Everything We Know

Everything We Know About The Last of Us HBO Series

Based on the popular video games, the new series looks to offer a fresh spin on post-apocalyptic action.

by | July 22, 2021 | Comments

The Last of Us Screenshot

(Photo by Naughty Dog/Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Seven years after first announcing that they’d be making a movie out of the video game The Last of Us, and five since those plans collapsed, Sony is now bringing the sneaky and scary survival horror game to HBO, with some familiar names helping out.

Based on the 2013 game, The Last of Us is set in 2033, 20 years after the world’s population, and thus society has been decimated by a fungal infestation of the brain that initially makes its victims violently insane and feral, and later destroys their eyes, forcing them to use echo location to find people… and rip their throats out. Here’s everything we know so far about the anticipated adaptation.

What Is the Game About?

The Last of Us II

(Photo by Naughty Dog/Sony Interactive Entertainment)

In The Last of Us, tough-guy survivor Joel Miller is hired to escort a teenager named Ellie through the wasteland and to some doctors who believe that Ellie may be the cure to the plague. As they make their way from what used to be Boston to what’s left of Salt Lake City, they run into the usual post-apocalyptic tropes, including roving groups of infected, a couple of cannibals, some huge jerks, and a giraffe who’s escaped from a zoo and is getting out while the getting is good.

It’s expected that while the show will mostly follow the plot of the first game, it may incorporate elements from The Last of Us Part II, which is set five years after the first game. That said, it actually seems more likely that they’ll pull elements from The Last of Us: Left Behind, an Ellie-centric prequel set before the events of the first game.

But the series is expected to expand upon the game’s story as well, including, apparently, some elements that were previously cut from the game. In an interview with the BBC Sounds’ “Must Watch” webcast, series co-creator and writer Craig Mazin said of his Naughty Dog collaborator on the series, “Neil [Druckmann], at one point, he was like, ‘You know, there’s one thing we were talking about [doing in the first game] for a while,’ and then he told me what it was, and I was like — gonk! — OK, jaw drop, that’s going in. We have to do that.”

Mazin also said, “So the changes that we’re making are designed to fill things out and expand. Not to undo, but rather to enhance,” adding that, “It’s not like we just decided, ‘Well, wouldn’t it be cool if there’s one episode where Joel and Ellie get on motorcycles and confront a motorcycle gang?’ There’s no episodic nonsense here. The things that are new and enhancing of the storyline that we’re doing are connected in organic, serious ways that I think fans of the game and newcomers alike will appreciate.”

Who Will Star in It?

Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey

(Photo by Toni Anne Barson/WireImage; Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)

Fittingly, the cast announced so far includes a few video game veterans. For the role of father figure Joel, the producers chose Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones, The Mandolorian), who has interactive experience from voicing Paolo in the 2016 sneaky action game Dishonored 2, while Ellie will be played by Pascal’s Thrones co-star Bella Ramsey, who voiced Freya in Doctor Who Infinity: The Dalek Invasion of Time. Then there’s The Flight Attentants Merle Dandridge, who will play Marlene like she did in the first game (and briefly the second).

Anna Torv

Anna Torv (Fringe, Mindhunter) is the most recent casting announced. Deadline reports Torv will play smuggler Tess, who accompanies Joel to get Ellie to the Fireflies.

The cast also includes an Us veteran in Bosch’s Jeffrey Pierce, who was the voice of Joel’s BFF Tommy in both games, but will, according to Deadline, have a recurring role as “…a rebel in a quarantine zone,” while Chernobyl’s Con O’Neill, who voiced Titchy Gren in the game Dark Souls II, will be joined by Murray Bartlett (Iron Fist) as “…survivalists living alone in their own isolated town.” As for others who don’t have any games on their resumes, we also have Gabriel Luna (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.Terminator: Dark Fate), who has been cast as Joel’s younger brother Tommy, and young Nico Parker, who made her screen debut in Disney’s live-action Dumbo, guest-starring as Joel’s daughter, Sarah.

Who Is Developing the Series?

Craig Mazin and Johan Renck

(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

The series will feature some of the same names as the games. Druckmann — who was the writer and a co-director of the first game and a co-writer and co-director of its recently released sequel — is one of the show’s co-creators alongside Mazin, and will probably write or co-write some episodes, while one of the show’s executive producers is Evan Wells, who is the CEO of Naughty Dog, the company that made The Last of Us games.

As we mentioned, some of the people who worked on The Last of Us games will also be helping out on the HBO show. Along with the aforementioned Druckmann and Wells, the show will also feature music by Gustavo Santaolalla, who’s done the score for both games, as well as for such TV shows as Jane the Virgin and Making a Murderer. It will also be co-executive produced by Asad Qizilbash, who is doing the same job on the upcoming Uncharted movie, and has had his name in the credits of such Sony games as Death Stranding, Ghost of Tsushima, and multiple God of War installments.

As for people working on The Last of Us who aren’t employees of Naughty Dog or Sony, the first episode (and possibly more) will be directed by Kantemir Balagov, who wrote and directed the Russian drama Beanpole, with subsequent episodes directed by Ali Abbasi, the writer/director of the 2018 film Border, and Jasmila Zbanic, who made the Oscar-nominated 2020 movie Quo vadis, Aida? There are reportedly still two more directors to be announced for the series’ 10-episode first season, but this initial crop of acclaimed international filmmakers certainly raises the bar.

Other staffers that may be familiar to TV lovers but not necessarily to gamers include the show’s executive producers, among them Carolyn Strauss from Game of Thrones and Chernobyl and Altered Carbon’s Rose Lam.

On the business side, The Last of Us is being produced by Sony Pictures Entertainment in conjunction with PlayStation Productions. No strangers to television, Sony Pictures Entertainment’s credits include Breaking Bad, The Boys, and Seinfeld. As for the relatively new PlayStation Productions, The Last of Us show is their first TV series, and only second announced production after — fittingly — the aforementioned movie based on Naughty Dog’s Uncharted games. That one is slated for early 2022, with actors Tom Holland (the MCU’s Spider-Man), Mark Wahlberg, and Antonio Banderas taking direction from Ruben Fleisher (Zombieland).

When Will It Premiere?

The Last of Us video game (Naughty Dog/Sony Interactive Entertainment)

(Photo by Naughty Dog/Sony Interactive Entertainment)

As with all TV shows these days, production on HBO’s adaptation of The Last of Us has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike productions that started filming and then had to stop, though, Mazin said in the aforementioned BBC interview that he and Druckmann have only just moved onto the writing stage, having figured out what Mazin calls “the first cycle” of the series.

Thanks to an Instagram post by Gabriel Luna in early July of 2021, we know that the series began filming as originally planned. It’s scheduled to wrap in June 2022, according to  the Director’s Guild of Canada, CBC reported, which means either we won’t see the series before late 2022 or else — less likely, but possible — they’re shooting two seasons in one stretch and the first season might drop sooner. (A gamer–TV fan can dream!)

In any case, The Last of Us won’t be shambling onto HBO until late 2021 at the earliest, which isn’t great news for eager fans, but it is just enough time for the unfamiliar to finish playing the games before the show spoils everything for you.

Thumbnail image by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images

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