Looking for some outstanding animated action the whole family can love? Check out Season 3 of the Emmy-winning series The Last Kids on Earth, which is now streaming on Netflix. The story of Max Brallier‘s bestselling book series comes to life with action-packed animation from Atomic Cartoons and a stellar voice cast led by Nick Wolfhard as the main character, 13-year-old Jack Sullivan; be sure to read our recent chat with Wolfhard here. stars Garland Whitt (Quint Baker), Montse Hernandez (June Del Toro), and Charles Demers (Dirk Savage) round out the core cast, complemented by guest stars Catherine O’Hara, Mark Hamill, Rosario Dawson, Bruce Campbell, and more. It’s an out-of-this-world animated series you don’t want to miss!
With the launch of Season 3, which adapts Book 3 of Brallier’s series dubbed “The Nightmare King”, I had a chance to chat with Brallier and showrunner / executive producer Scott Peterson about all things Last Kids. The duo reflected on the year so far, their pleasantly surprising Emmy win, and the wildly imaginative story that plays out in Season 3. They also teased what might be next for the franchise, but you’ll have to keep an eye out for more of our Season 3 and beyond spoilers in a future article. Stay tuned!
How are you doing in this increasingly crazy year of 2020?
Max Brallier: I’m okay. I’m good. I moved from New York to Los Angeles during this, which was a weird time to move, but it’s been really good. Yeah, it’s been really good. I live now in the same city of Scott. So one of the nice things about the pandemic is I haven’t had to make any awkward excuses as to why I don’t want to see him, [inaudible 00:00:38]. But oh no. I’m good. I’m good. I’m busy and I’m good. So I am very lucky is what I keep reminding myself.
Definitely. I have a job and all that stuff, so I’m good.
Scott Peterson: I think yeah. Every time somebody asks me that I feel like I have to put an asterisk at the end of it, a caveat that like, yeah, I’m fine considering. So yes, much better off than a lot of people so I should not complain.
Last Kids On Earth debuted on Netflix just a little over a year ago. How has that last year been just in terms of your experience with the show becoming available to everybody out there?
Scott Peterson: It’s great. It’s like you work for so long and then finally getting to see it out in the real world and have people really enjoy it is great. I mean the best thing is when we get to hear from kids or from kids’ parents about how they watched the whole series and they watched it all again. That’s really exciting, knowing that we’re not just doing it in a vacuum, but that people are really enjoying it.
Max Brallier: Yeah. Same thing. Winning the Emmy was really cool, we won an Emmy for it and that was really cool. I think that was really just such a cool moment. And then in general, on social media and whatnot, just seeing people comment oh, my kid watches the show and now is picking up the books or the other way around. It’s such a cool to see the universes of it collide and feed into one another. Yeah. And it’s just been great to, every time I go on Netflix to watch something, like oh, that’s my show too. That’s always cool.
So speaking of that Emmy win, what was the experience like for the both of you?
Max Brallier: I mean, I didn’t think that there was a world in which it would win, so I didn’t have any of… I wasn’t anxious, which is rare where for me. Ridiculously rare for me. So we were still in New York and my parents and my sister, we’d just hit on, I forget how many months it was, but they only live a couple blocks away, but we hadn’t been seeing each other, so it’s just me and my wife and daughter the whole time. But we had them over and we ordered pizza and watched it and then there was like, holy cow, we just won this thing. I was in stunned shock. I was like, what? I thought maybe that I made up the words Last Kids on Earth in my head. I literally thought maybe that’s what happened, but then my sister, my parents, and my wife was just sort of screaming. And my daughter was like what’s going on? And so it was just really very cool.
Scott Peterson: Yeah. For me, I was on the TV show or streaming show, whatever you want to call it, for the Emmys to accept it and had been waiting in kind of what they call a virtual green room for several hours, two or three hours. And with the same people. And we were just talking and talking and talking with all the other nominees. And then they finally got to our category and when they said the name of the show I was like, wait, that’s our show. Why are they saying the name of our show? And so I think I made a noise like, oh, and then realized, oh shoot, I got to start thanking people. But yeah. I was shocked. I’m really proud of the show and I think it deserves accolades, but I was really surprised.
