For author Craig Mazin, the scariest factor in HBO TV series The Last of Us is not the Clickers, Bloaters or any of the opposite horrors from the acclaimed Sony PlayStation game it is primarily based on. It is the second a lone scientist realizes a fungal brain infection will cut back the world’s inhabitants into savage cannibals. This scene seems in a flashback newly created for the present — it wasn’t seen within the 2013 recreation or its 2020 sequel.
“That is terrifying to me,” Mazin informed me throughout a roundtable Zoom interview forward of the present’s Jan. 15 premiere on HBO Max. “It grounds every little thing, and the extra we will make the peripheral really feel actual, the extra the middle will really feel actual.”
Mazin utilized that very same curiosity to a real-life disaster when he created 2019’s acclaimed HBO miniseries Chernobyl. For The Final of Us, flashbacks and pseudo-scientific source of the infection have been derived from speaking to sequence co-writer Neil Druckmann, who wrote the sport and can be inventive director and co-president of developer Naughty Canine. He relished the chance to increase the Final of Us universe past what we see within the video games by means of an knowledgeable’s response to this apocalyptic revelation.
“Not solely is it scary to listen to the scientist say it is over, however the second the place she accepts it for herself and seeing the drama on her face is one thing distinctive for this [adaptation] that I am so glad we’re in a position to present,” Druckmann mentioned.
The flashbacks aren’t the one change that followers of the sport will discover — the timeline has been shifted so the outbreak occurred in 2003 (slightly than the sport’s 2013), with the postapocalyptic narrative occurring in 2023 (as an alternative of 2033). As a result of the sport occurred the yr it got here out, Mazin and Druckmann agreed that the chronological repositioning made sense because it did not basically change the story.
“If I am watching a present within the yr 2023 and it takes place in 2043, it is just a bit much less actual. I assumed it is likely to be attention-grabbing to simply say, ‘Hey, look, on this parallel universe, that is occurring proper now.’ So it was actually nearly serving to folks join slightly bit extra,” Mazin mentioned.
“Virtually talking, it did not change a lot apart from giving us a barely completely different palette of props, set design and automotive alternative. Curiously, as we go on by means of the sequence, we hold discovering new locations and new relics of the outdated world, [always] coming again to that 2003 vibe.”
Pushed by grief
Additional grounding the story is relatable human drama at its core. Over the first season’s nine episodes, we observe curmudgeonly smuggler Joel Miller, who’s been charged with escorting cheerful teen Ellie throughout a postapocalyptic US (we cannot say why, to keep away from spoilers). The pair are performed by Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey.
Pascal, whom you would possibly know from Game of Thrones and The Mandalorian, mentioned that the tragic loss Joel endured because the outbreak started continues to drive him 20 years later.
“He is fully pushed by trauma, and every little thing that he does, for higher or worse, is formed by that loss and never experiencing that sort of loss once more. It is one thing, sadly, so many people can relate to,” Pascal informed me on Zoom.
“It is superb to step into an adaptation of a beloved supply materials that has such an emotional human story on the heart of it, to make it all of the extra painful. Which we apparently love, as viewers members … we’re masochistic.”
Fellow Game of Thrones alumnus Ramsey famous that Ellie sees Joel’s ache, which leads to them forming a bond on their journey.
“Ellie is conscious that there is one thing up with this man — there’s extra to him, he isn’t only a grumpy asshole for the sake of it,” the actor mentioned. “She sees a shared expertise; Ellie’s misplaced a really key individual in her life [as well]. If you see somebody who’s been by means of one thing like that too, you wish to join with them [even though] Joel could be very proof against it.”
Greater than surviving
The duo are searching for Joel’s idealistic brother Tommy, who’s discovered a function attempting to fix this horrifying world. He is performed by Gabriel Luna, recognized for his roles in Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD and Terminator: Dark Fate.
“He wishes what his brother has at first, which is household — to plant a seed and watch it develop,” Luna informed me over video chat. “He is searching for a world the place you may stay with nature, and it is not attempting to actively kill you on a regular basis. He believes that we will really get again to it.”
Seemingly spearheading that return to civilization are the Fireflies, a gaggle of rebels pushing again in opposition to the navy’s harsh authoritarian management over survivors. They’re led by Marlene, who’s performed by Sons of Anarchy and The Flight Attendant actor Merle Dandridge. She informed me that the Fireflies symbolize “hope,” as they hunt for a option to give folks their autonomy again.
This casting alternative will delight followers, since she additionally voiced Marlene within the video games. (Joel and Ellie recreation actors Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson additionally show up in unrevealed roles.) She additionally confirmed that the work she did for the 2013 unique proved helpful when she was returning to the function within the present, however the legendary standing the sequence achieved within the years since opened up new avenues to discover.
“I completely did revisit the preparation. And checked in with Neil to verify I bought it proper, as a result of over time, your reminiscence could erode the precise information,” she mentioned. “The nice present of getting an current supply materials that’s so beloved, broadly performed and broadcast in every single place is that you may return, take a look at it and [immerse yourself].”
Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann will reveal extra in a companion podcast that’ll go behind the scenes of the present, HBO mentioned Monday, with podcast episodes dropping every Sunday. It’s going to be hosted by actor Troy Baker, who performs Joel within the video games.