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The Last of Us HBO show: Everything we know so far

The Last of Us HBO show
(Image credit: Sony Computer Entertainment)

We continue to learn about HBO's The Last of Us show, as casting continues to trickle in, and news of a wildly large budget (on scale with Game of Thrones) just rolled in across the desk. The latest news includes casting of one of the game's voice actors, as well as Joel's daughter.

This continues a run of news that's given folks reasons to be very excited about the series. The news of the series was first broken last March by The Hollywood Reporter, sending fans of the beloved video game into near-meltdown as internet hype and speculation ramped up with remarkable speed.  

HBO itself subsequently took to Twitter to confirm the news itself, posting a GIF featuring the crest of The Last of Us’ antagonist group the Fireflies.  

As a part of the initial announcement, we learned that Neil Druckmann (co-director on the first game and sole director of the sequel), is writing the show alongside Craig Mazin (Chernobyl). 

Mazin told The Hollywood Reporter, “Getting a chance to adapt this breathtaking work of art has been a dream of mine for years, and I'm so honored to do it in partnership with Neil [Druckmann].” 

A year on from its initial announcement and the anticipation around the series is only growing stronger, especially now we’ve got casting news as well as few tantalizing quotes from the showrunners. Here’s what we know so far about The Last of Us TV show coming to HBO. 

The Last of Us HBO Show latest news (updated July 20)

  • The latest names to join The Last of Us are Jeffrey Pierce (who voiced Tommy), Murray Bartlett and Con O’Neill
  • The Last of Us has a huge budget, possibly costing HBO more than Game of Thrones
  • Nico Parker (Dumbo) will be joining the cast of The Last of Us to play Joel’s daughter Sarah.

The Last of Us HBO show release date speculation

Not much is known yet about when we can expect to actually see The Last of Us on our television screens. That said, pilot director Kantemir Balagov wrote "The Last of Us series (2022)" on his Instagram profile.  And we're thinking late 2022 at that. Here's why:

Mazin had previously stated that production couldn’t get underway until The Last of Us Part II was released, he said, “We can’t start on it right away because they’re still finishing up the second game. We’ve been talking about it for months, little plans and things. We’re going to dig in in full, full earnest once they wrap up their final work on the sequel.”

Of course, The Last of Us Part II was officially released back in the summer of 2020. Now that this barrier is no longer an issue work on the show is in full swing, and we even have a date for when production will start. 

The show is due to begin production in Calgary, in the Alberta province of Canada, this July and has a shooting permit that stretches all the way until June 2022 (although it's highly unlikely the show will be shooting for that whole length of time). This news comes from the Director's Guild of Canada (via CBC). 

Speaking of the production of the series, a CTV News report revealed that The Last of Us has a wild budget, even for HBO. A local union president told the outlet that "This project well exceeds the eight figure per episode mark," which would make it as expensive, if not moreso, than Game of Thrones was. 

As shooting doesn't get underway until the summer, and production is likely to take several months, the chances of the series premiering before 2022 are basically zero at this point. There is a chance we could get a sneak peek in the form of a trailer before the year is out though.  

The Last of Us HBO show plot

The Last of Us HBO show feature

(Image credit: Sony)

HBO has released an official synopsis of the show which reads: "The story takes place 20 years after modern civilization has been destroyed. Joel, a hardened survivor, is hired to smuggle Ellie, a 14-year-old girl, out of an oppressive quarantine zone. What starts as a small job soon becomes a brutal, heartbreaking journey, as they both must traverse across the U.S. and depend on each other for survival."

This will of course sound very familiar to anyone who has played through The Last of Us video game on either PS3 or PS4, as it’s literally the exact same storyline that game follows. This at least confirms that the show seems to be aiming to be faithful to the source material. 

In a recent interview with IGN Druckmann gave us further hints about how the show might differ from the video game. He confirmed that dialogue has been directly lifted from the game, but that some episodes would “deviate greatly to much better effect because we are dealing with a different medium“.

For fans worried that HBO may be getting too involved, stow your fears. Druckmann himself approved of the changes, "Some of my favorite episodes so far have deviated greatly from the story, and I can’t wait for people to see them."

Mazin told the BBC, "the changes that we're making are designed to fill things out and expand, not to undo, but rather to enhance." So it definitely appears that the general structure of the game’s plot will be respected and it will resemble the story we all know and cried at back in 2013. 

