Y: THE LAST MAN Star Ben Schnetzer Talks Ampersand And The Challenges Of Acting Alongside A CGI Monkey
Ampersand the monkey is one of the most important and recognizable characters from the Y: The Last Man comic. Here, actor Ben Schnetzer talks about the challenge of acting with a CGI monkey...
Brian K. Vaughan's three-time Eisner Award-winning comic book masterpiece Y: The Last Man is iconic and memorable for many reasons. One of the first things people associate the title with, however, is the monkey.
Named Ampersand, the capuchin is the only mammal with a Y chromosome to survive the apocalyptic event - other than his owner/trainer/handler, Yorick Brown. Together the two are the story's protagonists alongside other characters like Agent 355, Dr. Allison Mann, and Hero.
The graphic novel began in 2002, with the television adaptation of the series following two decades later, and thanks to the technological advancements over the years, the CGI for Ampersand the monkey is executed perfectly.
When Yorick Brown actor Ben Schnetzer spoke with Digital Spy this week, he was asked for his thoughts on Ampersand and the challenges a CGI companion adds to the scenes. The actor had a lot to say about filming Y: The Last Man with an imaginary primate, and you can read his thoughts below.
"When I first found out that Ampersand was going to be CGI, I was a little bit disappointed. I was a little bit like, "Oh, man." And then I actually thought about the reality of the day-to-day, sharing every scene with a small monkey. And I was like, "Actually, you know what? It's probably fantastic that this character is CGI." Jesse [Kawzenuk], who was one of our VFX guys, he and I worked very closely. We would shoot a scene with Ampersand, and I would endow him in the space. Where is he? What does he want? How long has he been in his cage? Just asking yourself these questions.
It's so great when you do a show like this because you just have such phenomenal resources. The producers were like, "Hey, do you want to speak to an animal trainer, just to get it?" So I spoke to an animal trainer, who's giving me, "This is how much they weigh. This is what they like to do. This is where they go if they're scared." We play make-believe, you know? You do your research, and then you show up on the day, and you just get to pretend you have a pet monkey like you do when you're a kid. It was really fun.
I'm glad it reads because when people who aren't used to being in scenes with Ampersand – like when we have scenes together – it takes a while to remember, "Oh, hey, remember, the monkey's there." There's a beat where we have to look at Ampersand. So even though the monkey wasn't real, you're like, "Hey, by the way, he's hungry still." You're kind of showing people how to deal with the pretend monkey that's not there."
What do you guys think of these comments from Schnetzer? Do you dig the CGI monkey, or would you have preferred a live-action companion for Yorick's journey?
Be sure to check out the trailer and synopsis for Y: The Last Man below, and as always, share your thoughts in the usual spot!
Based on DC Comics' acclaimed series Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra, Y traverses a post-apocalyptic world in which a cataclysmic event has decimated every male mammal save for one lone human. The new world order of women will explore gender, race, class, and survival.
New episodes of Y: The Last Man premiere every Monday on FX on Hulu.