Max Brallier: Yeah. I don’t want to sound like it was, oh shock, because it’s not good. That’s not what I mean. It still feels, I don’t know. It just felt so surreal, especially with there’s so many good shows that we were, not up against, but that were in the same category.
Well, congratulations from this end on the Emmy win and hopefully more to come. This season pretty much adapts the Nightmare King. So Max, how would you set up the story for your fans out there who are just about to dive into Season 3?
Max Brallier: So for people with no familiarity, it’s the end of the world. There’s four best buddies and they’re surviving in a suburban town, battling monsters and zombies, and there’s a big, giant, extra dimensional threat out there. And they have now become friends with a bunch of good guy sort of monsters and things seem all kind of okay for the moment until two things happen. One is they discover a broadcast from other humans so they know that they’re not the only ones out there. And that throws our main character, our hero Jack into a sort of emotional disarray. And there’s also a new enemy, a villain called the Nightmare King who is sort of getting inside jack’s head with these sort of strange, infused dream nightmare things. And so it’s a rollercoaster. Oh. And also there’s a rollercoaster scene.
Scott, when it came to sort of pulling the parts from Max’s book and really heightening certain scenes, what was it that stood out to you for this particular book that you were like, oh man, I can’t wait to get this in this season?
Scott Peterson: I think it’s getting into the characters heads. In the book series you really get into Jack’s head, but the television series gives us a chance to get into all the characters heads. And so having a villain that actually messes with their heads, and you get to see kind of their nightmares and what’s going on, was really fun. And we even, I don’t want to give too much away, but towards the end of the season we get to go into almost another realm of imagination and nightmares, which we’d never done before. And that was really cool because you can start playing with everything. All bets are off once you’re in kind of a fantasy world. So that was really fun.
How freeing was it for you to be able to go into that creative dreamscape, let’s say, to kind of shake off the shackles of reality a little bit? What was that like as far as your creative experience this season?
Scott Peterson: It’s freeing, but it’s also restrictive in a strange way. It’s freeing at the beginning and then you realize, unfortunately there are a lot of practicalities about making a cartoon that every new place you go means a new background and every new character or costume means a new character. So there start to be financial and time restrictions and just how many bodies can we throw at this in terms of the staff. So you can go crazy and then you’ve got to kind of reign it in and think, well how do we go make it look like we’re going crazy without breaking the bank. But I will give Max a lot of credit that he was constantly on the platform.
Max Brallier: Soapbox?
Scott Peterson: Yeah, soapbox. About we need to make sure this stays fun, that this show is not about a terrible end of the world experience, it’s about these kids having fun at the end of the world. So that was always foremost in our minds, is despite the danger and the real stakes, they’re trying to make the best of it. And so we have to put fun in the show because that’s what the kids would actually do.
And yeah. It’s a funpocalypse. Absolutely.
Max Brallier: And I would say in terms, a different sense of freeing for me was that that section of the season was the first thing that was totally not a part of the books, we were using something completely different and much bigger and visual. And it was really fun for me. The first time on the show where it felt like, oh, I’m writing something that’s like a hundred percent, like just totally, totally, totally, totally, it’s like I was working on somebody else’s project for a moment or somebody else’s thing. Just to be able to okay, totally from scratch, what if it was like now like this and we can do this new thing. And so that was just really fun. It was a different sort of way, a significant exercise, and really it was just incredibly fun.
And also a challenge to, those sort of entering the nightmare realm, entering the dream things, that is a thing that you’ve seen. We went back together and some of us hung out and watched Nightmare on Elm Street and there’s the challenge where you’re not doing what’s been done before. And that was a fun challenge too because it would be easy to phone that in sort of like, oh, it’s a nightmare and stuff is weird and it feels like a nightmare. And so it was really fun to make sure we were doing it in a way that still felt true to Last Kids. And it had tension and all that stuff without just getting wacky weird. And that was one of the funnest things for me on the entire show.
I would say that an October release, specifically for the Nightmare King stories, is well-timed so well done there with your holiday timing. Can you tease one or two scenes, or sequences, or maybe even new characters that were created, that maybe weren’t in the book that you got to bring in for the show?
