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Based on the New York Times bestselling book series by Max Brallier, the fun and lighthearted series The Last Kids on Earth follows Jack Sullivan (Nick Wolfhard) and a band of suburban middle-schoolers living in a decked-out tree house, playing video games, gorging themselves on candy and battling zombies. All-new episodes of the action-packed Atomic Cartoons adaptation, from showrunner Scott Peterson, are now streaming on Netflix.
I had a chance to chat with Wolfhard about Season 2 (or Season 1: Part B as it’s displayed on Netflix itself) as part of our continuing interview series for Saturday Mourning Cartoons. We talked about the challenges of living in self-isolation and social distancing in the real world while playing a character trying to survive the apocalypse in the fictional one. Wolfhard also shared his thoughts on Jack’s growth this season, his questionable taste in food, and all the challenges awaiting Jack and his friends throughout these new episodes. Plus, he gave us a behind-the-scenes account of how he and his brother Finn Wolfhard got involved with the insane animated short Smiling Friends, which they did for Adult Swim. All that and more awaits!
Season 2 of The Last Kids on Earth also features the voices of Mark Hamill, Rosario Dawson, Catherine O’Hara, Bruce Campbell, and Keith David. You can hear them all in the new episodes, now streaming on Netflix; check them out here! In the meantime, you can listen along with our interview with Wolfhard and/or read along below:
How are you doing and how are you holding up during the quarantine, of all things?
Nick Wolfhard: Well, I’ve probably been just like staying home. My family’s been back, so it’s been a lot easier that way. I’ve been playing a lot of video games. I’ve been streaming. Doing a couple auditions here and there, during all this. It’s crazy, I’ve been just trying to keep it together. My lifestyle actually hasn’t changed much. I’m kind of an introvert, or I’m kind of like a hermit. But, I very much would like to go hang out with friends in public places. But, safety first, social distancing and make sure everyone does that. Try not to go outside. Keep your distances. All that stuff you say.
Exactly, and in this modern connected world of ours, we’re more easily able to do that than normal. And people can stay inside and watch all 10 episodes of Season 2. Perfectly good time to be doing that.
Nick Wolfhard: Yeah. We’re just trying to bring everyone together right now, like during this time. Even without all this stuff, the show, anyone can watch it, but especially if you could watch it with your family, that’s obviously a plus. But, if you want to watch it during that time, like all at once, then, yeah sure. But it’s also great to just watch stand alone. It’s great to watch it at your own pace. But, yeah, if you wanted to binge it, go for it, you know?
Is it weird for you at all to be playing a character who’s trying to find ways to survive during an apocalypse while also living through a mini-apocalypse yourself?
Nick Wolfhard: It is very much a strange coincidence. When I recorded this, I didn’t think any of this stuff would actually go ahead and happen like this. But, it is very strange to think about, yeah.
Who do you think makes better food decisions in an apocalypse, you or Jack? Because we get to see him pig out a couple times to, so just curious about your culinary tastes.
Nick Wolfhard: Both me and Jack are probably equally bad in that sense. Oh man, yeah, I try. During these times, I have to go to the grocery store and I’ll go with my dad because we obviously need it for the whole family. And usually, we try to go to Whole Foods, because we try to get the healthiest options available, and obviously, everyone does a really good job kind of like staying six feet apart and all that. What I usually end up getting is … Whole Foods has this awesome carrot cake that I end up buying. And I get some chips … but, hey, it’s all natural. Right?
Nick Wolfhard: There’s carrots in there, yeah. But, I try to even some stuff out in there. I get some good stuff for Vitamin C, get some nice dairy, but it’s like a mix of both, I guess.
It’s funny that you say that, because I follow your Twitter as well, and you post some insane food concoctions on there that get all kinds of reactions from people.
Nick Wolfhard: You want to talk about the forbidden treats?
Nick Wolfhard: Okay. I’ll just this say this: So, for those that don’t know, occasionally on Twitter, I’ll post … none of them are mine, by the way, I just want to [clarify] this, none of these are mine, I just find them online in random places.
Nick Wolfhard: Like Google Images, yeah … and they’re just these random concoctions of things, different foods you should never put together in your entire life. And if you want to see those, they’re on my Twitter.
Just remember, before you eat of them, you have to microwave them first. That’s the rule. You have to microwave them first.
Nick Wolfhard: Yeah, no. Definitely. You got to microwave them, you got to cook them. You know, safety first and all that, of course.
Getting back to the show real quick. Did you do anything different with your performance between the two seasons to show that Jack has matured a little bit since Season 1, or he’s growing up a little bit in Season 2?
Nick Wolfhard: Actually, yeah. I recorded the first season about two years ago, now, it was actually like a year and a half, or maybe a little more, a year and three quarters … but, that being said, yeah, I think my voice for Jack, after the special, I think my voice at the time, I think my voice for Jack got naturally deeper and more into my normal voice. If you watch the season two trailer, you can kind of tell.