The Last of Us HBO show cast

The minute The Last of Us show was announced the only question on everyone’s lips was: who’s going to play Joel and who’s going to play Ellie?

Fan casting was rampant, with popular choices for Joel including Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and choices for Ellie including Masie Williams and Kaitlyn Dever. However, none of these came to pass. 

Instead, Pedro Pascal has been cast a Joel, and Bella Ramsey has been selected to portray Ellie. Both are alumni of HBO’s wildly successful fantasy series Game of Thrones, and the selections seem to have gone down well with fans. 

The Last of Us TV show — Bella Ramsey in Game of Thrones

(Image credit: HBO)

Pascal of course has experience escorting a young ward thanks to Disney Plus' The Mandalorian. Ramsey played the feisty Lyanna Mormont on Thrones, so should be capable of brings Ellie’s fiery side to the screen. 

Deadline has learned that Gabriel Luna, who is most well known for playing Ghost Rider on Marvel series Agents of SHIELD and Rev-9 in Terminator: Dark Fate, has been cast as Tommy, Joel's younger brother who has started his own survivor community in the game. Pascal and Luna just about look like they could be siblings, so this seems like another decent casting decision to us. The outlet also reported that Nico Parker (Dumbo) is joining the series as Sarah, Joel's daughter.

In casting news that has got fans of the original video game very pleased, The Hollywood Reporter has exclusively revealed that Merle Dandridge will be playing Marlene, the leader of the Fireflies resistance group.  

This is quite significant news due to the fact Dandridge voices Marlene in the video game series so will be reprising her role for this television adaptation. Will more original cast members be appearing in The Last of Us HBO show? Time will tell. 

Deadline also reported two additional casting pieces: Con O'Neill as Bill and Murray Bartlett as Frank. The character description explains that they are "two post-pandemic survivalists living alone in their own isolated town." Oh, and Jeffrey Pierce, who voiced Tommy in the games, is playing a new character named Perry.

The Last of Us HBO show characters 

For a while, it’s been assumed that The Last of Us TV show will follow the storyline of the first game, which means a host of intriguing supporting characters featured alongside Joel and Ellie. 

This would include characters such as Tess, Joel’s sort of partner, Marlene, a member of the Fireflies group, and Tommy, Joel’s absentee brother. 

However, a tweet from Druckmann posted in March 2020 has got The Last of Us fans feverish with speculation. 

While the likes of Ellie, Tess, Marlene, and Maria (Tommy’s wife) were expected to be included in the series, Riley is a character that only features in The Last of Us’ DLC chapter Left Behind. This suggests that the scope of the HBO show will be expanded to include material covered outside of the first game. 

Even more intriguing is the currently unknown identity of the blanked-out four-letter name. Most fans have assumed this refers to Abby, a controversial character introduced in The Last of Us Part II. She plays a very prominent role in the sequel, so it would make sense for her to be included, although we’d assumed she wouldn’t show up until the show’s second season (should it make it that far).

It could however be a tease for Ellie’s mother, Anna, who is only mentioned by name in the video game — perhaps a flashback episode featuring her — or even Dina, a love interest of Ellie’s, who also makes her first appearance in The Last of Us Part II. 

Who this mysterious character is remains to be seen, but it seems likely that The Last of Us TV show won’t be limited by material only covered in the first video game. 

The Last of Us HBO show crew

Get ready for the grit: HBO's putting The Last of Us series in good hands. Craig Mazin (Chernobyl) is reuniting with HBO to adapt the video games for a series. More good news: Neil Druckmann, The Last of Us' writer and creative director, is signed on to write and executive produce the show. 

Other exec producers include Carolyn Strauss (Game of Thrones, Treme) and Evan Wells (Naughty Dog president). We also know that award-winning director Kantemir Balagov (Beanpole) will helm the pilot episode (via The Hollywood Reporter).

The Last of Us will be the first television series from PlayStation Productions, which is co-producing with Sony Pictures Television.

The Last of Us HBO show trailer speculation

As the show is still in pre-production we don’t currently have a trailer for the series. We would expect a trailer to not arrive until mid-2022, given all of the above. That said, early footage could be used for a teaser that could drop earlier in the year. 

However, the minute we have clips and set photos we will update this story —hopefully we’re not waiting much longer. 

Rory is a staff writer at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics including tech news, deals, gaming, streaming and more. When he’s not writing hot takes on the latest gaming hardware and streaming shows, he can be found watching a borderline unhealthy amount of movies and being thoroughly disappointed by his terrible football team.