How 'Y: The Last Man' Creators Defined Gender in a World Without Men

Y: The Last Man is available on Hulu now but the title of the TV adaptation of the comic series may be misleading according to the show's creator.

Newsweek spoke to showrunner Eliza Clark, the 'last man' himself Ben Schnetzer and his co-star Ashley Romans about the new sci-fi drama series which sees half the world's population die in the first episode.

"I've been a fan of the comic for 10 years and I think it's a beautiful story. There's incredible characters and the worlds are so interesting," said Clark who was tasked with updating the story of Y: The Last Man from when it was first published in 2002 to today. "Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra who created the original, I'm a big fan of them both and they were very generous to sort of say, 'we wrote this 20 years ago, please, do your thing'."

Many people come into Y: The Last Man thinking that every man in the world (except one) is dead but this is not the case. The creators and cast of the show want to be clear that it's actually almost every being, human and animal, with a Y chromosome who die.

"For me, the most important thing was reflecting the diversity of gender. That is the sort of reality and truth of the world we live in." Clark stressed that the titular Yorick (Schnetzer) is just the last human alive with a Y chromosome, and that there are actually, because chromosomes and gender are separate, plenty of trans men who survived. "I think it just adds to the richness of the landscape and the world that we're working in. I loved the book but we're just sort of taking it into 2021."

Y: The Last Man
Yorick (Ben Schnetzer) explores an abandoned New York City after a deadly event in "Y: The Last Man" on Hulu. Rafy Winterfeld/Hulu

Schnetzer's character Yorick wakes up one morning after a catastrophic global event and finds himself, and his male pet monkey Ampersand, to be the last remaining beings with a Y chromosome.

Clarifying the landscape for Newsweek, he said: "Yorick is the last cisgender man in the world but there's a great number of men that still remain after this event takes place. And there was a great number of men who populated the cast as well alongside myself."

One of the core cast members is Elliot Fletcher (Shameless) who plays trans man Sam Jordan. Sam is caught in a tough spot when he must constantly explain why he's one of the few men left alive.

Reflecting on what it was like being one of the only cisgendered male cast members on a female led show, Schnetzer said: "As far as just the team of individuals that we were working with, it was just one of the most freakin' inspiring, creative, dedicated group of individuals I've ever worked with -- irrespective of gender."

Beware of Agent 355

Almost certain to be one of Y: The Last Man's breakout stars is Ashley Romans who plays the mysterious but unstoppable Agent 355. She's tasked with protecting Yorick, the new president's (Diane Lane's) son, and she has a lot of opposition as more people become curious about the existence of the last man on earth.

"I came to be a bad ass through really awesome stunt coordinators and stunt women and fantastic writers. A lot of people came together to make that character very bad ass, but sure I had a lot to do with it too," Romans told Newsweek.

Ashley Romans on Y: The Last Man
Ashley Romans plays the enigmatic Agent 355 in "Y: The Last Man" on Hulu. Rafy Winterfeld/FX

Not letting her get off with being so humble, showrunner Clark added, "This woman is like one of the most capable human beings I've ever met in my life and besides from being an incredible, genius actor, she is like a force.

"So most of the stunts that you see on screen are Ashley, you should be afraid of her, because she is a bad ass. She could take us all."

Much like, Romans' character, the show as a whole pulls no punches and depicts the dystopian world with gritty realism and harrowing repercussions. Even 'the event' which sees every person in the world with a Y chromosome die in unison doesn't shy away from the fact that husbands, brothers, grandpas and sons are all dead, leaving their surviving loved ones devastated.

Schnetzer says it was definitely considered how viewers would perceive such a dark show after a tough 18 months in the real world. "We were like, this could either really pop and be a bold, fun parallel to dive into, or people are gonna be so done apocalyptic stuff. Hopefully it's the former."

Ben Schnetzer in Y: The Last Man
Yorick finds himself to be the last human alive with a Y chromosome, but that's the only impressive thing about him according to the actor that plays him, Ben Schnetzer. Rafy Winterfeld/FX

'The Last Man' is an average Joe

While Agent 355 is formidable and possesses a number of skills that make her so deadly, Yorick is comparatively normal. We meet Yorick as an average Joe -- a pet monkey-owning struggling escapologist who's unknowingly caught in a fractured relationship. Schnetzer admits he loved the fact that he was unexceptional, rather than a hero-in-waiting.

"It was always what was more exciting for me. What happens if it's a real burden for him? If it's a real reluctance, you know, he doesn't want to be this, he didn't ask for this. There's a line, a panel in the graphic novel where Yorick says, 'with little power comes little responsibility'.

"I read the pilot and it was just awesome, and really exciting, and just a really fun, dynamic, very original character." Schnetzer continued, "That really hooked me and then I started reading the graphic novels kind of throughout the audition process, and got hooked on the graphic novels. It's just a very fun, it's just a kind of endlessly rich and exciting world to dive into."

U.S.-based viewers can watch the first three episodes of Y: The Last Man on Hulu now while U.K.-based viewers will have to wait until September 22 when they drop on Disney+.

Each following episode of the 10-part season will drop weekly.

Elliot Fletcher in Y: The Last Man
Elliot Fletcher plays Sam, a trans man who survived in "Y: The Last Man" because he does not possess a Y chromosome. Rafy Winterfeld/FX