HBO has cast the actors playing Joel and Ellie for their series adaption of the Playstation game series, ‘The Last of Us’. In the late hours of the night on February 10th, fans received news of Bella Ramsey being cast as Ellie for the series. Ramsey is known for her portrayal of Lyanna Mormont in HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’. A few hours later, the second shoe dropped. It was reported that Pedro Pascal would be starring as Joel. This should come as no surprise to fans because HBO has a history with both actors when they appeared on ‘Game of Thrones’. Craig Mazin, creator of HBO’s limited series ‘Chernobyl’, will serve as the series showrunner and filmmaker Kantemir Balagov will be directing the pilot for the series.
What is ‘The Last of Us’?
‘The Last of Us’ is a critically acclaimed video game series from Playstation owned developer Naughty Dog. Naughty Dog is known for classic video games such as, ‘Crash Bandicoot’, ‘Jak and Daxter’, and the ‘Uncharted’ series. They released ‘The Last of Us’ in the Summer of 2013 to critical acclaim. The title was a departure from Naughty Dog’s previous, light-hearted entries. It carries a certain level of emotional weight that has only been done by very few game developers.
‘The Last of Us’ follows the story of a smuggler named Joel and his journey across the post-apocalyptic United States with a young girl named Ellie. Civilization has collapsed from a zombie-like viral variant of the cordyceps fungus. This isn’t like your run of the mill fictional zombie virus, the cordyceps fungus is real (although it only infects insects and plants). As the story progresses, so does Joel and Ellie’s bond. Two people who were once strangers, become family by the end of the game. It features some of the best voice acting, directing, and writing in any video game ever. It recently was crowned the most award game series in history.
Our Joel and Ellie
This isn’t Ramsey or Pascal’s first time playing an iconic character. Ramsey played Lyanna Mormont, a foul-mouthed young woman leading House Mormont. Fans of ‘The Last of Us’ may find similarities in Ellie and Mormont. They are both capable young women in a world that highly underestimates them. Ramsey received praise from her fiery performance of Lyanna Mormont and it should come as no surprise when she completely knocks this role out the park.
Pascal is no stranger to larger-than-life roles. His breakout role as Oberyn Martell in season four of ‘Game of Thrones’ garnered praised. His performance was electrifying of the Dornish prince was partly the reason why season four is considered the best season of the series. After he finished his work on ‘Game of Thrones’, he starred as Javier Peña in the Netflix series ‘Narcos’. He received critical acclaim as the DEA agent. Perhaps his biggest role to date is Din Djarin in ‘The Mandalorian’. While he has the freedom to grow into his own as The Mandalorian, Joel already has a whole game’s worth of lore and character development that fans are expecting to see in the series. Hopefully, the showrunner will be able to stay true to the source material while giving viewers a fresh take on this story.
Since the series was first announced, there have been countless people that fans had wanted for the leading roles. For Joel, there were talks of Josh Brolin, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Jon Hamm, and Hugh Jackman being eyed. The night before they announced Pascal for the role, there was a rumor that Mahershala Ali was cast for Joel. Fan response erupted on Twitter. Many were disappointed that their fancast did not come true. Ellie had her fair share of fancasts as well. From the completely left-field casting such as Elliot Page to Maisie Williams, and Kaitlyn Denver, Ellie had a huge range of actors that fans wanted. The issue with all of the fan casting was that Ellie is a 14-year-old girl and all the fancast had people well into their twenties.
Staying True to The Series
Video game adaptions are known to be lackluster. There may be a handful of good video game movies, but more often than not, the films can’t capture the magic that the video games had. The adaption of ‘The Last of Us’ was originally a film, but after years of pushbacks and changes, the project was canceled. Then in March of 2020, it was announced that a television adaption was being developed at HBO. After the series was announced, they announced Mazin would be the showrunner and would be working closely with head writer and creator of ‘The Last of Us’, Neil Druckmann.
What makes this adaptation so exciting is how closely they will be working with the creators of the series. Secondly, the talent attached to this series garners so much hope from fans of the series. Chernobyl is one of the best series mini-series in years, and Balagov’s ‘Beanpole’ is a masterwork. Druckmann had a large hand in some of their best entries in the last fifteen years. HBO has not given a date for when ‘The Last of Us’ but best believe when they do, I’ll be watching.