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Everything you need to know about HBO's The Last of Us TV series

Will The Last of Us become HBO's next big hit?

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last of us tv show

The Last of Us Part II currently holds the record for the most Game of the Year awards in history with 261 total accolades. If you’ve got that much of a hit on your hands, there’s no way you’ll slow down.

While we await the inevitable video game follow-up, HBO is producing a prestige television show based on the hit franchise. HBO announced the television adaptation for The Last of Us in March 2020. The series will be produced by Game Director Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin, creator of HBO’s hit mini-series Chernobyl. Rather than a straightforward adaption, the series will adapt and expand upon the Last of Us universe in interesting ways that’ll be exciting for fans and newcomers alike. Here's everything we about HBO’s upcoming The Last of Us television series.

Ellie and Joel in HBO’s series.

Naughty Dog/ Sony

When is the Last of Us release date on HBO?

Alongside a September 2022 teaser trailer, HBO confirmed a loose timeframe of “2023” for the series premiere, but then in early November 2022, the game’s developer Naughty Dog confirmed a release date of January 15. That date had been leaked the day prior to the announcement, however.

Production on The Last of Us began in July 2021, according to an Instagram post from actor Gabriel Luna. Filming reportedly wrapped in June 2022.

Post-production and editing can take many months depending on the scope of the project. The seven-episode Game of Thrones Season 7 wrapped filming in February 2017 and then premiered in July 2017 five months later. Then consider something like The Witcher Season 2, which consists of eight episodes that concluded filming in April 2021 to then drop on Netflix in December 2021 eight months later. HBO Max chief content officer Casey Bloys told the Hollywood Reporter in July 2022 that the release of The Last of Us will be “closer to early 2023.”

As it turns out, that will indeed be the case. The Last Of Us Season 1 will have spent only about six months in post-production before airing.

Is there a Last of Us trailer?

HBO released the first “Teaser” on The Last of Us Day 2022, which occurs on September 26 every year. In the universe of the games, that’s the day that the Cordyceps infection reached critical mass. Check it out below:

To the tune of “Alone and Forsaken” by Hank Williams, we see plenty of key moments from the first game — and a little bit of the “Left Behind” DLC. Many of the early scenes take place in the quarantine zone of Boston, where the game begins. In one tense scene, Joel hides from a Clicker zombie with Ellie and Tess. There are also a few shots from the game’s prologue in which Joel and his brother struggle to survive on Outbreak Day.

An interesting new development confirmed by this trailer is that the HBO series will include flashbacks not featured in the game as a way to flesh out the game’s story. As a “Teaser,” this trailer doesn’t really have a coherent throughline and instead delivers a ton of shots without context. Fans of the game will of course be able to recognize a number of key moments, however.

What is The Last of Us?

The Last of Us is an award-winning video game series developed by Naughty Dog. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic world that went into ruin after a 2013 mutant Cordyceps fungus outbreak created zombie-like creatures around the world. The original Last of Us mostly takes place 20 years after the initial outbreak, focusing on a haggard, middle-aged smuggler named Joel. He's tasked with protecting a child named Ellie who may hold the key to saving humanity.

In such a grim world, there’s more than the fate of humanity at stake, however.

The Last of Us shares a lot of common DNA with Naughty Dog's other hit video game series, Uncharted, in its overall approach to exploration and combat. But it focuses more deeply on developing its robust, complex, and flawed characters. The story falls squarely in the realm of a pandemic apocalyptic science fiction, and it's more complex than a "zombie video game."

Riley and Ellie

Naughty Dog / Sony

Who is in HBO's The Last of Us cast?

We currently know a few characters that will appear in The Last of Us on HBO. Joel will be played by Pedro Pascal, who is known for his work on The Mandalorian, Narcos, and Game of Thrones. Ellie will be played by Game of Thrones' Bella Ramsey. It was announced in April 2021 that Joel’s brother, Tommy, will be portrayed by actor Gabriel Luna. You might know Luna for his previous role as Robbie Reyes in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or for portraying Rev-9, the antagonist in Terminator: Dark Fate.

