Everything We Know About HBO's 'The Last of Us' Series

Pedro Pascal of 'The Mandalorian' will star in this highly anticipated video game adaptation.

pedro pascal the last of us
Pedro Pascal | Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic
Pedro Pascal | Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

When the video game The Last of Us was released in 2013, it looked like a perfect candidate for a big-budget movie or TV adaptation. Naughty Dog, the developer behind the popular Uncharted series (which got a mediocre movie treatment starring Tom Holland as the Indiana Jones-meets-Benjamin Franklin Gates adventurer Nathan Drake), dreamed up the pummeling tragic story of the game, which follows a grizzled smuggler as he escorts a young girl across a zombie-packed wasteland, with a number of cinematic reference points like Night of the Living Dead and Sin City in mind. The game—which earned rave reviews, even being declared a masterpiece, and sold over a million units in its first week—fit right in with other early '10s zombie favorites like The Walking Dead and World War Z.

Though the game's publisher Sony announced in 2014 that it had signed on to distribute a Last of Us movie produced by Evil Dead and Spider-Man filmmaker Sam Raimi, the project got caught up in development hell and never came out. Now, HBO is producing a Last of Us series from Chernobyl producer Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann, the game's co-writer and co-director. Will this one actually come out? Yes, it actually will—barring a zombie apocalypse. Read ahead for everything we know about what will likely be one of the biggest genre shows of the next few years.

the last of us part hbo, pedro pascal, bella ramsey
A first-look photo of Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey in 'The Last of Us.' | Courtesy of HBO Max

When will HBO's The Last of Us be released?

HBO's adaptation of The Last of Us was first announced back in March 2020, months before the game's highly anticipated sequel, The Last of Us Part II, was released in June 2020. The show received a series order from HBO in November 2020 and casting news begun to trickle out. So, when can we actually expect to see the show? In March 2021, the Director's Guild of Canada confirmed that the series would begin shooting in Calgary in July. A cheery photo of some of the actors and crew members gathered together in Calagary popped up on social media in July. On November 7, Neil Druckmann posted on Twitter that his time in Canada had "come to an end," and in June 2022, Craig Mazin tweeted "That’s a wrap!!!!!!!" which we can take to mean TLOU is in the can and ready for release.

Though there's no official word on the release date yet though, a fall 2022 release feels likely. In September 2021, Naughty Dog and HBO released the first look at the series, which you can see below, and in June 2022, HBO offered another photo, which you can see above, of its two main characters in a very dark environment.

What will The Last of Us be about?

The Last of Us tells the story of Joel, a survivor of an apocalyptic event involving some deadly mutant fungi, and Ellie, a teenage girl who Joel agrees to smuggle out of a quarantine zone. The zombies-like creatures in the game are referred to as "The Infected" and the first game is set roughly 20 years after the collapse of civilization following the initial outbreak. In the game, you spend a lot of time avoiding and fighting your cannibalistic enemies with various, often makeshift, weapons, but, like with most ambitious zombie fare, there's quite a lot about human frailty in there and plenty of ethical conundrums to face.

The game itself was praised for its capacity for hope even in its dire scenario, subversions of tired tropes about women needing to be saved, and the story at-large—UK gamer magazine Edge called it "the most riveting, emotionally resonant story-driven epic" of the PlayStation 3 era. With so much charged material to work with, HBO's adaptation should be able to turn the game's bleakness into a powerful, unique, and tragic take on a survival horror series, and with Druckmann involved, it should stick pretty close to its source material.

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Bella Ramsey in 'Game of Thrones' | HBO

Who has been cast in The Last of Us?

In February 2021, it was announced that Pedro Pascal would play Joel, the male lead in the series. Recently, he's played the helmet-wearing title character in Disney+'s The Mandalorian, the wish-granting villain in Wonder Woman 1984, and the aloof Nicolas Cage mega-fan in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, after his memorable stint as charismatic revenge-seeker Oberyn Martell in Season 4 of HBO's Game of Thrones. So, The Last of Us will be a quasi-GoT reunion because the other main part, Ellie, will be played by Bella Ramsey, who played straight-talking fan-favorite Lyanna Mormont in the final seasons of the long-running fantasy epic.

