I think part of what they both hoped for in handing it off, and Brian was always very adamant, like, ‘I will always be here when you need me, I really don’t want to be here any other time than when you ask me to be. And because I wrote this 20 years ago, at a different time in my life and in a different time in the world.’ And I think a lot of what infused him… was that it opened up the world so much more, in the ways that our world has opened up in representation. And the changing of the guardrails and the opening up of possibilities for a truly new and diverse representation of gender in all of its complexity is, I think, something that they very much embraced from the beginning and embraced in many ways.”
Clark serves as showrunner and executive producer on “Y: The Last Man” along with Jacobson and Brad Simpson of Color Force, Mari Jo Winkler-Ioffreda, Louise Friedberg, Brian K. Vaughan and Melina Matsoukas. Nellie Reed serves as producer on the FX Productions series.
“Y: The Last Man” premieres Monday, Sept. 13 on FX on Hulu.