In the series, adapted from the acclaimed 2013 video game, Joel is played by Pedro Pascal.
However, there are a number of subtle differences between the way the character is portrayed in the series, and the version of the character gamers may be familiar with.
One of the differences occurs early in the story, as we catch up with Joel after the prologue. In the game, he is involved in a weapons deal. In the series, however, he is after a car battery.
There are also physical discrepencies between the two versions of the character, which manifest in the ways they move.
“There are certain things that we embrace about our medium that are different than the game medium.” said co-creator Craig Mazin, in an interview with Polygon. “[In the game], Joel’s walking in a crouch so much that he would have, like, these massive quads, right? 55-year-olds can’t crouch for more than like three minutes! Tops! And then their back gives out.
“So embracing frailty […] I think helps pull people into this kind of immersion, which is different than the video game immersion.”
Neil Druckmann, who co-created the series and created the original games, also addressed the differences.
“In the game, due to gameplay, Joel has to be extremely capable to justify all the actions you’re doing, and there’s certain things we’re doing in the game to get you to connect to him by being him,” Druckmann said.
“And that was part of the casting of Pedro Pascal as Joel. […] We were less looking for someone who could play a tough guy – because in some ways, that’s the easier part – and more someone that could show there’s a tortured soul inside of it.”
The Last of Us has received glowing reviews from critics, setting a new record for video game adaptations on aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes.
In a recent interview, The Last of Us star Pedro Pascal revealed the one major instruction from HBO that he ignored while filming the series.
The Last of Us premieres at 9pm on HBO on Sunday 15 January in the US. In the UK, it airs at 2am on 16 January on Sky Atlantic and NOW.