But, my voice for Jack eventually, it kind of started off as a higher version of my own voice. And it still kind of is, to an extent. You don’t want to get down here, all gravelly. But, yeah, no, it very much, I think, evolved into my normal voice, especially during the first season. If you watch the new season trailer, you can totally tell.
How would you compare your approach to Jack as a character, versus some other characters that you’ve voiced? Do you think about that at all when you go into that, or do you just work with the voice directors and the directors to find a voice for Jack and then just stick with that?
Nick Wolfhard: Well, I was given the inspiration. I was given specific character direction inspiration when it came to actually voicing Jack. One of which was Jack from Big Trouble in Little China, who actually I took big inspiration from, Kurt Russell. That was definitely the biggest inspiration. And then, obviously, I think Bruce Campbell as well, who plays Ash, who’s actually in this new season. He plays Chef, and Dirk gets into some cooking shenanigans with him, that I really liked.
But, yeah, in terms of actual inspiration, I try to, it sometimes just kind of happens unintentionally. If I see a line that I like, I will sometimes remember the way I heard a line said in some show years ago, and I’ll try to put my own spin on it. Like, if it’s something really epic sounding or something, I’ll try and do my best to … well, how did they say it? Okay, I’ll do it that way, but obviously I’ll do it in my own way. Like, how would Jack say that? You know what I mean. Like, make it appropriate for Jack.
I like that because the character of Jack, he and Quint, they do that, they go to their favorite comics or they go to their favorite cultural touchstones, movies, TV shows. And then they kind of see themselves as their own action heroes. So, that definitely works with the character when he has these grand moments, yeah.
Nick Wolfhard: Yeah. Exactly. The show is perfect for that kind of thing because there’s so many different references, where you actually need to replicate some of those line reads. But, yeah, what I was saying was that I’ll take inspiration from just a random show that I just remembered. If a line in whatever recording, if a line reminds me of another line I heard, like years ago in a different show, I will try to replicate it. But, I won’t rip it off. I’ll try to put my own spin on it and make sure it’s appropriate for how Jack sounds. Again, like I said, how would Jack approach that? How would Jack react so it’s appropriate to his character and it doesn’t sound wildly out of character?
Exactly. Speaking of Jack, while we’re on the subject of his growth in Season 2, I had a chance to talk with Max earlier today. And we were talking about Jack, and he called him sort of a flawed hero, a hero who does his best but makes mistakes along the way. He doesn’t necessarily win every battle that he takes on. What exactly do you think of Jack? What is your take on the character?
Nick Wolfhard: I mean, at the end of the day, he’s a kid. I pretty much agree with everything Max says there. He’s definitely a flawed hero. He grows along the way. He’s always going to be experiencing new things, new threats, new social situations. Might be getting into some tussles with monsters. Might be getting into some tussles with friends, you know what I mean?
Nick Wolfhard: So, he’s going to end up making some mistakes like every kid does, but he hopefully … no spoilers … hopefully ends up doing the right thing along the way. You never know. Again, kids do stupid stuff. You never really know, you know what I mean? Make mistakes, learn from them. But, make sure you learn from them, that’s the most important part.
Exactly. Yeah, that’s really important to keep in mind too. That these are the last kids on Earth. They are a bunch of kids doing their best to try to prevent like the end of the world after it seems like the world has already ended. But, there are worse things maybe on the horizon.
Talking about the friend group, but also talking about the new additions to the cast and characters you get in Season 2, did you get a chance to interact with any of them in real life outside, either in the studio or at a convention or anything like that? Any of the new cast members?
Nick Wolfhard: The new cast members? No.
That’s a bummer.
Nick Wolfhard: They all actually recorded by themselves on their own schedules because of how busy they are. With my [main] cast, I have. Montse Hernandez and I are really good friends. And Charlie Demers records with me in Vancouver, so I’ve interacted with him plenty. Garland [Whitt], I’ve actually never met in person. He plays Quint. Garland’s actually the only one I’ve never met in person.
What is it like to be in the same show with Keith David, and Bruce Campbell, and Mark Hamill, Rosario Dawson, Catherine O’Hara? When you heard that you were getting those names to come join the show, what was your reaction?
Nick Wolfhard: I mean, I was thrilled. I was incredibly psyched. At that point, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be actually recording with them. But, since I didn’t end up recording with them, I was like, “That’s still really cool. Just the fact that I’ll be able to be in it with them.” Keith David, who plays Thrull in the show, he’s also in The Thing, he’s in They Live, and what I know him best from is he plays The Arbiter in the Halo series.
So, the way I thought about it, it’s like, “Oh my god. I get to be trained by The Arbiter. That’s sick.” And also, he’s Spawn from, you guys remember, you know Spawn, the Todd McFarlane’s comic, too?
Nick Wolfhard: Yeah. He voiced Spawn as well. He actually does voicing for the newest Mortal Kombat game. But, yeah, no, it’s cool because what this new season’s kind of like about is, Thrull, he wants to help Jack become the warrior he wants to be. He gives him this like bestiary, which not only helps the greater good … I’m not going to give any specific spoilers, I’m just going off of what the trailer says … but, not only did it help with the greater good, it could potentially, in Jack’s eyes, help him become a better leader along the way. Maybe be kind of like Thrull, because Thrull is like, he’s the warrior leader of the monster group at Joe’s Pizza. So, he kind of looks up to him. There’s that.
