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Everything we know about HBO's The Last of Us TV series

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

The Last of Us Part II is a critical darling. It currently holds the record for attaining more Game of the Year awards than any other game, standing at 261 total awards. With that great of a certified hit, the PlayStation 4 game is surely not our last time entering Joel and Ellie's apocalyptic world. While we wait for a new video game, HBO is working on a series based on Naughty Dog's hit franchise.

Here's everything we about The Last of Us' leap from video games to prestige television.

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HBO announced the television adaptation for The Last of Us on March 6, 2020. The series will be produced by Game Director Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin, creator of HBO’s hit mini-series Chernobyl. That’s not all! The show seems like it will have all sorts of details and additions that will not only adapt but also expand upon the Last of Us universe.

Ellie and Joel hiding from an armed manNaughty Dog/ Sony

When is the Last of Us HBO release date?

Last of Us HBO was announced on March 6, 2020. Given the announcement, the show will likely air in late 2021 or early 2022. The show is seemingly going straight to series, which means there won't be an initial pilot episode to test the waters or another preliminary litmus test.

"This is an incredibly exciting opportunity for us to partner with Craig [Mazin] ... and PlayStation to bring the virtual world of this acclaimed game to life," HBO Programming President Casey Bloys told The Hollywood Reporter.

If we had to predict a release date for the series using some previous examples, HBO’s Watchmen was first announced in 2018 then debuted in 2019. Big Little Lies was first announced as an HBO series in May 2015 then debuted in February 2017. While it could take longer, a year and a half is a standard turn around rate from series pick up to airing.

Mazin provided an update in January 2021, claiming that information on the series would arrive "soon enough" without giving a specific timeline for when the show will arrive. Mazin might be a bit held up right now, according to IMDb he's currently penning the Borderlands film.

What is The Last of Us?

The Last of Us is an award-winning video game series developed by Naughty Dog that centers around 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 story picks up 20 years after the initial outbreak following the prologue, focusing on a haggard smuggler named Joel. He's tasked with protecting a child named Ellie who may hold the key to saving humanity, but at what cost?

While sharing common DNA with Naughty Dog's other hit video game series, Uncharted, The Last of Us 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 EllieNaughty Dog / Sony

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

We currently know two characters that will be in The Last of Us on HBO. Joel will be played by Pedro Pascal, who is known for his work on The Mandolorian, Narcos, and Game of Thrones. Ellie will be played by Game of Thrones' Bella Ramsey.

In the months since the show was announced, fans of the video game series had lobbied for another Game of Thrones actor, Nikolai Coster-Waldau, to take on the role of Joel. However, Pascal's wildly popular performance as surrogate Grogu dad Din Djarin in The Mandalorian likely tipped the scales in his favor. Ahead of Pascal and Ramsey's casting reveals, rumors briefly swirled that True Detective and Moonlight actor Mahershala Ali would play Joel. We later learned Ali was in negotiations for the part that didn't pan out.

Now that we've got the main characters locked down, there are still quite a few faces that need to be named. We're still awaiting casting for supporting characters like Tommy, Marlene, Bill, and Tess.

Who is developing Last of Us for HBO?

The show will be written primarily by Last of Us’ co-creator and game director, Neil Druckmann, in collaboration with Craig Mazin. Carolyn Strauss, who also worked on Chernobyl, and Naughty Dog’s President, Evan Wells will serve as executive producers.

The show is co-production with Sony Pictures Television in association with PlayStation Productions. This is PlayStation Productions' first show, but from what it sounds like, it certainly will not be their last! Perhaps they’ll make that Sly Cooper TV show next, which they recovered the rights to in January 2020

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 characters will be in HBO's The Last of Us?

While we can assume both Joel and Ellie will be present, the remaining cast is shrouded in mystery. On March 8, 2020, Neil Druckmann responded to a tweet celebrating the women on HBO by naming a few that would be in The Last of Us series. Druckmann mentioned Ellie, Riley (Ellie's friend and love interest), Tess (Joel's companion), Marlene (Leader of the Fireflies), Maria (Joel's sister-in-law), and a redacted name! From this, we can assume that Maria’s husband Tommy will make an appearance as well.

Assuming the redacted name corresponds to a four-letter name, this might refer to Anna, Ellie’s deceased mother. It could also refer to Abby, Laura Bailey's character from the second game. Bailey isn't a spring redaction chicken. She previously had her name redacted when Naughty Dog announced her involvement with Last of Us Part II.

Naughty Dog/ Sony

Will HBO's Last of Us cover the first or second game?

It seems like Season 1 will cover some or all of the first game.

"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.

This doesn't by any means indicate that Season 1 will cover the entire first game, and there's no telling how much of the second game might be included eventually. Assuming Anna’s inclusion in both Last of Us Part II and the show is correct, the series could adapt flashbacks involving her that were introduced in the upcoming sequel for the television show.

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.

Are there any details on HBO's The Last of Us' pilot?

As you might imagine, details are fairly scant on what will be covered during the pilot and who might be involved. Our first detail was revealed in June 2020, when Johan Renck confirmed during an interview that he's attached to direct the series' pilot. Renck previously worked with Mazin on Chernobyl, directing all five episodes of the series, which earned him an Emmy.

Unfortunately in January 2021, it was announced that Renck had to back out of the pilot due to scheduling issues. Renck was replaced by Kantemir Balagov, who is known for his work directing somber Russian dramas like Closeness and Beanpole.

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.

The Last of Us television series is currently in development by HBO.