HBO is finally rolling cameras on their adaptation of Naughty Dog’s immensely popular video game The Last of Us, and there’s even a photo of the cast getting ready to face the post-apocalyptic world from the production’s set.
Word on HBO starting production on The Last of Us TV series comes from producer Craig Mazin’s insightful screenwriter-centric podcast Scriptnotes, which he co-hosts with John August (highly recommended, by the way). Plus, The Last of Us co-star Gabriel Luna posted a glimpse at the show’s cast on Instagram.
The Last of Us TV Series Set Photo
What you see there are the Millers. The Mandalorian star Pedro Pascal as Joel Miller, Terminator: Dark Fate’s Gabriel Luna as his brother Tommy, and Dumbo’s Nico Parker as Joel’s young daughter Sarah.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of playing the original video game, I won’t spoil anything for you, but don’t get used to those smiles. The Millers don’t have a whole lot of good times in this post-apocalyptic story.
The basic story of The Last of Us finds a grizzled old curmudgeon is hired to escort a young girl through the dangerous world to a group calling themselves the Fireflies. This is decades into a sorta-zombie apocalypse, mind you. A fungus has mutated its victims into mushroom-headed creatures that can pop spores and infect new hosts. They can also just rip your throat out in a violent rage.
The young woman Joel is hired to protect is Ellie, not included in the above picture. If the show follows the game, then the happy family unit you see above will be a prologue setting up Joel’s character, so Ellie isn’t present for those scenes.
Ellie will be played by Pascal’s Game of Thrones co-star, Bella Ramsey (whose Lady Mormont had my vote for the one who deserved to sit on the iron throne when all the dust settled, but alas that was not meant to be).
Mazin and his Chernobyl partner in crime Carolyn Strauss produce alongside Naughty Dog’s Neil Druckmann with Beanpole’s Kantemir Balagov directing the pilot.
For Those Who Want Context with Major Spoilers
If you’re reading this far, then you want a little more context for the selfie Luna posted. Spoilers be damned!
One of the most interesting things about The Last of Us games is how they play with perspective. They use the immersive engagement that comes with playing a character to make you see their stories from different points of view. In the first game, you mostly play as Joel, but that changes a few times during the game, including at the very beginning.
The very first person you play in this series isn’t its hero Joel, or the scrappy, complicated Ellie. It’s Sarah Miller, Joel’s daughter. When the game launches you are this tween girl wandering around an empty house, calling out for her father. The world is going to hell outside, but you only catch glimpses on the news until Joel and your Uncle Tommy show up, frantically loading up the truck with supplies and getting the heck outta dodge.
Side note: the opening of this story takes place outside of Austin, and it was surreal to realize this on my first play through because it turns out Joel and Sarah lived kinda in my neck of the woods. In fact, they get stuck on a length of highway I use all the time. That made the immersion aspect even more effective for this player.
It’s a brilliant move for the game because it puts you into this young girl’s shoes… until she’s wounded and then you’re her father, carrying her through the chaos of a world falling apart, and ultimately failing to protect her.
A Punch to the Gut
The smart folks at Naughty Dog knew that by putting you in this girl’s perspective is essentially promising you she’s going to come out of this okay. When she’s hurt, the perspective shifts to her father and now you’re surely going to get this girl out of harm’s way, right?
When Joel fails, you fail, and blammo – you’re in the same headspace as the main character of this game.
This sets up Joel perfectly for being the distant hard-ass he is when Ellie comes into his life, a young girl who possibly carries the hope for humanity’s survival within her blood. He doesn’t want to bond with anybody, let alone a girl who very well might remind him of his daughter.
Between this and The Mandalorian, Pedro Pascal seems to be slipping quite comfortably into the reluctant caretaker role, doesn’t he? My man’s gotta be careful or he’ll be typecast as the quiet, protective surrogate father.
The Last of Us TV series has an exciting cast for a top tier, dark story that loves to explore the gray area of humanity being run by a banger of a creative team. Can’t wait to find out more about this one.
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