“I had a few minutes of worrying about it,” actress Mary Steenburgen says about the survival of her character Gail Klosterman on “The Last Man on Earth” this season, in which Gail is trapped in an elevator and contemplating suicide for several episodes. Steenburgen reveals in an interview with Gold Derby (watch the exclusive video above) that star/creator/executive producer Will Forte reassured, “I would kill Tandy off before I would kill Gail off,” alluding to his own character.
Steenburgen joined the Fox apocalyptic comedy in the middle of the first season after Forte told the Oscar winner (1980 Best Supporting Actress, “Melvin and Howard”) that he wanted to write her a character and she screened the first two episodes. She gushes, “It was like my career was rewarding me for something — for just hanging in there. That’s how I felt about it and I feel that every day when I’m on the set. I love being there, I love the people and I love the strangeness and the hilarity of the world that we create there together.”
Gail is seldom seen without a bottle in her hand, which Steenburgen says is actually filled with grape juice or ginger ale most of the time, “and then sometimes on a very, very late Friday night, it’s just wine.” Despite having appeared in 39 episodes, little is known about Gail, and Steenburgen has no desire to learn more beyond her backstory beyond a nugget last season that provided a reason for her alcoholism. Steenburgen recalls, “Last season, we had talked about: What is Gail running from and what is she hiding? And they find out in just one sentence in one scene with Kristen Schaal that I had a son and that he died and that he didn’t die from the [virus] and that’s never explained or spoken about again.”
Looking ahead to the fourth season, Steenburgen teases, “One of the thrills is that Kristen Wiig came on at the end last season and she’s going to be back and she’s a friend of mine and she’s just a crazy remarkable talent. I’m really excited to work with her.” She is competing on this summer’s Emmy ballot as Best Comedy Supporting Actress.
Steenburgen will also be seen this fall in the ninth season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” eight years after her last appearance on the improvised comedy for HBO created by Larry David. “I’m not in it a lot because they overlapped with ‘Last Man,’ so I really wasn’t able to do very much,” she says before remarking, “It honestly felt like no time had passed and we started the next day. It felt exactly the same. I’m sure we all look a little bit older, but other than that, it’s exactly the same.”
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