The Last Kids on Earth are here to save the day! The animated adaptation of Max Brallier‘s hit children’s graphic novel series arrived on Netflix today in the form of a one-hour special. The series follows 13-year-old Jack Sullivan (Nick Wolfhard) and his band of middle-schoolers who live in a decked-out tree house, play video games, and battle zombies in the aftermath of the monster apocalypse. It’s a hilarious adventure filled with crazy gadgets and a lifetime supply of action, and it’s just the first taste of what’s to come in the new series from Atomic Cartoons.
We were able to chat with Wolfhard about his audition for the series and how he landed the lead, plus his take on the character of Jack Sullivan and his experience acting opposite his cast members. Wolfhard also teased the future of The Last Kids on Earth as well as a super-secret project he’s acting in with brother Finn Wolfhard. All that and more follows below!
For more on The Last Kids on Earth, be sure to check out our extensive interview with the showrunners and our review of the series itself. Watch the trailer below, followed by our interview with Wolfhard:
First of all, thank you for taking time out of your schedule to talk with me today about The Last Kids on Earth. How did you get involved with the show?
Nick Wolfhard: The audition process was the longest I’ve ever had for a part. I want to say it started around February and then I got the part around May. This was last year. I originally auditioned for Jack as well as Dirk. I believe I got two separate call backs for both characters. Then, I remember, in May, I was half asleep in my bed, and I got the email. I was like, “Yes!” I put my fist in the air out of sheer victory, because of how long the process was and how much effort I put into it. I was so happy I got it.
Were you familiar with the books before joining the cast, before even auditioning? Were you aware of them beforehand?
Wolfhard: Weirdly, no. But, I think that might have to do with the fact that… As a kid, for example, I would read “Captain Underpants” and “Diary of Wimpy Kid.” It seems this is that new generation version of those books. The fact that it’s so popular and so many kids love it and read this in school is awesome, because that was literally me and a lot of people I knew. I’m excited that I get to be part of that new generation adaptation of it. I’m really excited about that.
You don’t get to just be a part of it, you get to be the lead. You get to be the main, solo hero out there on his own before he forms up with his group of friends. What can you tease about the character of Jack and what were your impressions of him as you got to learn about the character?
Wolfhard: He’s a lonely guy to begin with. He doesn’t like to show it, though. He thinks he’s this big, tough action hero, when in reality he’s actually a dork. He’s actually like me. I like to act cool, but I just come off like a total dummy. He really wants to get all his friends together, because as the title says, Last Kids on Earth. They’re the only people they got. Who wouldn’t be lonely in the zombie apocalypse if it’s just you after such a long period of time? I’m living on my own right now, my parents and family are away and they’re away for about a month, so, I definitely sympathize with Jack, in terms of family.
He’s used to being alone. We learn that he hasn’t really had a family that he could call his own, but he’s also willing to go out there and literally face monsters and do what needs to be done. What can you say about his courageous aspect?
Wolfhard: My take on it is, it’s based on so much media he’s consumed and he has his own comic that he writes with Quint. On top of that, I think, he just really wants to prove himself and he really wants to make the best out of a really bad situation. I think Jack is an optimist, like me, which I really sympathize with and that’s another reason why I relate to the guy. That’s the gist of it. He’s an optimist and he really wants to make the best out of a bad situation.
You recently had a chance to check out the finished version of the show. What were your impressions of the art style, how the characters worked, how the story came together?
Wolfhard: It’s funny. When we were first recording the special, we didn’t know if it was going to be a special, we didn’t know if it was going to be episodes. But, I think Netflix made the right decision to make it a special, because it all flows together so well, in terms of adapting the first book.
The animation, the shading and the lighting is absolutely gorgeous. There’s some great 3D camera work, as well, that looks unbelievable. This is one of the best looking kids shows, I think, I’ve seen in a very long time. It really is. The art style is very different for a mainstream cartoon. It’s very unique compared to a lot of mainstream stuff out there at the moment. Not to knock any of the other mainstream stuff. I’m just saying, I think Last Kids on Earth, because it’s based off comic book-y, graphic novel art style, that really helps to translate the animation in a really unique way, in terms of its style, and I really appreciate that.
It looked to me like an old-school cartoon, but also like a motion comic meets a video game. It had a bunch of different inspirations and influences on it that really made it stand out. That was really cool.
Wolfhard: Yeah, there’s some great pixel art in there. Some of the transitions are great. You have some Edgar Wright-esque editing, which is really good. I didn’t know until I saw the special that they were going to do some Edgar Wright-esque editing. There was one scene, I remember doing, where I remember saying the line, like what Simon Pegg said in Shaun of the Dead, was like, “Okay, well go here, do that, we’ll do that and then we’ll go over here and wait until that’s over.” It’s awesome that they really went full-on on it. It’s great.
The story’s like this, too. There are nods to pop culture references and things like that. Did you have any suggestions to add?
