Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian) and Bella Ramsey (Game of Thrones) have been cast in HBO’s The Last of Us series adaptation, in the respective lead roles of Joel and Ellie. The Last of Us is set in a post-apocalyptic world where a pandemic results in the creation of the Infected, who are zombies all but in name. Joel is a hardened survivor tormented by trauma who’s tasked with smuggling 14-year-old orphan Ellie across the US as her blood could be the cure to said pandemic. The game centres on the relationship between Joel and Ellie, just as the series no doubt will.
This might sound a bit like what Pascal has already been doing on The Mandalorian — a man with a past taking care of an orphan child — though The Last of Us is decidedly a much darker story. That was also true for its video game sequel The Last of Us Part II (set five years after the events of the original), which I described as “gloomy, depressing, and morbid”, and which the HBO series might possibly cover during its run.
The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline first brought word of Ramsey and Pascal’s casting, respectively, and both reports have been confirmed by The Last of Us developer Naughty Dog. Deadline claimed that Pascal would be able to lead two TV series at the same time as his Mandalorian character spends a lot of the time behind a helmet, which allows Disney to make extensive use of stuntmen. THR also noted that Mahershala Ali, whose name had been circulating in casting rumours, had not signed on.
Both Pascal and Ramsey have history at HBO, the home for The Last of Us. Ramsey made her acting debut with Game of Thrones as Lyanna Mormont, the young and fierce ruler of Bear Island who didn’t mince her words in front of adults. Pascal also rose to fame on Game of Thrones as Oberyn Martell, the swashbuckling Red Viper of Dorne who was infamously killed by The Mountain in a trial by combat. Pascal and Ramsey didn’t share any scenes on Game of Thrones.
The HBO pedigree continues behind the scenes too on The Last of Us adaptation, with Chernobyl‘s Emmy-winning creator Craig Mazin set as writer and executive producer alongside Neil Druckmann, the writer and director on The Last of Us and The Last of Us Part II. Kantemir Balagov, director of the acclaimed 2019 Russian film Beanpole, is set as director on The Last of Us series pilot.
Former HBO president Carolyn Strauss, Naughty Dog president Evan Wells, and Asad Qizilbash and Carter Swan of PlayStation Productions will also serve as executive producers. The Last of Us series is a production of HBO, Sony Pictures Television, PlayStation Productions, Word Games, The Mighty Mint, and Naughty Dog.