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

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

Although 2020 might already feature The Last of Us Part II, that's not the last we'll see of Joel, Ellie, or their apocalyptic world. There's more Last of Us goodness on the horizon in the form of an HBO series based on the first award-winning entry in Naughty Dog's franchise, The Last of Us.

Here's everything we know exactly about how the series will make the big jump from video games to prestige television.

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 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.

Continuing with this, Mazin also gave us a timetable for production on his podcast, Scriptnotes. "We can't start on it right away because they're still finishing up the second game, but pretty soon," Mazin said. "We've been talking about it for months and coming up with little plans and things. But we're going to dig in in full, full earnest pretty soon, just as soon as they wrap up their final work on the sequel."

Given how difficult it can be to develop a game, production for the show will likely begin a month or so after The Last of Us Part II is completed. This would place the series as starting production in June or July 2020, further cementing a 2021 release date.

What is The Last of Us?

The Last of Us is an award-winning video game series developed 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?

For anyone who's played Naughty Dog's other hit series, Uncharted, know that The Last of Us as a video game is almost identical, but there's a kind of gravity to the character-driven story that really elevates it. The story falls squarely in the realm of a pandemic apocalyptic science fiction, and it's more complex than a "zombie video game."

Who is developing Last of Us 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 itself 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.

Naughty Dog/ Sony

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. Perhaps we'll get more master compositions like the game's theme.

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, who is theorized by many to have appeared the Last of Us Part II trailer. The Last of Us Part II characters also had their name redacted when Naughty Dog announced their voice actor, Laura Bailey, on Twitter.

Riley and EllieNaughty Dog / Sony

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

Casting has yet to be announced, but many would like to see the original actors reprise their roles. Others are chomping at the bit for Joel and Ellie to be portrayed by Hugh Jackman and Maisie Williams, respectively. Other names that have been brought up for fan-casting Ellie are Booksmart actress Kaitlyn Dever and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who portrayed Jaime Lannister on Game of Thrones.

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 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 also a chance that we’ll see an adaptation of 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. In fact, when I first played Left Behind, it felt like a direct sequel to American Dreams. I can’t imagine excluding either one.

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. You may have also seen Reneck's directorial work on the pilots for Vikings and Bloodlines. Reneck said in a 2017 interview that he prefers to work on pilots over serialized TV episodes.

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.