HBO’s ‘The Last of Us’ adaptation pushes the universe way beyond PlayStation games

For writer Craig Mazin, the scariest thing about… HBO TV series The Last of Us Not Clickers or Bloaters or any of the other horrors The legendary Sony PlayStation game The series is based on. It’s the moment a lone scientist realizes that a fungal brain infection will reduce the world’s population to savage cannibals. This scene appears in a newly created flashback for the show – it wasn’t in the 2013 game or sequel 2020.

“This is terrifying to me,” Mazen told me during a Zoom interview ahead of the show’s January 15 premiere. HBO Max. “It is the basis of everything, and the more real we can make the outer periphery feel, the more real the center will feel.”

Mazen applied the same curiosity to me A real disaster when created Popular 2019 HBO Series Chernobyl. For The Last of Us, the flashbacks and pseudoscientific source of infection were derived from speaking to series co-writer Neil Druckmann, who wrote the game and is also the creative director and co-head of developer Naughty Dog. He relished the opportunity to expand the world of Last of Us beyond what we see in the games with an expert’s reaction to this shocking revelation.

Not only is it scary to hear the scientist say it’s over, but the moment she accepts it herself and seeing the drama on her face is something unique to this. [adaptation] I’m so glad we’re able to show that,” Druckmann said.

Flashbacks aren’t the only change fans of the game will notice – the timeline has been shifted so the outbreak took place in 2003 (instead of 2013), with the post-apocalyptic narrative taking place in 2023 (instead of 2033). Since the game took place the year it came out, Mazin and Druckmann agreed that the chronological rearrangement made sense as it didn’t fundamentally alter the story.

“If I were watching a show that’s set in 2023 and takes place in 2043, it’s less realistic. I thought it might be interesting to say, ‘Hey, look, in this parallel universe, this is happening right now.'” So it was about helping people connect a little bit more,” Mazin said.

In practice, it hasn’t changed much other than giving us a slightly different palette of props, set design, and vehicle selection. Interestingly, as we go on in the series, we keep finding new places and new relics from the old world, [always] Back to that 2003 vibe”.

driven by grief

Further grounding the story is the interconnected human drama at its core. Through the first season’s nine episodes, we follow evil smuggler Joel Miller, who’s been accused of escorting cheerful teen Ellie across a post-apocalyptic United States (we won’t say why, to avoid spoilers). The couple is played by Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsay.

Pedro Pascal holds a flashlight in a dark place in The Last of Us.

Pedro Pascal says Joel was “shaped by loss”.

HBO

Pascal, who you may know from game of thrones And The Mandaloriansaid the tragic loss Joel suffered as the outbreak began continues to drive him 20 years later.

“He’s completely driven by trauma, and everything he does is, for better or worse, shaped by that loss and never to suffer that kind of loss again. It’s something that, unfortunately, many of us can relate to,” Pascal told me. Zoom in.

“It’s an amazing step to edit beloved source material that has an emotional human story at its center, to make it more painful. Which, as audience members we seem to love…we’re masochists.”

Fellow Game of Thrones alumnus Ramsey notes that Ellie sees Joel’s pain, which leads to a bond on their journey.

Ellie is sitting in a room with grass on the floor while Tess is talking to her in The Last of Us.

Mysterious teen Ellie (left) is the focus of the story, and characters like Tess (right) soon learn how important she is.

HBO

“Eli realizes there’s something with this guy — there’s more to him, he’s not just an angry asshole for it,” said the actor. “She sees a shared experience; Ellie has lost a very important person in her life [as well]. When you see someone who has been through something like this as well, you want to reach out to them [even though] Joel fights back hard.”

More than survival

The duo searches for Joel’s perfect brother Tommy, who has found purpose in trying to fix this horrific world. Played by Gabriel Luna, known for his roles in Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD And Terminator: Dark Fate.

An anxious Tommy holds a gun and stares from the camera at The Last of Us.

Characters like Tommy find new purpose in a devastated world.

HBO

“He desires what his brother first had, which is family — to plant a seed and watch it grow,” Luna told me via video chat. “He’s looking for a world where you can live with nature, and he’s no longer actively trying to kill you all the time. He thinks we can really come back to it.”

And apparently, the Fireflies returning to civilization are a group of rebels who resist the military’s ruthless tyrannical control over the survivors. They are led by Marilyn, played by Sons of Anarchy, and flight attendant, actress Merle Dandridge. Fireflies represent “hope,” she told me, because they are looking for a way to give people their autonomy again.

Marilyn holds a gunshot wound to her stomach as her ally in The Last of Us looks on.

Merle Dandridge (left) plays Marilyn in the games and the show.

HBO

This casting choice will delight fans, as she also voiced Marilyn in the games. (Toy Joel and Ellie actors Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson, too She appears in undisclosed roles.) She also confirmed that the work she did for the 2013 original came in handy when she returned to the role on the show, but the legendary status the series has achieved in the years since has opened up new horizons for her to explore.

“I definitely revisited the preparation. And I checked with Neil to make sure it was right, because over time, your memory might erode the actual facts,” she said. “The great gift of having existing source material that is so beloved and widely played and broadcast everywhere is that you can go back and look at it and [immerse yourself]. “

Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann will reveal more in an accompanying podcast that will go behind the scenes of the show, HBO said Monday, with episodes of the podcast dropping every Sunday. It will be hosted by actor Troy Baker, who plays Joel in the games.

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