Wolfhard: At that point in time of recording the show, we were all so new to the project, so I didn’t really feel comfortable adding any suggestions. I hope that if we get to continue, I would love to share some references and movie ideas. That’s what’s great about it, because obviously this is a kids show, but there’s some great stuff in there for all ages, in my opinion. All ages can appreciate the animation, the art style, obviously the references. Like I said, there’s a great Shaun of the Dead reference. There’s some other stuff too. I think there’s a Terminator one in there. In general, I think a lot of people are really going to like this one.
Max and I are the same age, so we have the same pop culture well to draw from. You guys are obviously playing younger characters than you actually are in real life, but you have more contemporary anime, animation, video games, all kinds of stuff you can bring to it, too.
Wolfhard: I’m definitely closer to the age of the audience who reads this book than I am to Max. What’s great about that is if I do make suggestions in the future, maybe I can make some suggestions towards stuff that other people have seen. You know what I would love to do? I would love to do a Scott Pilgrim reference. That would be a good one.
That’s a good one to work in.
Wolfhard: I love Scott Pilgrim. That’s another graphic novel. I’m sure Max has read it. My brother Finn has read every single book. I haven’t, but we both love the movie.
There you go. Maybe you two can work together on an adaption of that in the future. If they bring it to the small screen.
Wolfhard: Oh man, a Scott Pilgrim cartoon would be fantastic.
That would be fun. When I saw that it was an hour long special, I was surprised. How did that affect your recording process, if it did at all?
Wolfhard: It didn’t affect it at all, because at the time, we knew just about as much as the people making the show did. I only found out recently that it was going to be a special. I found out, honestly, a couple weeks ago. Up until that point, we thought it was going to be episodic. But, then they decided to turn it into a special. Like I said earlier, I really think that was the right call to make, because it flows so well together as a special that you want to have this introductory passage to get to know these characters. Just like a little taste of what’s to come. I think people will really be happy about it as like an introductory passage and get to know these characters more.
Speaking of the ensemble of characters that we have here, did you get a chance to record at all with your co-stars or were they all solo for the first special?
Wolfhard: Outside of pick-ups, we record together every time. Outside of Mark Hamill, Rosario Dawson and Bruce Campbell who all recorded separately, because they’re obviously super busy on their own schedules, it was me, Montse Hernandez, Charlie Demers and Garland Whitt. Half the cast is in LA, half the cast is in Vancouver. So, it’s me and Charlie in Vancouver, Montse and Garland in LA.
Do you have a favorite moment from the first episode, whether it’s your character or something else that happened?
Wolfhard: I think the entire segment of when the zombie apocalypse first happens. The animation in that entire segment is just top-notch. There’s this great rotation around Quint and Jack. I remember this scene. Then when rotation stops, you see this giant green portal that’s extremely well animated. There’s a whole scene in the the end as well. Everything flows so well. There’s something about that scene and then the ending as well, where I take down Blarg. Spoiler! That was great. All of our performances actually come to life like that. It’s a pretty cool thing to see in general.
That’s a great way to sum up the special in general, is just like, “It’s a pretty cool thing to see.” There’s so much going on, and it’s such a unique take on a somewhat familiar story that we’ve seen before, but it was really fun. Without giving too much away or getting in trouble with anything you can’t say, what are you most looking forward to in some future episodes?
Wolfhard: Again, I don’t know what I can and can’t say, but I will say that there are some great moments that have yet to be adapted. I’m very much hoping that people would enjoy them, because I know for a fact that I would very much enjoy them as well. I’ve read some of the books, just as reference, and there are some great moments in there that would be like, “Oh man, this would be so cool to do, actually, on the big screen.” I remember reading in the book… I don’t want to say anything, just in case somebody hasn’t read the book, but there’s a book later on, they’re going through this portal, it’s like Adventure Time, and I’m like, “Oh my god, that would be so awesome to adapt.”
Cool, hopefully we get to see that. But, we do get a new character introduced at the very tale end of this special, who seems like maybe they’re going to play a threat to you guys next season.
Wolfhard: You don’t know if they’re going to be a threat. They could actually be very good ally. They could flip the tables on you, we don’t know. They could be a villain.
That’s a great tease. What’s up next for you? You’ve obviously got more of Last Kids ahead, hopefully for fans out there, but what else are you up to these days?
Wolfhard: It’s funny you say that. Me and a couple of my friends are working on a pilot together. I can’t say for what network, because I don’t know if I am allowed to say what network. But, we are working on a pilot. I’m just voicing in it and my brother’s also voicing in it. I play one character who only has a couple lines. Me and my brother actually share a role. I can’t say anything, but you’re probably like, “Wait, what do you mean share a role?” You’ll see. But, I will say this. It is some of the most fun I have ever had recording a TV show. This one I actually recorded out of my house. I don’t know how they were okay with that, but they were, and it’s going on TV!
That’s cool. I’m really looking forward to finding out more about that pilot, so I can figure out what role you two guys are playing.
Wolfhard: Totally. We both play one role, but we also share half a role. So, one-and-half roles for each of us.
That’s a good tease. We’ll leave it there for the fans out there and we will keep an eye out for more. Thanks again!