Scott Peterson: Well, the very first episode is one that wasn’t in the book. We thought it’s important for the kids to have power, that that’s the thing they’re like, well, we’ve got this society now, now we need to power it all and get kind of back to normal. And like you said, they use that for go-kart races because they’re kids. But we thought it’d be fun to kind of set up the whole series with almost like a prequel to the book of how they get the power and how showing what normal is before it all goes crazy. So that was something we struggled with in the writers room, is is this the way to open the season is with kind of a, not slower episode, but a establishing episode rather than leaping right into the main action. And I think it worked out really well, but maybe Max feels differently.
Max Brallier: We spent a lot of time on those first couple episodes figuring out, just breaking down. I remember, it’s taking me back now, in this book it sort of opens up and they have a community now and there’s camaraderie and stuff and everything and they have electricity and they’ve done a bunch of stuff that you haven’t seen. And it felt like to make the threat to that community that they’ve created feel real later on we needed to see them create it a little bit and actually build it. If you just kind of smash cut to, “Hey, we’ve got a great place to live now!” you wouldn’t feel as earned or the stakes wouldn’t be as high when stuff got serious. So that was a big fun one. And we bounced around a lot of different ways for them to get that electricity and that power. And I remember we got a couple that felt really right and then we slept on it and it felt no, that’s not right, it doesn’t feel like The Last Kids, it feels too big, that feels too been there done that. And I think we’ve landed in a really great place with how that all worked out.
Scott Peterson: Wasn’t there a point where we were talking about a big Hoover Dam kind of thing?
Max Brallier: Yeah. There’s one where it opened up, I was like Golden Eye, or Jack was like sliding down the side of a huge dam to like turn on enough power that would run a quarter of the country. And it felt just too big for the sort of the fund that these kids have. And it’s all supposed to feel relatable, you know? I want it to feel like, I mean we talk about this in the room all the time, but it should feel like if you were a kid and the world ended, how would you do things and where would you find fun. And going to the Hoover Dam to flip a million generators felt too big. And so instead having them get it from the local planetarium, which feels like a relatable sort of field trip experience, but it’s like a field trip at the end of the world felt much more in line with it. And I remember that was such a eureka moment when we were like, oh, that makes sense. That’s the way to do it. Yeah.
Speaking more to sort of like the emotional core of your main cast here, each of your characters, the featured foursome, they have their own sort of internal battles that are then brought to life, shall we say, in different ways through this main antagonist. So, can you walk us through what each of the kids individually are struggling with?
Max Brallier: Sure. I’ll start with Jack. And for him it’s that when they hear this radio broadcast for the other members, for his buddies, it’s a wonderful moment. There’s people out there, we’re not alone, it’s not just us. This isn’t as sort of hopeless as it might have felt like to them sort of internally. But for Jack it’s this weird thing where he’s been searching for a family his whole life and now he’s sort of created it in the end of the world and suddenly it’s disrupted and he has to walk and I think also when we were writing the show, we had to walk a sort of complicated line where he is frustrated that his friends are getting what they want and he’s not. He has such a tough time dealing with that and expressing that. And even though it feels like a very sort of, it’s such a huge, massive scenario outside of end of the world scenario, it reminded me of going to college and some friends didn’t go to college or something like that. It’s stuff that happens in life where groups of friends, things happen where you’re being pulled in different directions by the world. And so it still felt relatable and that’s always an important thing, for it still to feel relatable. So Jack, really, it’s the most turmoil he’s gone through in then the series thus far by far.
Scott Peterson: For June it’s really the opposite of Jack, that she finally sees, Ooh my God, there’s hope!” She thinks this is the best moment since the apocalypse, is finding that there’s other people alive. And so she can’t understand anyone who doesn’t see this as their biggest priority. So anytime anybody wants to have fun or work on something else or sees another danger, she’s like, no, no, no, that’s not key. So it’s opening up her mind to the fact that other people perceive this differently.
