In 2013, Naughty Dog set out to create a gripping story about two survivors in a post-apocalyptic world. The world almost instantly fell in love with Ellie and Joel. The Last of Us resonated with a lot of fans with its many emotionally-packed moments throughout its short campaign. Now, live-action video games rarely turn out well but fans hoped with a little hesitation that some studio would do the story justice. Currently, HBO works hard at attempting just that beginning with their cast choices for the iconic survivor duo.
THE FIRST OF US
The Last of Us holds the distinction of winning the Game of the Year award for both titles in the franchise. The Last of Us Part II surprisingly won the title despite allegations of poor work conditions for Naughty Dog in 2020. Given the series’ immense success, it was only a matter of time before a studio attempted a live-action adaptation.
The entire campaign of The Last of Us focuses heavily on Joel and Ellie’s adventures through a decimated United States while coming across a variety of friendly (and unfriendly) characters. Undoubtedly, the crux of the series weighs heavily on the relationship with Ellie and Joel but the supporting roles serve to illuminate the struggles and development of the main duo.
Today, HBO finally announced their choices for the actors playing the roles of Ellie and Joel. Coincidentally, both actors playing the lead roles already have experience working with HBO. HBO first announced Bella Ramsey’s addition to the cast playing the role of Ellie. Subsequently, news outlets reported Pedro Pascal’s casting as Ellie’s companion and protector, Joel.
Interestingly, both Ramsey and Pascal worked with HBO in the past on the then-hit TV show, Game of Thrones. Fans celebrated Ramsey’s breakout role in Game of Thrones as the matriarch of the Mormont clan, Lyanna Mormont. Pascal likewise acted his heart out as Oberyn Martell before moving on to play a leading role in the successful Mandalorian series. Powerful actors man the most important roles in The Last of Us’ story but there are numerous other roles that need strong casting choices.
THE REST OF US
Fans unfamiliar with the series will be surprised to know that the immensely successful game has few characters besides Joel and Ellie. The supporting cast of characters numbers just under ten people. Of course, this discounts the numerous amounts of nameless grunts that the main duo faces off against.
Naughty Dog masterfully crafted a gripping emotional story with only a small cast. It is precisely the efficient storytelling in the games that captured the attention and hearts of many players. HBO made no announcements regarding the other important roles in the story. Fortunately for them, we have some ideas about who should join Pascal and Ramsey on The Last of Us cast.
The story requires two strong actors in the opening stages of the game’s story. Joel’s brother, Tommy, and daughter, Sarah play a major role in the beginning of the global pandemic. Tommy appears again later in the story but Sarah plays a much more concise role. Undoubtedly, Sarah’s impact on the story bears the greatest weight out of all characters despite her short appearance. Game of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau or Firefly’s Nathan Fillion can both fill-in for Tommy. For the role of Sarah, The Witcher’s breakout star Freya Allen can play Joel’s Daughter.
Coster-Waldau already famously played one brother on TV but more importantly, he has the grit and character to play as the calmer of the two in-game siblings. Fillion serves as a fitting alternate given his extensive experience in Fantasy series including a voice credit as Hal Jordan in the Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox movie. Freya Allen on the other hand could bring the required emotional punch in Sarah’s in-game scene.
Joel’s initial partner Tess likewise has a small but significant role in the series. The rebel Firefly leader Marlene holds the bigger role out of the adult women on the cast. Movie star Tessa Thompson can bring out the required mettle and drive that’s required from Marlene’s character. Voice clips in the game’s final stages also reveals the character’s vulnerabilities as the exhausted leader of a massive rebel movement. Marvel, Star Trek, and Avatar star Zoe Saldana can also bring out the best of one of the game’s biggest characters. Olivia Wilde isn’t known for heavy scenes but she could definitely play Tess. Wilde’s short role as a mother deer in Bojack Horseman shows her capacity for depth as an actress.
THE SUPPORT PILLARS
Bill and David round out the list as two significant minor characters in the story. Their impact varies but both are indispensable to the grand scheme of The Last of Us. Bill is unruly, untrusting, and pessimistic but he provides much-needed aid for Joel and Ellie. Additionally, he serves as an extra emotional gut punch for the story when you find out what happened to his former partner. Bill’s voice actor and motion capture model W. Earl Brown appeared in multiple movies and TV shows across an illustrious career. Live-action adaptations never pick the same people that played them in the source material but Brown would be an excellent exception to that trend.
David’s actor needs to be menacing, soft-spoken, and vaguely trustworthy. He appears in the story by attempting to offer aid to Ellie but his true colors are shown later in the chapter. David Tennant, famous for Doctor Who, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and Jessica Jones would make an excellent David. Tennant’s appearance by default leads people to lower their guards. However, he has shown his amazing capacity to play darker roles. Tennant’s brief role as Barty Crouch Jr. in Harry Potter offered a glimpse of his dark portrayal. His role in Jessica Jones cements him as a bonafide villainous actor. David is not inherently villainous from the start but that needs to come through within the first few moments of his introduction.
Disappointing video game adaptations litter both the Movie and Television space. Fans can be forgiven for approaching each adaptation with caution given the genre’s terrible past. However, some adaptations hit the mark so there’s hope for HBO’s The Last of Us. Additionally, HBO proved its capacity for amazing TV shows despite the extremely questionable ending for Game of Thrones.
At the end of the day, fans only want a respectful adaptation to one of the most beloved franchises of the past decade. Joel and Ellie’s story deserves to be told. Above all, it deserves to be told properly. Fortunately for fans everywhere, TLOU lead writer and director Neil Druckman leads the HBO adaptation team for the hit game. That itself inspires confidence that the show will do the game story justice.
HBO has not announced a definite release date for The last of Us’ release.