Naughty Dog, HBO

HBO’s “The Last of Us” TV series adaptation boasts not just some scenes lifted entirely from the game as is, but plenty of easter eggs as well as some returning talent.

Game director Neil Druckmann was heavily involved in the show’s creation, overseeing the series with “Chernobyl” creator Craig Mazin. The pair also brought back composer Gustavo Santaolalla’s iconic guitar music for the series for not just its theme song but other parts of the show as well.

There’s also some familiar faces, most notably actress Merle Dandridge reprising her role of Fireflies cell leader Marlene from the game. Though other actors from the games appear, she marks the only one returning in her actual role from the game.

It’s a supporting, yet crucial role in the series and speaking with Entertainment Weekly, Mazin discussed why they decided to bring Dandridge back to play Marlene. Turns out they believed she was still the best actor for the role. Mazin says:

“She’s also eternally youthful. It’s 10 years later [after the first game’s debut], and she does have this wonderful gravitas. So it was really a question of, ‘Hey, if we just wig her, I think we’re there.’ That was an easy one. It’s obviously not anything we could contemplate with, say, Troy Baker.”

Baker voiced and did the motion capture for Joel in the game, but is physically very different to Joel which is why they chose Pedro Pascal to take over the character in live-action form.

Baker will instead appear in the series though as James, a survivor seen briefly in the winter portion of the game and who will have a more significant part to play in the series with his appearance being around its seventh or eighth episode.

Mazin also spoke about bringing the original Ellie, actress Ashley Johnson, back for the series. In the trailer it was revealed she’ll play Ellie’s mother in the series in a flashback, with her return done as more than just a bit of fan service:

“Ashley Johnson is in her 30s and clearly not going to play a 14-year-old girl, but it was important for us to find space for them [Baker & Johnson in the show] because they matter. It’s not just about fan service. It’s a dramatic genetic connection between the game and the show. They needed to be there.”

Separately Mazin revealed to THR that it was his wife, who has an “encyclopedic knowledge of 1980s music,” that picked Depeche Mode’s “Never Let Me Down Again” to be the closing music for the show’s first episode:

“I need it to be a song that I kind of know but I haven’t heard in a long time. One that hasn’t been beaten to death. And I needed it to have context. I needed to be meaningful. I needed [it to] be foreboding and, ideally, without being super on the nose, give me a comment. I needed to start a particular way so we can show that radio turning on. And then she was like: ‘Never Let Me Down Again.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, my God.’”

Santaolalla is working alongside David Flemming on the show’s music throughout the first season which will continue Sunday nights on HBO through to early-mid March.


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