Amber Tamblyn on How the Joker, Meghan McCain Inspired Her 'Y: The Last Man' Character (Exclusive)
By Stacy Lambe
On Y: The Last Man, the gripping post-apocalyptic series adapted for FX by showrunner Eliza Clark, Amber Tamblyn plays Kimberly Campbell Cunningham, the daughter of the president and conservative author who survives a mysterious event that wipes out every living creature with a Y chromosome. While speaking with ET, the 38-year-old actress reveals how the likes of the Joker and Meghan McCain influenced her character and what it’s been like to go toe to toe with Diane Lane as onscreen political opponents.
[Warning: Some spoilers for the first three episodes of Y: The Last Man, which are now streaming on FX on Hulu.]
Viewing Kimberly’s late father, President Ted Campbell, as a John McCain type, it only makes sense that Tamblyn drew inspiration from his daughter. “I pulled from Meghan [and] I pulled elements from a lot of different kinds of women for this character,” the actress explains, before revealing that she even turned to the Joker for inspiration. “Even though he’s not a woman, I pulled from the Joker for some of her looks.”
So when the event not only kills off her father, but her husband and three sons as well, it makes sense that the self-described “boy mom” doubles down on her right-wing politics and insists on having a place in the room when Congresswoman Jennifer Brown (Diane Lane) is sworn in as president. Despite not being an elected official, Kim feels that she’s earned the right to make decisions as Brown works to restabilize the government in the immediate aftermath.
“Kimberly's entire identity has been built on her relationship to her three sons, to her husband, certainly to her father and his access to power,” Tamblyn says. “She writes a lot about how modern-day feminism in the modern-day world is destroying the lives of our young boys and not allowing them to become who they are meant to be. So the evaporation of your identity on that scale, all of a sudden not having any of those people or that perspective in your life anymore, leaves quite a shell of a woman.”
And as she picks up the pieces of her own life, Kimberly is determined to get as close to the center of power as possible to get them to understand that there is no future without men and somehow revive the past. “That really is Kimberly’s both conscious and unconscious mission,” Tamblyn says. “So I think you’re going to see a lot of grappling for power in that way and a lot of manipulation and tactics to try to become more of a voice within Jennifer Brown’s cabinet.”
And even in the first three episodes, audiences see examples of that, especially as Kimberly realizes that Jennifer is holding onto a secret that could change everything, which is that her son, Yorick (Ben Schnetzer), is alive.
“When she finds out about Yorick, I think it’s doing several things. It’s giving her hope for the future of mankind. It also brings back a strange Oedipal mother instinct in her where she, in a dissociative way, sees Yorick as this lost son,” Tamblyn says, adding that “she’s certainly very angry with Jennifer because this has been hidden from everyone.”
But, she adds, “There’s also a quiet, jealous rage that Kimberly harbors throughout the season.”
And that rage, along with her manipulative tactics, results in Jennifer and Kimberly going toe-to-toe at various points throughout the season. When it comes to sparring with her co-star, Tamblyn has nothing but praise for Lane. “We are both well-oiled machines [and] we could really play,” the actress says. “And that was quite a pleasure.”
She adds, “It was so much fun because of all of the different places we get to go between these two characters, which really required giving a lot.”
Tamblyn teases that despite what happens early in the season, not everything is what it seems. “And towards the end of the season, there are some major things that happen that just basically flip everything upside down and turn it into a whole new world," she says.
“And as Kimberly navigates through this world of grief, she becomes something quite spectacular as far as a sympathetic villain is capable of becoming,” Tamblyn says, adding that “she’s somebody that people are going to root for and also be completely terrified of at the same time.”
And if that’s not enough to get audiences excited about where things are headed, she ends by teasing, “Just you wait!”