In April 2021, HBO announced that Gabriel Luna, who recently played the super-advanced "Rev-9" Terminator in 2019's Terminator: Dark Fate, will play Tommy, the younger brother of Pascal's character Joel. In June 2021, HBO announced that Nico Parker, who played Collin Farrell's daughter in Tim Burton's remake of Dumbo, will take on the role of Joel's daughter. 

In December 2021, Deadline reported that Nick Offerman (Parks & Rec, Devs) that he would be joining the show as the survivalist Bill, replacing the previously cast Con O'Neill (The Batman, Our Flag Means Death). In January 2022, Storm Reid, who plays Rue's younger sister on sister HBO show Euphoria, was announced as Riley, an orphan and friend to Ellie before she meets Joel. Finally, when TLOU dropped its first still from the series, it was also announced that Ashely Johnson and Troy Baker, who voiced Ellie and Joel in the games, would be part of the ensemble as new characters.

craig mazin
Craig Mazin at the Emmys in 2019 | FREDERIC J. BROWN / Getty Images

Who are the creators behind The Last of Us?

HBO's The Last of Us will be produced by Craig Mazin, the Emmy-winning writer behind the Chernobyl, and Neil Druckmann, one of the key creators behind the game and the co-president of Naughty Dog, the game developer behind The Last of Us. It's rare to see the original developer of a game so closely involved in the writing of a Hollywood adaptation, but, from a creative standpoint, it sounds like Mazin and Druckmann hit it off.

"Neil Druckmann is without question the finest storyteller working in the video game medium, and The Last of Us is his magnum opus," Mazin said in a statement when the project was initially announced. "Getting a chance to adapt this breathtaking work of art has been a dream of mine for years, and I'm so honored to do it in partnership with Neil."

Druckmann was equally complimentary of Mazin. "From the first time I sat down to talk with Craig I was equally blown away by his approach to narrative and his love and deep understanding of The Last of Us," said Druckmann. "With Chernobyl, Craig and HBO created a tense, harrowing, emotional masterpiece. I couldn't think of better partners to bring the story of The Last of Us to life as a television show."

In June of 2020, Chernobyl director Johan Renck was announced as the director of the pilot and an executive producer for the series, but he had to leave the production because of a scheduling conflict. (Last year, it was announced Renck was directing a space drama starring Adam Sandler for Netflix.) Renck was replaced by Kantemir Balagov, the filmmaker behind last year's acclaimed Russian drama Beanpole.

Jasmila Žbanić (Quo Vadis, Aida?) and Ali Abbasi (Border) will also direct episodes of the first season. On the July 6, 2021 episode of the screenwriting podcast Scriptnotes (via Collider), Mazin indicated that the first season would have "five directors across 10 episodes."

Also, in March of 2020, Druckmann announced that Oscar-winning composer Gustavo Santaolalla, who created the music for both The Last of Us and its sequel, will handle the scoring duties for the series.

Will the show follow the story of the video game?

We'll have to wait and see how closely the series follows the exact story beats laid out in the game. (As Game of Thrones fans know, adaptations can go all sorts of ways.) When the project was first announced, the Hollywood Reporternoted that the series "will cover the events of the original game, which was written by Druckmann, with the possibility of additional content based on the forthcoming game sequel."

In an interview with BBC Sounds' Must Watch webcast (via Syfy Wire), Mazin indicated that he's aware of the fan expectations for the series. "One anxiety I think fans of something have is that, when the property gets licensed to someone else, those people don’t really understand it, or are gonna change it, or make it stupid,” he said in the interview. “And in this case, I’m doing it with the guy who did it. And so the changes that we’re making are designed to fill things out and expand. Not to undo, but rather to enhance."

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