Exclusive Interview – Scott Peterson, Showrunner for The Last Kids on Earth

Tai Freligh interviews Scott Peterson, Showrunner of The Last Kids on Earth…

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Scott Peterson is the Executive Producer and Showrunner of the Netflix animated series The Last Kids on Earth.  Scott was nominated for a prime time Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program for writing Nickelodeon’s Escape from Cluster Prime and a second time for Phineas and Ferb: Last Day of Summer. Scott worked as story editor for Disney TV Animation on Milo Murphy’s LawPhineas and FerbKick ButtowskiThe Replacements, and Emperor’s New School. He has also written for such series as Wander Over YonderMy Life as a Teenage RobotBrandy and Mr. WhiskersDanny PhantomThe X’sRobotboyTutensteinPet Alien, and The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries. Scott’s debut middle grade book series “Shipwreckers” launched this year from Disney/Hyperion. He is also the author of over a dozen top-selling books in the Phineas and Ferb series including “Phineas and Ferb’s Guide to Life,” “Agent P’s Guide to Fighting Evil,” and “The Book of Doof.” He co-authored the novelization of the Disney live-action feature of “The Jungle Book” and also pens comics for Nickelodeon and Disney.  He has written for every genre and media imaginable including video games, live action features, IMAX 3D films, interactive internet projects, amusement park venues, instructional DVDs, hotel comedy wake-up calls, and perhaps most importantly, for the Weekly World News. Flickering Myth’s Tai Freligh caught up with him to chat about the new season of The Last Kids on Earth and what we can look forward to with the series.

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When I interviewed Max Brallier, he said each season of the show would be based on a single book, so which book is the second season based on?

Our first “season” was a 66-minute special based on the first book. Our second “season” contains ten different 22-minute episodes based on his second book “The Last Kids on Earth and the Zombie Parade.” And this is when things get cra-zy!

What is the new season of “The Last Kids on Earth” about for those who haven’t read the books?

Spoiler alert! Jack, June, Dirk, and Quint meet a society of talking monsters living in Joe’s Pizza, just as someone or something starts abducting all the zombies. So now that Jack finally has a family of friends, does he have what it takes to protect them from whatever lurks out there? <CUE DRAMATIC MUSIC>

Why should people watch the new season?

The best reason to watch the new season is that it really takes what we established in the special (this great, funny group of kids) and explodes it out into a much bigger world. It still has all the action and comedy, but on a much larger scale as the kids try to create a new society with creatures from another dimension. The second reason is that if enough people watch, Netflix will ask us to make more!

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Why do you think the world of “The Last Kids on Earth” is so resonant with fans. and has that changed since COVID-19 has become such a big presence right now?

One of the most important things that Max’s books did, and that we attempt to do with the TV series, is to show kids that it can be possible to not only survive when things get bad, but to thrive and have fun. Jack fights every day to make the best of the situation he is in. And I think that totally applies to what we’re going through right now. I don’t mean to downplay the seriousness of what’s going on in the world by any means, but individually, when possible – people can take the time they’ve been given and work to make it the best that we can. That’s the serious answer. But, the show works just as well as pure escapism. What’s a better distraction from being cooped up at home than going on an adventure in a land of giant monsters?

The newest “The Last Kids on Earth” book launched on April 7th. How does the Netflix show follow the cadence of the book series? How does it differ?

We know there are millions of fans of the books out there, so we’ve been sticking pretty closely to the structure of the books. The main story arcs are definitely still there, but with the TV show, we have a little more room to explore other characters and to add additional character arcs and subplots that pay off over the course of the series. And dancing. There wasn’t enough dancing in the books.

What drew you to this project, as a producer and showrunner?

I hate to give Max any credit (jokingly), but the books won me over immediately. I’m a big Halloween and horror movie nut, so the world he created is right up my dark, deserted alley. But then he combined that with real characters experiencing real emotions and that made this show a no-brainer. Put that together with Netflix and the amazing folks at Atomic Cartoons and I really didn’t have a choice.

Talk about how the pitch with Netflix went and how much time did you have to prepare?Advertisment

By the time I came on board, Netflix had already decided to make the show. They jumped on it very quickly, foregoing the usually development phase in order to leap right into production. So at that point, I was only pitching myself to the team by showing how I would interpret the books and how I envisioned the series. I had two days to prepare and walked into Netflix on October 31st (2019) for my one and only meeting before signing on to the show.

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How much influence did you have on how the show was adapted from the books as the showrunner?

Probably too much. If the show goes down the toilet, I’m pretty much to blame. Luckily, Netflix, Atomic, and Max were all very open to changing and expanding the material to make it work for an episodic series. We created a few new characters, expanded on others, and developed new character arcs and subplots to flesh out the stories in the books.

