HBO’s The Last of Us, based on the video game of the same name, is on the way, and so far, several major characters have been confirmed to appear in the TV series. Creators behind the show have established that season one of the show will tell the story of the first game and stay close to the original narrative with some deviations. Which characters have been confirmed begins to show exactly how close they’ll be staying, and also where they’ll be making some changes.

The Last of Us is set 20 years after the United States (and presumably the rest of the world) is overrun by a cordyceps brain infection that takes over hosts’ bodies and turns them into creatures analogous to zombies. Joel Miller (Troy Baker) is tasked with escorting a young girl named Ellie (Ashley Johnson) across a country overrun with the infected as well as aggressive (and sometimes cannibalistic) groups of humans. Along the way, they are helped by old friends, other survivors, and estranged family members as they seek to find a cure to the infection.

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An adaption of The Last of Us has been in development hell since shortly after the game’s initial release in 2013 (a problem that also afflicted the adaptation of Naughty Dog’s Nathan Drake-led Uncharted). Initially intended to be a feature film that would have been produced by Sam Rami, the idea was eventually scrapped in favor of a series, with Neil Druckmann (the game’s creative director) glad that a series would be able to keep the feel of the original game. While shooting has been underway for some time, new casting announcements are still being made as production is set to work in each of the four seasons of the year to maintain the feel of the original video game narrative. The Last of Us adaptation is expected to release on HBO in mid to late 2022.

Joel Miller – Pedro Pascal

Having survived the initial outbreak of the deadly zombie infection and the collapse of the government as it was known, Joel has made his living as a smuggler and stayed alive through an us-or-them mindset. As civilization has grouped into quarantine zones strictly policed by the Federal Disaster Response Agency (FEDRA) and smaller groups of survivors who live beyond the walls, a black market has sprung up for goods and medicine that are being overly rationed by FEDRA. Joel, who will be portrayed by The Mandalorian’s Pedro Pascalis cynical about escorting Ellie, having lost hope for a cure, but is persuaded to help against his better judgment. Joel is the main player character for the majority of The Last of Us, and Pedro Pascal’s casting was one of the first characters to be confirmed.

Sarah Miller – Nico Parker

While Sarah Miller only has a brief amount of screen time in The Last of Us, her presence underpins much of the game’s narrative. Joel’s 12-year-old daughter is killed during the opening sequence as they try to flee the infected, though it is a soldier who fires on them in an attempt to contain the infection as much as possible. While Joel survives the encounter, the death of Sarah fuels his ongoing distrust of organizations and his hesitancy to partner with Ellie. Sarah will be played by Nico Parker who appeared in Dumbo and is the daughter of Thandiwe Newton.

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Ellie – Bella Ramsey

Ellie is set to be portrayed by Game of Thrones actress Bella Ramsey. More than just a plot device, Ellie became a playable character in the latter part of the original game and is one of two primary protagonists in The Last of Us: Part II. Fourteen years old in the first installment, Ellie is snarky and self-driven, but was bitten by an infected while out after curfew in a scene that was expanded on in the Left Behind DLC and the American Dreams graphic novel. While there is no cure to the infection and it is always fatal, Ellie miraculously survived and was discovered to be immune to all forms of the cordyceps brain infection. This fueled hopes that her biology might hold the key to a cure and is the impetus for her cross-country trek with Joel.

Marlene – Merle Dandridge

Marlene’s confirmation bucked a trend for video game adaptations as it was announced that she would be portrayed by the same actress who voiced her in The Last of Us: Merle Dandridge. Marlene is the leader of the Fireflies, a resistance group that seeks to overthrow the military oppression caused by FEDRA’s hold on quarantine zones. While Joel also dislikes FEDRA, he keeps his distance from Fireflies seeing them as idealistic and doomed to failure, preferring to rely on his own ruthless instincts to survive. Marlene was tasked by Ellie’s mother, Anna, with keeping Ellie safe and is the person who asks Joel to take Ellie across the country after Marlene herself is wounded in a shootout.

Tess – Anna Torv

Joel Miller’s smuggling partner, Tess is as ruthless if not more so than Joel himself. At the start of start of The Last of Us, Tess has a lead on the location of another smuggler, Robert, who is late on paying them for a shipment of weapons. When she finds out that Robert has sold their guns to the Fireflies and has no way to pay them back, she kills him and they track down Marlene. Tess persuades Joel to take the job of escorting Ellie across the country on the promise of a payday and convinces him to continue with the mission when the stakes are raised as she hopes that a cure might still be found. Tess will be portrayed by Anna Torv of Mindhunter.

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Tommy Miller – Gabriel Luna

Tommy Miller is Joel’s estranged brother in HBO’s The Last of Us, just like in the game series. The two were together the night that Sarah was killed and they survived as a pair for many years. Eventually, Tommy became disillusioned with Joel’s ruthless dog-eat-dog survival tactics split from his brother to join the Fireflies in the search of something better. By the time of the events of The Last of Us he has abandoned the Fireflies and is living in Jackson, Wyoming with his wife Maria. Gabriel Luna has been confirmed to play Tommy. Maria was confirmed to be appearing in the series as part of 2020’s International Women’s Day but her actor has not yet been announced.

Robert – Brendan Fletcher

Brendan Fletcher has been cast as Robert for HBO’s video game adaptation. A short-lived character, Robert is a black-market arms dealer in the Boston quarantine zone who has had dealings with Joel and Tess. He also has some dealings with the Fireflies and when he doublecrosses Joel and Tess, the duo prove how ruthless they can be.

Bill – Nick Offerman

When found in The Last of Us, Bill has the entirety of Lincoln, Massachusetts to himself and has set a wealth of booby traps to keep out both the infected and other survivors. He has an uneasy business relationship with Tess and Joel to provide them with supplies for their smuggling operations. Bill dislikes having his routine interrupted by Joel and Ellie but reluctantly agrees to help them get a working car in return for past favors. Con O’Neill was originally cast as Bill in HBO’s The Last of Us but had to drop out due to reported scheduling issues. The role was recast and now Nick Offerman will play Bill in The Last of Us TV series.

Frank – Murray Bartlett

The confirmation that Frank will be portrayed by Murray Bartlett of The White Lotus was the first indication of a larger divergence from the original narrative. Conversations between Joel and Bill, along with notes found in the game, make it clear that Frank was a part of the games LGBTQ+ representation and had previously been Bill’s romantic partner but had struck out on his own sometime before the events of The Last of Us. The character’s only appearance in the game is as a dead body that can only be identified by the fact that he is wearing Frank’s shirt. As an actor has been cast in this role, the show is likely to either have the character alive at the start of the series or provide more detail on the LGBTQ+ relationship through flashbacks.

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New Characters In HBO’s The Last of Us

While HBO’s The Last of Us might stay relatively true to the narrative of the original video game, it is clear that they are expanding the world as several actors have now been cast in roles that do not appear in the original story. Jeffery Piere, who voiced Tommy Miller in the game, has been announced as a new character called Perry. Brad Leland has been cast as someone called Mr. Adler, and Natasha Mumba is playing a brand new character called Kim Tembo.

While The Last of Us purists might be concerned by the addition of new characters, it is no cause for alarm. Any good adaptation of a work will make changes to fit the new medium. The extended cast list will likely help to further explore the rich world of The Last of Us and with Neil Druckmann working on the show, it is sure to honor the original. Despite reports that The Last of Us season 1 will cover the full narrative of the original video game, there are several characters who might be expected to appear who have not yet been cast, most notably Henry, Sam, and Ellie’s original love interest, Riley.

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