If you’re also a huge fan of The Last of Us, one of the people to thank is Neil Druckmann. Not only is he the writer and director of the games, but he is the co-creator of the new HBO series. In short, the man is a certified expert on everything about the horror series.
Neil began, “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 it slowly emerge.”
“We needed someone that can play 14. Already, finding someone that could be a child and is a good actor is hard. Beyond that, we needed someone that can be quirky, that feels like they push back, like they have this potential for violence or viciousness behind everything they’re doing, and someone that’s very smart beyond their age while being young. Bella naturally had all those qualities,” he said. “We just found Ellie in the real world and happened to put her in the show. “The unique thing about video games is you don’t need to look the part, which is why Ashley Johnson, when she was 27, was able to play a 14-year-old girl [Ellie]. Troy Baker at the time was this tall, skinny, bleached-hair hipster — but then when he spoke and moved, he became the role,” Neil recalled. “That’s why we couldn’t cast those same people into these roles for the show, but they were instrumental in bringing those characters to life.”
“We ask you to put yourself in [the characters’] shoes,” he said. “You [sometimes decide how to] engage with Ellie, who’s a completely AI companion, moving alongside you and reacting dynamically to your actions. But that requires long, uninterrupted stretches in real time and a larger body count than what is realistic so that you can get a mastery of mechanics. Once that happens, you get to this flow state and you really feel this connection with the character. But if you were just to translate those sequences as is over to TV, which is a passive medium, they would be long and boring.”