Facts to Know About HBO’s The Last of Us Before Its Release

With HBO’s latest upcoming new series, The Last of Us – adapted from the video game of the same name by celebrated developers Naughty Dog – less than two weeks away from its January 15th release, there is no better time to explore some interesting facts about the upcoming series and its source material. This article is primarily for those who have either played the games but know little about the show, or those familiar with the show’s developments but have not played the games. That being said, for those of you on both sides of the aisle, like myself, you might find a fact you had not previously known.

Whatever the case, here are a number of facts about HBO’s The Last of Us.


1. Showrunner and series co-creator, Craig Mazin, had a curious journey to making The Last of Us

Anyone familiar with Mazin’s name likely knows the filmmaker from his acclaimed, Emmy-award winning work on the HBO miniseries Chernobyl, for which he served as creator, showrunner, producer, and screenwriter. The show’s popularity extended to audiences also, where it currently stands as the fifth-highest-rated TV show of all time on IMDb.

However, if one were to look at his prior work, you would never have guessed in a million years that he would go on to work on such dramatically deep shows as Chernobyl and The Last of Us

Chernobyl was Mazin’s first foray into television, and prior to this, he was known strictly as a comedy filmmaker. And I’m not talking about the sophisticated type either. He wrote the likes of Scary Movie 3 (which I actually love), Scary Movie 4 (which I hate), in addition to The Hangover Part II and III, Identity Thief, and The Huntsman: Winter’s War, all of which were critical flops. He also wrote, directed, and produced 2008’s Superhero Movie…which hardly helps his case here. Regardless, his more recent productions prove an impressive and rarely-seen pivot in the film industry, for which I tip my hat to Mazin. 


2. There is a notable number of cast and crew members from the video game working on the show

Anyone who’s been following the production of The Last of Us likely knows that the video game’s creator and lead director, Neil Druckmann, has also been heavily involved in the making of the show, serving as its co-creator, producer, writer, and will even direct what is reportedly multiple episodes of the series. The game series’ go-to multi-Oscar-winning composer, Gustavo Santaolalla, will also return to score the show.

What some might not know, however, is that a notable amount of voice actors from the first entry in the video game series will appear in various roles in the show. Most notably, Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson, who voiced lead characters Joel and Ellie in video games, have roles in the show, with the most recent trailer even briefly showcasing Baker’s character, which will likely be a villainous turn for the actor. Also present in the trailer is Merle Dandridge, who, in an unprecedented move (to my knowledge), will reprise her role as leader of militia group the Fireflies, Darlene. Jeffrey Pierce, who voiced Joel’s brother Tommy in the video games (but will be played by Gabriel Luna in the show), plays an original character named Perry, a rebel in the quarantine zone that will, by Pierce’s own admission, have “huge implications for things that did occur in the game.”


3. Nick Offerman wasn’t their first choice to play Bill

The character of Bill has become one of the most beloved supporting acts in The Last of Us franchise, not least for his complex characterization, hiding a tragically emotional and sympathetic individual under his gruff, hardened exterior. He is also one of a number of LGBTQ+ characters in the series, and the first character to be identified as such, albeit through implicit suggestion (revelations of Ellie’s sexuality are not revealed until later). As such, the casting of Bill was important to many fans of the game series, including me.

Initially, it was English actor Con O’Neill, who had previously worked with Mazin on Chernobyl, that was cast as Bill. However, O’Neill was forced to pull out of the project due to schedule conflicts, and soon after it was Offerman who was cast in his stead.

While O’Neill is a fine actor and certainly made the most of his supporting role in Chernobyl, it is hard to understate how much better suited Offerman is for the role. This has little to do with the objective talent of either actor, and rather it’s that everything from Offerman’s appearance to his voice, comedic chops and acting style are a perfect fit for the character, while I never truly felt O’Neill was the right pick for Bill (though he certainly could have proven me wrong had he been able to play the role). 

Expect Offerman’s Bill to be a scene-stealer.


4. The Last of Us is the largest production, TV or film, in the history of Canada

While The Last of Us is based in the United States, centred on two characters travelling across several states, the show was, in fact, filmed almost exclusively in Alberta Canada. While the stunning and varied landscapes of Alberta – from the prairies to the mountain ranges, badlands, and even Calgary’s Stampede Park – offer shooting locations that are too good to be true for anyone familiar with The Last of Us’ various settings throughout the game, the decision to take the production north of the border was, of course, also a financial one.

In January 2020 the province launched a Film and Tax Credit program that removed the previous $10 million per-project cap, which, according to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and his government, has created 9,000 jobs and drawn in $955 million in production costs, with this number including Jason Reitman’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife. And that was as of August 2021. Obviously, these numbers have only increased in the time since this estimate was reported, but at the time it even led Jobs Minister Doug Schwitzer, in typically political hyperbole, to label Alberta the “new Hollywood.” The Last of Us counts for over an astonishing $100 million of this estimate, which makes it the largest and most expensive production ever shot in Canada.

HBO’s The Last of Us will premiere in Canada on January 15th, available to Canadians on Crave.

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