The Last of Us HBO series has the potential to be one of the biggest TV shows of the 21st Century, doing for gamers what Game of Thrones did for fans of fantasy.
All the ingredients are there from the get-go: Neil Druckmann is on-board to write The Last of Us show alongside Chernobyl’s Craig Mazin. Beyond that, there’s a Breaking Bad director helming the pilot, and the return of composer Gustavo Santaolalla.
Of course, while our guide to The Last of Us TV show will tell you plenty about the upcoming series – from confirmed characters to details about an enhanced story – there’s also plenty we don’t know. Fan-casting can only take us so far but, in the absence of official casting news, we’ve zeroed in on who the audience wants to play Joel and Ellie.
Plus, there’s a new update from Craig Mazin, which means that we should put our Listen Mode on and perhaps expect new details shortly.
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No The Last of Us HBO series release date (yet), but here's when things might get moving
What next? Expect something potentially very soon. Mazin revealed that official work on The Last of Us HBO series wouldn’t be going ahead until after Part 2’s PS4 release in May, but the game has since been released.
After that, all systems are go: “We can’t start on it right away because they’re still finishing up the second game. We’ve been talking about it for months, little plans and things. We’re going to dig in in full, full earnest once they wrap up their final work on the sequel,” Mazin said on his Scriptnotes podcast pre-release.
As a further update, Mazin said on Twitter in September, "People have been asking for updates. I can't say much, but I can say this: we are working hard. Ideas have taken root in our brains and are starting to sprout up and out of our heads."
First, the essentials: The Last of Us is coming to HBO, but there’s no release date yet; it’s simply coming at an unannounced point in future. It will be brought to life by Neil Druckmann, writer of the original game, and Chernobyl's Craig Mazin.
The Last of Us HBO series story: "enhanced" but will it adapt both games?
So far, only a synopsis has been officially revealed by HBO: "The story takes place 20 years after modern civilization has been destroyed. Joel, a hardened survivor, is hired to smuggle Ellie, a 14-year-old girl, out of an oppressive quarantine zone. What starts as a small job soon becomes a brutal, heartbreaking journey, as they both must traverse across the U.S. and depend on each other for survival."
As revealed by The Hollywood Reporter in early March, the series will “cover the events of the original game… with the possibility of additional content based on the forthcoming game sequel [The Last of Us 2].”
A separate report from the publication indicates that “future seasons” are a possibility, meaning this is unlikely to be a Chernobyl-style miniseries but instead one that will stretch out over several years. The mention of sequel story beats also making their way into the HBO series should also whet the appetite of many with the game due out shortly.
Co-creator Craig Mazin has also hinted that The Last of Us HBO series may be a more definitive version of the game's story, telling the BBC, "In this case, I’m doing it with [Neil Druckmann], and so the changes that we’re making are designed to fill things out and expand, not to undo, but rather to enhance." In the same interview, he added that the TV series will include a moment not in the games that will make our jaws drop.
So, how do you adapt one of the most beloved games of all time? Carefully, probably.
The Last of Us creative director Neil Druckmann has briefly touched upon the challenges of bringing the game's story across to HBO in an interview with EW.
"You have to figure out [with a TV show] how it communicates ideas or tells stories. In removing the interactivity of the story, how do you make it unique for this other medium? It's an interesting challenge, and I think there's a lot to learn from it... Craig [Mazin] had ideas about how to adapt the show, it became intriguing to work with another creative who I admire. It just became a no-brainer - and to do it under the umbrella of HBO and all their content."
Troy Baker, who plays Joel in both The Last of Us and its sequel, has full faith in the story adaptation versus the original plans to turn it into a movie.
"The thing that encourages me most [about the HBO show] is that while there were a lot of people in Hollywood that stood up and took notice [of The Last of Us and its success] and were thinking, ‘Oh, a lot of people like this - we should turn it into a movie’, Craig [Mazin] came at it from a fan’s perspective," Baker told Fandom in a recent interview. "He just wants everybody to know this experience”.
The Last of Us cast: every confirmed character so far
As for the characters involved, Joel will feature, while Ellie was confirmed by Druckmann in a tweet posted on International Women’s Day on March 8.
Joining her will be Ellie’s Left Behind girlfriend, Riley, as well as Tess, Marlene, Maria, and a redacted character with four letters – which very well could be *mild spoilers for The Last of Us 2* Abby, a member of the WLF.
And now you have Ellie, Riley, Tess, Marlene, Maria, ⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️, and a few others! 😉 https://t.co/GMozU0TaZEMarch 8, 2020
Mazin also assuaged fears that characters will not change from their game counterparts by stating that Ellie will remain LGBTQ.
You have my word.March 5, 2020
Things are even slowly starting to come together behind the camera. The Last of Us HBO series has its first director: Johan Renck, of Breaking Bad, Chernobyl, and music video fame. He told Discussing Film that he has only signed on for the pilot due to not having space in his schedule to commit to an "ongoing" TV series.
Alongside the cast of characters and director is a certain composer. Gustavo Santaolalla will be scoring the HBO series, just as he did with the first two games.
The Last of Us HBO series fancasting: who should play Ellie and Joel?
Several of the game's community have even made their case for The Last of Us HBO cast members in the absence of official announcements at this early stage. Among the fan-casting favourites are Game of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Hugh Jackman, and Gerard Butler as Joel, with Kaitlyn Dever, Sophie Lillis, and Stranger Things’ Sadie Sink being suggested for Ellie.
Among those, Dever has been the first to speak out. She told Collider that "I obviously have been seeing the Internet, and I’ve obviously been seeing a lot of [the fan casting]... I’m not shutting it down. I would absolutely love to do that."
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau was asked about playing Joel in a recent Reddit AmA. His response? "I just got Part 2. What a great game." It's not a no...
Troy Baker, who voices Joel in the game series, said that Josh Brolin would've been a "knockout choice" for Joel (and actually pitched the idea to him in an airport) but admitted “I don’t know if I would walk away learning something different about Joel."