'Y: The Last Man' Star Ashley Romans on Whether Audiences Should Trust Agent 355 (Exclusive)
By Stacy Lambe
On Y: The Last Man, FX’s captivating post-apocalyptic series that picks up after a mysterious event wiped out every living creature with a Y chromosome, breakout star Ashley Romans plays the even more mysterious Agent 355. Now halfway through season 1, she’s been tasked with protecting Yorick (Ben Schnetzer), the only person with a Y chromosome to survive, as the two travel across the country in hopes of finding a cure. While speaking with ET, Romans opens up about Agent 355’s complicated motives, the secretive Culper Ring and why audiences shouldn’t necessarily trust her.
[Warning: Some spoilers for the first five episodes of Y: The Last Man, which are now streaming on FX on Hulu.]
First introduced as an undercover operative who is transferred to the White House’s security detail just before the event takes place, Agent 355 finds herself on a new mission assigned to her by acting President Jennifer Brown (Diane Lane) that’s testing her limits. “She’s never done an apocalypse before,” Romans says with a laugh.
“She doesn’t know what she’s doing. This is a person who’s so used to operating with this authority over her. The Culper Ring tells her what to do and she functions in a very specific way,” she continues. “And now that she doesn’t have that, she’s kind of lost and trying to figure out what she’s going to do.”
But the longer she finds herself with protecting Yorick, especially as they travel further away from Washington, D.C., in search of renown geneticist Dr. Allison Mann (Diana Bang), the more “Agent 355 is stepping into her power,” Romans says. “And faking it ‘til she makes it.”
And after Agent 355 and Yorick set out for Boston -- which involves the sudden death of two of their comrades tasked with traveling with them -- and learn that Dr. Mann’s laboratory has been destroyed, the three of them must now head across the U.S. to San Francisco. A decision that Agent 355 makes without checking in with President Brown or with much thought for Yorick’s steadfast desire to reunite with his fiancée, Beth (Juliana Canfield).
The biggest test for Agent 355 is seeing the firm boundaries she’s created in life become more elastic as her feelings for Yorick and Dr. Mann blur. That, as well as “her personal feelings about her job and the agency that she works for.”
When it comes to the Culper Ring, audiences learned more about the organization in episode 5, when Agent 355 made a secret detour to visit a safehouse. There, she encountered Agent 525 (Lou Jurgens), who reveals she was assigned to the State Department just before the event and that she was also recruited by Fran, the same woman who brought Agent 355 in.
“She’s not sure if they’re good people. And she’s not sure if they had anything to do with the event,” Romans says. And before even knowing that Agent 525 was alive and learning about Fran, “she has a lot of questions that’s really going to challenge her identity as an agent.”
As a result, keeping Yorick safe becomes even more important to her. “This is actually the mission that’s going to give her life the ultimate purpose. She can actually be in service of something way bigger than her,” Romans explains.
Perhaps the most revealing scene was the opening of episode 4, when audiences saw Agent 355 performing onstage during an elaborate dream sequence, which revealed that she also sleepwalks. “Deep down, this is a woman who was an artist and she has this bigness inside of her that’s itching to get out. And she’s made a habit of suppressing this in the service of what she was told was bigger than her, the Culper Ring,” Romans says. “And now that the whole organization is crumbling, that bigness is starting to escape her in the form of sleepwalking.”
That said, it’s still unclear, at least right now, if audiences should totally trust her. Not only was she responsible for a helicopter crash, killing two of their people, Agent 355 also destroyed a sat phone that could have been used to connect with President Brown as they determined the next step in their mission.
“Audiences, for sure, should worry. 355 is scary, and she’s a person with her back against the wall. And I think with all these characters, you see how savage people can be when their back is against the wall and their survival is at stake,” Romans says, pointing out how Agent 355 gaslighted Kimberly Campell’s mother, Marla (Paris Jefferson), into believing that she didn’t see Yorick in the Capitol Building in episode 3. “She made Marla question her own sanity.”
“None of these characters are going to fit any specific mode,” Romans continues, pointing out that in episode 4 there was a scene between Yorick and Agent 355 arguing about the helicopter crash that was cut. “We had a whole other part, where 355 gaslights Yorick and says, ‘No, I didn’t do it. But if I had done it, it would have been worth it.’ And he’s left not knowing if she really did it. And the audience is also left not knowing if she actually did it. And the final cut, which I think is so much more powerful, is that there’s no question. Yes, she did it and we’re moving on.”
For Agent 355, in this post-apocalyptic world amid all this death and destruction, she believes “it’s within her rights to do what she has to do for them,” Romans says. “And that is a very questionable way to view anything.”
Y: The Last Man is now streaming on FX on Hulu. New episodes debut every Monday.