And then, Bardle is Mark Hamill who I’ve actually been in two different projects with, and actually I’ve never met Mark Hamill, but, I would very much like to, obviously. And he’s kind of like this old dude. He’s kind of like wise, he’s very like magic wizardish-like. And he’s kind of suspicious a little bit. Something may be up with him, something might not be. We don’t really know. But, we’ll have to see. He’s very no-nonsense for sure.
And then, Skaelka: Skaelka’s Catherine O’Hara’s character. Skaelka’s great because Skaelka talks in broken English. So, Skaelka is very caveman brutish, or like a cavewoman, I guess in this sense. Brutish, like, “Me hit with stick. Oonga-boonga.” Stuff like that. Obviously, I’m paraphrasing. She doesn’t actually say that. But, yeah, Skaelka’s hilarious. I’m actually looking forward to finally seeing Skaelka on screen.
And then, Chef. Chef is also another one I’m excited for because Chef actually is the one I was talking about earlier, the one that Bruce Campbell plays. Who gets to cook with Dirk. And what’s great is that Dirk and Chef kind of get into this friendly banter about cooking. And Dirk kind of becomes like Chef’s protégé a little bit. And they’ll kind of end up using their foods together, will Chef’ll make a monster dish, Dirk’ll maybe might make a human dish. They’ll both be like, “No, no, no. This is how you do it,” kind of thing. So, their banter’s great. I’m excited for people to see that.
Speaking of stuff that you’re excited for people to see, do you have a favorite moment, without going into spoilers? Or maybe a specific episode in Season 2 that you want viewers to keep an eye for?
Nick Wolfhard: Pretty much the entirety of the last episode of the season is my favorite. There’s also an episode … again, I don’t want to give too much away … but, there’s this great training section of a certain episode that I really, you actually see a bit of it at the end of the trailer. That, “I’ll do anything to protect my friends,” that is from the episode I’m talking about. But, there’s this great, great training section with Jack and Thrull that I actually really enjoy. And I’m excited for people to see that. That’s one of my favorite episodes I recorded. That and the Season 1 finale.
It’s Book Two, but it’s technically, by all counts, it’s season one. Because the first thing that was released by Netflix was actually a special. You know, fun fact about that, that was originally supposed to be three separate episodes. But, I remember thinking to myself, “This actually worked really well as a special, altogether.” And that’s what they ended up doing, they ended up making it a special. So, smart move.
Yeah, I like the way it was laid out, too. Now, in Season 2, you get more of a traditional kind of season with 10 episodes. It was a great introduction to the world, and now you guys get to play in that sandbox a lot more. You get a bigger playground to mess around in.
Nick Wolfhard: Exactly.
Before I run out of time with you, I definitely want to make mention of a project we talked about last time, but you couldn’t talk too much about it because it wasn’t out. And that is, Smiling Friends. You teased it the last time. And now, it was out on Adult Swim very recently. How did that come about? And what exactly did you and your brother play in that short?
Nick Wolfhard: Smiling Friends has been in the works since before I got Last Kids on Earth. I remember, two or three years ago, we were talking to Zach Hadel and Michael Cusack at a dinner. They wanted to do a project together, they weren’t really sure what [but] they wanted to have us involved. They were just kind of spitballing ideas to us. Eventually, the bible to Smiling Friends was written. They got us involved. I remember we recorded Smiling Friends January of last year. We got involved because we’re huge fans of Zach Hadel and Michael Cusack. They laid out the groundwork, they showed us the script, they gave us our characters.
We played the Bliblies together. We played the purple creatures that end up invading everything and going nuts. We originally recorded way more material for the Bliblies. Hopefully there’ll be more and they’ll use more of the Bliblies stuff we recorded. I remember I actually ended up recording a lot. And then Finn plays the guy in the wall who’s on the computer. What’s funny is they actually pitch-shifted Finn to be lower, so you can never tell it’s him; my mom couldn’t even tell it was him until we told her. I play Pim’s cousin Graham Nelly; he used to be a Tech Deck champion, but he’s fallen on hard times.
It was a lot of fun. It was one of the most fun recording sessions I’ve ever had. I just recorded it in my room, actually. I remember, we had to record some drowning sounds, electrocution sounds, so I had a bottle of water, and I would just like gargle the water … I was a mess. We were just laughing, cracking up; it was so much fun. We got more than that, we got more crazy situations, but that’s all you’re gonna get for now!
That was more than I expected, so I appreciate that.
Thanks again for talking to us about Last Kids on Earth, Season 2. Looking forward to the release and the premiere, so everybody else out there gets a chance to see it. And then, yeah, looking forward to talking to you more in the future, hopefully more episodes to come. So, thanks again.
Nick Wolfhard: Okay. Sweet. Thanks.
All episodes of Atomic Cartoons’ The Last Kids on Earth are now streaming on Netflix!