The Last of Us HBO TV series: Everything we know so far

Bradley Russell

Whether you’ve finished The Last of Us 2 or not, it’s surely time to turn our attention towards the HBO TV series. If you don’t know anything about it yet, you should be very, very excited. Not only is it adapting the first game in the series (at the very least), but it also has Naughty Dog creative director Neil Druckmann and Chernobyl creator Craig Mazin pulling the strings behind the scenes. Also quite literally pulling the strings is composer Gustavo Santaolalla, while Breaking Bad director Johan Renck has been drafted in to direct the pilot.

Things, then, are looking promising and slowly coming together. Below is your essential guide to The Last of Us TV show, from every confirmed character, first plot details – and even a redacted tweet from Druckmann potentially suggesting that Abby is due to appear in HBO series. And for those of you still working your way around Seattle – here are our latest guides for The Last of Us 2.

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First director confirmed for The Last of Us HBO series

Things are slowly starting to come together. The Last of Us HBO series has its first director: Johan Renck, of Breaking Bad, Chernobyl, and music video fame. He told Discussing Film that he has only signed on for the pilot due to not having space in his schedule to commit to an "ongoing" TV series.

The Last of Us HBO series is "an interesting challenge"

How do you adapt one of the most beloved games of all time? Carefully, probably. 

The Last of Us creative director Neil Druckmann has briefly touched upon the challenges of bringing the game's story across to HBO in an interview with EW.

"You have to figure out [with a TV show] how it communicates ideas or tells stories. In removing the interactivity of the story, how do you make it unique for this other medium? It's an interesting challenge, and I think there's a lot to learn from it... Craig [Mazin] had ideas about how to adapt the show, it became intriguing to work with another creative who I admire. It just became a no-brainer - and to do it under the umbrella of HBO and all their content."

First, the essentials: The Last of Us is coming to HBO, but there’s no release date yet; it’s simply coming at an unannounced point in future. It will be brought to life by Neil Druckmann, writer of the original game, and Chernobyl's Craig Mazin.

The Last of Us HBO series story: will it adapt both games?

So far, only a synopsis has been revealed by HBO: "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."

As revealed by The Hollywood Reporter in early March, the series will “cover the events of the original game… with the possibility of additional content based on the forthcoming game sequel [The Last of Us 2].”

A separate report from the publication indicates that “future seasons” are a possibility, meaning this is unlikely to be a Chernobyl-style miniseries but instead one that will stretch out over several years. The mention of sequel story beats also making their way into the HBO series should also whet the appetite of many with the game due out shortly.

Troy Baker, who plays Joel in both The Last of Us and its upcoming sequel, has full faith in the story adaptation versus the original plans to turn it into a movie.

"The thing that encourages me most [about the HBO show] is that while there were a lot of people in Hollywood that stood up and took notice [of The Last of Us and its success] and were thinking, ‘Oh, a lot of people like this - we should turn it into a movie’, Craig came at it from a fan’s perspective," Baker told Fandom in a recent interview. "He just wants everybody to know this experience”.

The Last of Us cast: every confirmed character so far

As for the characters involved, Joel will feature, while Ellie was confirmed by Druckmann in a tweet posted on International Women’s Day on March 8. 

Joining her will be Ellie’s Left Behind girlfriend, Riley, as well as Tess, Marlene, Maria, and a redacted character with four letters – which very well could be *mild spoilers for The Last of Us 2* Abby, a member of the WLF.

Mazin also assuaged fears that characters will not change from their game counterparts by stating that Ellie will remain LGBTQ.

Alongside the cast of characters is a certain composer. Gustavo Santaolalla will be scoring the HBO series, just as he did with the first two games.

Several of the game's community have even made their case for The Last of Us HBO cast members in the absence of official announcements at this early stage. Among the fan-casting favourites are Game of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Hugh Jackman, and Gerard Butler as Joel, with Kaitlyn Dever, Sophie Lillis, and Stranger Things’ Sadie Sink being suggested for Ellie.

Among those, Dever has been the first to speak out. She said in a recent interview with Collider that "I obviously have been seeing the Internet, and I’ve obviously been seeing a lot of [the fan casting]... I’m not shutting it down. I would absolutely love to do that."

Troy Baker, who voices Joel in the game series, said that Josh Brolin would've been a "knockout choice" for Joel (and actually pitched the idea to him in an airport) but admitted “I don’t know if I would walk away learning something different about Joel."

The Last of Us movie, meanwhile, has reportedly been scrapped in favour of the HBO series. The Sam Raimi-produced film had been in limbo for quite some time, and it was finally put out of misery with news of the TV show being commissioned.

Speaking of which, Mazin has spoken at length about the TV show for the first time, musing on why it needed to be a TV show. “My feeling was ‘you can’t make a movie out of this, it has to be a show. It needs length.’ It’s about the development of a relationship over a long journey, so it has to be a television show – and that’s that, that’s the way I see it. Happily, Neil agreed and HBO was delighted. So, here we are.”

No The Last of Us HBO series release date (yet), but here's when things will get moving

What next? Expect something potentially very soon. Mazin revealed that official work on The Last of Us HBO series wouldn’t be going ahead until after Part 2’s PS4 release in May, but the game has since been released. 

After that, all systems are go: “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,” Mazin said on his Scriptnotes podcast.

Keep up with everything else coming to your screens in 2020 and beyond with our guide to all new TV shows.