What did you bring to the table in this collaboration?

I brought bagels. I had just come off nearly a dozen years at Disney working as a story editor and co-producer on shows like Phineas and Ferb, with a producing background in visual effects before that. So I knew the importance of bagels.

Do you have a favorite episode or moment from the new season?

That’s like asking me to choose my favorite child. Luckily, I have a favorite child. Despite my love of all the action and monsters and mayhem, I really like one of our more emotional episodes called “June Gloom.” It’s a story that wasn’t in the original books, but that we thought was important in developing June’s overarching emotional story about her parents. In the episode, Jack thinks he’s doing something sweet by bringing June back to her house, unaware that it may bring up a lot of unexpected feelings… and deadly monsters.

The new season features some big A-list voices including Catherine O’Hara, Mark Hamill, and Rosario Dawson. What characters do they play?

Auuugh! That’s a great question that I totally want to answer, but I can’t! I’ve been sworn to secrecy until the big reveal. And don’t bother asking about Keith David or Bruce Campbell either. I can’t talk!

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What do you think drew them to the project and what was it like to work with the newly expanded cast?

Everyone responded so enthusiastically to the material, whether it was the original books or the series scripts, but to cover our bets, Max and I also made personalized video pleas to the actors, basically groveling to show how much we wanted them. It was worth every grovel; these folks are phenomenal and so much fun to work with. And they complement our phenomenal main cast so well, Nick Wolfhard, Montse Hernandez, Garland Whitt, Charles Demers (and Brian Drummond as 90% of our monsters).

Max told us that there will be a season three. Can you tell us anything about the plot or what’s next for Jack Sullivan and company?

Our “season three” will be another ten episodes based on the third book in the series “The Last Kids on Earth and the Nightmare King.” New monsters, new dangers, and new weirdness as something messes with our heroes’ minds.

Has the coronavirus impacted the production or timeline of the show and/or any of the books and toys being produced along with the Netflix show?

The next ten episodes are already delivered, so rest assured, you’ll be watching zombie-bopping action in April. And for the book three episodes, so far, so good, knock on wood, cross our fingers. Even though our whole crew, over a hundred talented Atomic folks both in the U.S. and Canada, are now working from home, we are still on track to get ten more crazy eps out later this year. In terms of the toys, Jakks Pacific has a whole batch of them out right now and they are amazing! We’ve all been geeking out over them. Just search online for Last Kids on Earth toys!

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Speed Round:

How do you survive the zombie apocalypse?

Friends. Well, friends plus a giant catapult that flings refrigerators.

If not a producer, what would you be doing right now?

I’m a writer, through and through, but if I couldn’t work in TV at all, I’d be designing and building haunted houses. Scaring people is addictive.

Favourite apocalyptic movie or television show?

Is Army of Darkness apocalyptic? If not, then I’d say Last Man on Earth. Will Forte is fearless.

If you were the last kid on Earth, what would you do first?

First I would wonder how I suddenly became a kid; I haven’t been a kid for a long time. Then I would hit up the nearest Mexican restaurant before all the guacamole went bad.Advertisment

Favourite show on television right now (besides this show)?

Does streaming count? I can’t get enough of Community. “Troy and Abed in the morning!”

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The Last Kids on Earth series from Netflix follows 13-year-old ‘Jack Sullivan’ and a band of wisecracking suburban middle-school kids who live in a decked-out tree house, play video games, gorge themselves on candy, and battle zombies in the aftermath of a monster apocalypse.  Scott Peterson is the showrunner and an executive producer, as well as Matthew Berkowitz and Jennifer Twiner McCarron as executive producers on behalf of Atomic Cartoons.The Last Kids on Earth returns to Netflix on April 17th for a second season, “The Last Kids on Earth and the Zombie Parade.” The series is from Atomic Cartoons. The new season based on the second book in the franchise will premiere with ten, 22-minute episodes and will star the voices of Mark Hamill, Rosario Dawson, Catherine O’Hara, Bruce Campbell, Keith David and Nick Wolfhard in the starring role.“The Last Kids on Earth” is part of a larger world of IP that includes the book series as well as toys and other consumer products. The latest book installment of the series, “The Last Kids on Earth: June’s Wild Flight” published by Penguin, was released on April 7th.

We thank Scott Peterson for taking the time to chat with us about The Last Kids on Earth book series and show on Netflix.  He can be found on InstagramTwitter, and his website.

Tai Freligh is a Los Angeles based writer and can be followed on TwitterFacebook and Instagram and can be found on his website too.

Stills courtesy of Netflix

(article originally appeared on Flickering Myth)

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