If you have a kid in middle school, chances are pretty good you’ve seen or heard of the Last Kids On Earth series. It’s the one about Jack Sullivan and his band of middle school friends who live in a treehouse and battle zombies after a monster apocalypse. The New York Times bestselling graphic novel series is now a Netflix children’s title, and a merchandising engine, with the show starring voices perhaps best known to parents of the kids who are the target audience.
Star Wars giant Mark Hamill, producer and actor Rosario Dawson, and Emmy Award-winning Keith David are just a sample of the star power working alongside Brallier and showrunner Scott Peterson for the animated series developed by Atomic Cartoons. The title character, Jack, is voiced by actor Nick Wolfhard, an elder brother of fellow Netflix actor
Bestselling children’s book author Max Brallier has a new series out on Netflix. It’s named “The … [+]
Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things.)
Writing a book series solo is a very different process than helming a four-person writing team tasked with pushing your stories to a streaming audience, says Brallier. The process was illuminating, says the author, who right now is traveling the country on book tour (for newly-released book The Last Kids On Earth and the Midnight Blade) while also celebrating the September 19 series premiere.
“It’s been a ride,” says the show’s creator and executive producer Brallier, talking to me while driving from Mobile, Alabama to his next tour stop in New Orleans. “It feels like moments of extreme excitement punctuated by moments of ‘oh this is terrifying.’ It was cool and strange and weird and eye-opening…”
At the same time, Brallier’s inner 13-year-old is stoked to be working with his “heroes” and to announce the launch of a “Last Kids” game plus full merchandising including costumes and the high-tech tools the kids use to save planet earth.
Here’s what else he had to say.
ASG: How did you get Mark Hamill to sign on?
MB: The showrunner and I sat down in the writer’s room and got out our iPhones and recorded a video of us begging him to do it, quite honestly. [Last Kids on Earth] wouldn’t exist if not for Star Wars. He was just killing it in the Dark Crystal. I knew that it would be a crazy dream come true and the coolest moment of this entire thing was when he came into the recording studio and, not being poked or prodded, said he read the books.
ASG: Describe working with other writers to tell a story you already told?
MB: Writing a book is much more solitary. It’s just me and my editor and then at some point me and the editor and designer working with the illustrator. But on the show, it’s 20 emails a day and it just feels much bigger. It’s been rewarding in ways I never expected and in ways that maybe I did expect. I don’t sit with readers and go over it page by page and try to figure out how to turn this chapter an episode of a show… Having people write together, having people together as a team, there was a sort of cameraderie that I didn’t know I was missing all this time.
ASG: How did you handle the pacing of book versus TV series?
MB: We did a special, which feels like a movie, of the first book. We didn’t want to do a 10-episode season because it would’ve been Jack alone at the end of the world. The first book became the special, book two is season two, which is 10 episodes. It covers the story of book two from a different perspective. We’ll do the same for book three and are working on another special as well.
ASG: How did the deal come about?
MB: Six days after my daughter was born- April 2017 – that’s right when Atomic Cartoons [emailed.] After a couple of months of making sure we had it all figured out, we went around with it. It’s been about two years since Netflix [expressed interest.]
ASG: How did you find your real-life Jack?
MB: The hardest part for me came when we had to choose voice actors for Jack because Jack has been the voice in my head the whole time because it’s written in the first person. Then I get a zip file and I hear 100 people reading lines. It was very bizarre to hear that. It took a while to find the actor, and I was getting nervous that we weren’t hearing it. Then we heard Nick and I was like ‘that’s the voice.” That was the thing that was the hardest and also the biggest sense of relief. That’s Jack.