Actors’ Involvement in Adaptations Within ‘The Last of Us’

Bella Ramsey, Ellie in HBO’s The Last of Us, was advised to not consult the original media. Is this idea unique?

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The Last of Us is an adventure game released in 2013 by Naughty Dog. The game was monumental at its launch. It sewed together cinematic and beautiful cut scenes, difficult and intensive action-packed gameplay, a complex and compelling story amid an apocalyptic world, and a found father-daughter dynamic at the heart of it all. The game won thirty-six awards from several award programs. Most notably, The Last of Us won Game of the Year, Best Design, and Best Narrative at the 14th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards. The game is hailed as one of the greatest games ever made.

Series Adaptation

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It came as no surprise to fans that after nine years, The Last of Us is finally getting a television adaptation. The series was greenlit in March 2020 with news of a series coming to HBO Max in 2023. In October 2021, the photo above was posted as one of the first stills released. The show features Pedro Pascal as Joel and Bella Ramsey as Ellie. Head of Naughty Dog, Neil Druckmann, reported that the show will feature some dialogue directly from the game, but the series will bring new dialogue and shine a light on the characters’ personal drama, via HBO.

The Last of Us Trailer

On September 26th, HBO dropped its first trailer releasing footage from the series. It’s bleak and bloodthirsty but matches the tone of the original exactly. Viewers now have a first look of the show’s zombies, clickers, and other settings from The Last of Us. The trailer is incredibly promising and honors the core of the video game well.

Alternate Approaches in Acting

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Interestingly enough, lead Bella Ramsey (Ellie) was asked to not play the original video game. In a recent interview with USA Today, during her audition, Ramsey was asked if she had played the video game.

“I was actually encouraged not to,” Ramsey recounts. “After my first audition, they asked me, ‘Have you played it?’ And I said ‘nope’, and they said, ‘Keep it that way’!”

Despite the polarized reaction from fans on Twitter, a separation between the game and the series makes sense. This adaptation is unique. This is a series adapted from a video game, not like a series adapted from books.

For example, the three leads for Disney+’s Percy Jackson adaptation, Percy Jackson (Walker Scobell), Annabeth Chase (Leah Sava Jeffries), and Grover (Aryan Simhadri), all expressed their love for the book series and how they’ve grown up with the novels. But books are different from video games. Books allow readers the ability to conjure character appearance within their own personal interpretations. Video games already have rendered models along with specific facial tendencies and voice acting. Ramsey was advised not to consult the game too much, most likely to not let the original performance alter her own interpretation of Ellie.

Ramsey admits she did watch some YouTube gameplay to get a sense of the game. Pascal reports his familiarity as he used to watch his nephew play. He says to GQ in an interview: “It’s so sad, I haven’t any skill. I tried [to play the game], you know. And then it was only a matter of minutes before I had to hand it over to my nephew. It really takes a specific kind of skill, and I don’t have it.”

Regardless, there is a lot of excitement and anticipation surrounding ‘The Last of Us’ series release. The original Joel (Troy Baker) and Ellie (Ashley Johnson) showed their support towards HBO’s adaptation. We can’t wait to see a new and refreshing take on the beloved story, familiar and new all at once.

Read our other articles about The Last of Us and more on video game news.

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