Luna’s casting confirms that both Joel and Tommy will be of Spanish descent in the HBO series.

It was announced in May 2021 that actress Merle Dandridge, who played and voiced the rebel leader of the Fireflies named Marlene, would reprise the role in live-action for the series. Nico Parker was cast as Joel’s daughter Sarah in late June 2021.

Deadline reported in July 2021 that actress Anna Torv would play Tess, a smuggler who is Joel’s companion early in the game. And earlier that month, Deadline also reported that Jeffrey Pierce and Murray Bartlet had joined the series. “Pierce will recur as Perry, a rebel in a quarantine zone,” the article reads. “Bartlett guest stars as Frank.”

Pedro Pascal stars as Joel.


Interestingly, Pierce voiced Joel’s brother Tommy in the game but his character in the show, Perry, is new to the franchise. Talking on the To All the Films We Judged Before podcast, Pierce hinted that his character is “part of a brand new branch that has huge implications for things that did occur in the game” and that the plot will “will unveil things that attach to the game.”

Despite originally announcing that Con O’Neill would be playing the role of Bill, the latest footage from the show reveals Nick Offerman in the role. Variety reports that O’Neil had to pull out due to scheduling conflicts.

At Summer Game Fest 2022 Druckman took the stage to introduce two of the show's actors. Surprisingly, Ashley Johnson and Troy Baker, the original voices of Ellie and Joel, joined him. It was revealed that the two will be making appearances in the upcoming HBO show in an undisclosed role. Picking out Johnson and Baker will be a nice treat for fans of the game.

Who is developing Last of Us for HBO?

Neil Druckmann is helming the show.

The Game Awards

The show will be helmed by Last of Us’ co-creator and game director, Neil Druckmann, in collaboration with Craig Mazin. Kantemir Balagov is also slated to direct at least the first episode. Carolyn Strauss, who also worked on Chernobyl, and Naughty Dog’s President, Evan Wells, will serve as executive producers.

The show is a co-production between Sony Pictures Television in association with PlayStation Productions. This is PlayStation Productions' first show but will not be their last as TV adaptations of Horizon, Gran Turismo, and Twisted Metal are all currently in the works.

Who will compose the music for HBO's The Last of Us?

If you adored Last of Us' breathtaking score in the video games, fret not, the television show's music will be composed by Gustavo Santaolalla, the same composer who worked on both Last of Us and its sequel.

What is the story of HBO's Last of Us series?

Naughty Dog/ Sony

It seems like Season 1 will cover some or all of the first game. In it, Joel is a survivor living in the Boston quarantine zone who is tasked with escorting Ellie — a young girl immune to the virus — to members of the Fireflies rebel group. They have to trek all the way across the country in search of them, meeting and fighting a number of different people along the way. The thrilling conclusion hinges on a crucial choice Joel makes that makes anyone wonder what is worth sacrificing for the fate of the world.

"The HBO 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, The Last of Us Part II," THR reported in the initial announcement.

Since Druckmann mentioned Riley, there’s a chance the show will adapt American Dreams, the Last of Us comic book written by Druckmann and Faith Erin Hicks. Riley received nary enough fleshing out when she was introduced in the game’s Left Behind DLC. American Dreams completely fleshed out her character and further delved into her relationship with Ellie.

Despite the first game being prioritized for the first season, it seems that Last of Us could last multiple seasons. If that's true, Craig Mazin will likely stay on for all of them. Mazin recently renewed his contract with HBO, signing on with the network for additional years.

How will HBO's The Last of Us handle Ellie's sexuality?

Naughty Dog has confirmed leading up to The Last of Us Part II that Ellie is canonically gay, so fans were naturally concerned about whether or not the show might honor that fact. When a fan wrote to creator Craig Mazin on Twitter "Do not erase that representation pls," his response confirmed that the series would respect the game canon. "You have my word," he wrote.

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