And Dirk actually has a completely different thing, which I don’t believe was in the books. I think we made it up just for the series to give him something, which was he starts to feel more like his family is with the monsters. He’s always been oversized and very physical and feels like that may be where he fits in. And it may not be what all the monsters think, that they may or may not want him to join in, but that’s kind of his arc for the season is where do I fit in, which was really fun to play with and come up with separate scenes for him.
Max Brallier: Yeah. And then Quint has distinct incredible sort of value to their team as the gadget guy and Jack’s best friend, things like that. And he sort of struggles with voicing that he’s not only that and making sure that even though Jack is his best friend in the world and Quint is very much Jack’s best friend in the world, but as Jack goes through this turmoil, Quint has to sort of remind Jack of that a little bit. And there’s a scene that’s one of my favorite and just little moments in the series where they finally sort of, I won’t say they have it out necessarily, but I don’t know. They both realize that they’re not really hearing the other person and then they kind of address it, it’s very nice. Yeah.
Scott Peterson: That’s right. I was just going to say there’s a great exchange where Jack says you’ve never been this mad at me before Quint and he says, no, I’ve just never told you before. And so it’s like, Oh, there’s been this stuff underneath all this time and they’re finally coming clean, which was really nice.
I love that each of the characters has their own thing that they’re dealing with that’s also reflected in the actual action-packed portion of the story. I also love that kids and adults like myself out there who are watching this can identify with each of those individual struggles. It’s not just one thing for one specific person, everybody’s felt probably all of those things at different points in their lives.
Scott Peterson: You’ve always wanted to be a monster. Is that what you’re saying?
100%. I always identify with the monsters. Yeah. No I’m definitely the techie Donatello of the group, so me and Quint are on the same page.
Now, I also want to talk about your supporting cast.There’s a fantastic one or two quick lines between that Mark Hamill and Bruce Campbell, which absolutely floored me. Can you talk about, your guests cast this season?
Scott Peterson: We love the exchange you’re talking about. And we were like, “Is anybody even going to notice this?”
100% did, yeah.
Max Brallier: Neither of them knew it I think that the other person was recording.
Oh that’s funny.
Max Brallier: Okay. Or maybe you told one of them and then I said, “Are we going to make anybody mad with this there?” I love that. Yeah. I mean the supporting cast just continued to be, Mark Hamill, Bruce Campbell, Catherine O’Hara, Rosario Dawson throughout just, I don’t know. It’s still a little bit like, jeez, I can’t believe that we were writing for them and they were delivering and it’s just incredible. I’m probably forgetting people. I’m sure I am.
It’s a pretty huge cast, too. And you’ve got a lot more Emmy-winning star power on your side now too, so you’re even more stocked for the next time. So it was pretty incredible.
Scott Peterson: Yeah. Everybody completely brought their A game and it was great. And like he said, a lot of them, I don’t think any of the in quotes, star talent, ever got to work together. So when we finally get to see it cut together and see Bruce Campbell talking to Mark Hamill, it’s fantastic. It’s so surreal for us.
Since you teased Season 4, 5, 6, and beyond and a hopeful movie and everything else, Last Kids On Earth or beyond, what’s up next for the both of you in the remainder of 2020?
Max Brallier: So right now I’m in the middle of writing “Last Kids on Earth” seven, the seventh book in the series, and outlining a sort of new kind of side quest adventure for two of the characters, which I really hope will… So we’ll see exactly how it’s going to shape up or turn out and what it’ll be that I’m really excited about. What else can I say? Oh, and working on The Last Kids on Earth video game, I’m looking forward to that.
Oh, very cool.
Max Brallier: Like on a ridiculously, geeky, wish fulfillment level.
Interesting. Scott? Anything you’re working on?
Scott Peterson: Yes. Other animated productions that you’ll all come to know and love in the future.
Fantastic. I don’t know what that tease was for. I’m not kidding our listeners out there. I have no idea. I’m hoping it’s maybe an interactive special. I have no clue, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see, and I’ll ask you gentlemen next time. But thank you for your time so much today. Thank you for Last Kids on Earth. I can’t wait for everybody out there to check it out and I can’t wait to see more. So thanks again.
Scott Peterson: Thanks, Dave. Appreciate it.
Max Brallier: Thank so much, Dave.
And congrats on that Emmy again. Thanks, guys.