Behind the scenes of The Last of Us

Image Thumbnail: The Last of Us via HBO Max

Image Thumbnail: The Last of Us via HBO Max

Nau Hernandez, Staff Writer

On January 15th, HBO released their highly anticipated show of the year, The Last of Us. Starring Pedro Pascal as Joel and Balla Ramsey as Eille. The Last of Us is based on the game with the same title created by Naughty Dog. The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world infected by a parasitic fungal infection called Cordyceps. The infection is an airborne virus which transforms the host into a zombie-like monster. The story follows Joel, who is a smuggler traveling across America alongside Ellie. Joel and Ellie are the two main lead protagonists who wish to bring the only hope of finding a vaccine.


The story explores many aspects of life, like the fear of losing. Throughout the story, we see how Joel becomes distant and cold hearted after the loss of his daughter. Later on when Joel encounters and meets Ellie, we finally get to see Joel open up to the world around him. She teaches him that there can still be hope in the dark world they face no matter what devastating circumstances arise.


Throughout the production of The Last of Us, the show went through many changes, but one answer was clear. Neil Druckmann kept a careful watch when it came to selecting his cast. Druckmann casted Pedro Pascal as Joel for the show considering his excellent potential. Neil stated: “We had been eyeing him for a while as a potential for this role. Mostly because we knew we would make a mistake if we cast a purely tough guy as Joel. I’m not saying Pedro isn’t tough, he can be very tough! But it’s all the other aspects that are more interesting and harder to find in a really good actor, which is someone where you can just look in their eyes and find a tortured soul. Or someone that can have these moments of levity and these moments of charisma.”


“The beauty of what Pedro is doing on the show, is that he’s suppressing all that and he’s not revealing it — then, when it comes out in little bits and pieces as Ellie draws it out of him, it becomes these really compelling moments of humanity that you see slowly emerge.” Ellie went through many casting choices. They had Maisie Williams or Kaitlyn Dever in mind, however, when the show began to develop, both noticed the actors considered aged out of the role. Both then decided to take auditions for the role. Throughout the auditions, their eyes pointed towards Bella Ramsey. “It didn’t feel like I was watching someone acting like Ellie. I was watching Ellie.”


Originally when Neil was directing the video game, he wasn’t given the time to develop every character. Through the development of The Last of Us, Neil was finally able to narrate each character’s personality and reason. Neil said: “We get to see the other side. Who are these people? What motivates them? They’re not pure henchmen or villains, we get to flesh them out as human beings. …It was actually quite exciting to flesh out the corners of the world, or characters that we barely touched on, and get to do a much deeper dive into them.”


When Neil was originally creating the infections for the game, the Cordyceps was intended to cause human infections by being inhaled. Neil Druckmann thought later that the infection should be transmitted via the fungi tendrils. “This came from research, talking to scientists, and just how Cordycep works,” Neil said. “What if it’s less about biting and them being violent? It’s about transferring these tendrils from one host to another. As you see in Episode 2 with Tess, if you don’t fight back, they’re not going to be violent towards you.”

This intriguing idea was alluring to bring toward a scary creature developing it further.


The set production was a tricky part for filming The Last of Us, and recreating desomated buildings overgrown with plants. Production Designer, John Paino, wanted the sets to look like how they appeared in the game. Paino stated: “Because the game is about people, I looked at a lot of references for tenements, council housing, people in slums, people who were forced to live in camps in Gaza – how do people make do in these places?” He asked many questions to further understand the world with questions like: “What happens if electricity stops for 20 years?”


The show has received a lot of support from its fans and its creators with the show having a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes among critics and a 96% among the audience. The love for The Last of Us isn’t just within the story, but rather, the crew behind it. In future regards to the show, hopefully this love carries onto its future seasons. Furthermore, a second season has been announced for The Last of Us!