The Last of Us TV show: everything we know so far about the HBO series

The Last of Us TV show is not only in development at HBO, but has even started to put together an impressive cast list with some announcements finally being made with both Bella Ramsey and Pedro Pascal of Game of Thrones fame filling out two very important spots. 

The show seems set to follow along with the story of the first game, The Last of Us, which came out all the way back in 2013 on PS3, and instantly became a critical hit thanks to its incredible emotive story-telling and grim world. The story follows the journey of Joel and Ellie as they try and survive in a post-apocalypse and potentially help save humanity. You know it’s a good game because we gave it the number one spot in our roundup of the best games of the decade.

After we got the PS4 remaster of the first game, we were finally treated to The Last of Us Part 2 last year.  Once again, this game seemed to defy all reason and was a huge critical hit. There were plenty of interesting new characters added into the world, and the gritty feeling of the first game was only more intense in the new story.  

With the movie no longer an option for The Last of Us, we’re quite excited to see how well the game can be shown-off in an episodic TV Show. It seems to make a lot more sense than a film, especially as we could well see it slowly going into the second game as well. 

So what do we know so far about The Last of Us TV show’s release date, streaming platforms, story, and cast? Well, information is slowly starting to come out, and despite a change in the director for the pilot, more names are being announced. Here’s everything we know so far. 

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? A TV show based on The Last of Us video game 
  • Where can I watch it? HBO 
  • When can I watch it? 2021 if we’re lucky, but probably later than that 
  • Who’s in it? No casting is confirmed, but we know the characters of Joel and Ellie will appear – as well as Marlene, Maria, and Tess

The Last of Us TV show release date

The Last of Us TV show has only just been confirmed as being in development, so we’re not going to get a clear idea of a release date for a while yet, other than “coming soon to HBO”. Let them write the thing first!

Co-writer Craig Mazin has commented on production, saying that The Last of Us 2 will need to be tied up before things get really underway: “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. Hopefully more exciting news to come on that front ‘cos it’s something we’re both motivated to see on TV” (via GamesRadar).

To speculate: we think 2020 is far too soon, late 2021 is possible, but 2022 seems more likely given the attention and effects work that HBO will likely want to give the show. Honestly, please don’t rush this one.

The Last of Us: Part II (2020)

The Last of Us: Part II (2020) (Image credit: Naughty Dog)

Wait, so there’s no The Last of Us movie?

No! There’d been chatter around a movie adaptation for a good few years, with the project even reaching a second draft script, and auditions being held for actors before development stalled.

Back in 2015, Druckmann was cited as saying he’d “just finished a second draft, and we did a table read with a bunch of actors,” while calling the script “Pretty faithful to the game. There are some big changes, but the tone and what the story’s trying to say is pretty faithful to the game” (via IGN).

More recently, screenwriter Craig Mazin has commented on this, saying that “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” (via GamesRadar).

The Last of Us TV show: where can you watch it?

The show is being developed for HBO, with Naughty Dog’s Neil Druckmann acting as co-writer alongside screenwriter Craig Mazin, who won an Emmy for outstanding writing on HBO’s highly-praised Chernobyl miniseries that aired last year. 

We expect it will be – like the six-episode Chernobyl, or nine-episode Watchmen – a miniseries consisting of only handful of episodes, in order to tell a punchy, contained story.

HBO's Chernobyl

Chernobyl (HBO) (Image credit: HBO)

It will end up on HBO Max – the new streaming platform being released by HBO in May 2020. However, the new streaming service isn’t replacing the existing HBO Go and HBO Now services yet, so we may see it on more than one HBO platform.

HBO is a US-exclusive platform, though. If you’re in the UK, your best bet is likely Now TV, which often carries HBO shows such as Watchmen or Succession – though Sky is also a home for some HBO titles too. In Australia, you’re probably looking at Foxtel. We’ll update this page when we’re a bit closer to the show releasing with more information on this.

The Last of Us on HBO: how many seasons?

There’s been no confirmation of how many seasons HBO is planning for the series, though Joel voice actor Troy Baker has provided a vague window of “three, four seasons” being necessary to match the story beats of the game at an appropriate pace – rather than constraining the story within a single two-hour film (via GameSpot).

“I think that episodically you can far more effectively tell this story because trying to condense that experience of 16 hours into 2 hours is impossible… it goes past the point of distillation, into reduction,” Baker said. “I think being able to do this episodically and go, ‘We’ll do this for say, three or four seasons’ and be able to almost 1:1 tell [ the story of the game] presents a great opportunity for more people to experience this story.”

HBO has made passing reference to “future seasons” beyond an initial first season, though any continuations are likely to be dependent on the success of season one.

The Last of Us: Part II (2020)

The Last of Us: Part II (2020) (Image credit: Naughty Dog)

The Last of Us TV show: story, cast, and characters

While we were initially told that Chernobyl director Johan Renck would be directing the pilot for the show, it turns out that they’re a very busy person, and that means that we’ve now got the award-winning director Kantemir Balagov instead. 

Alongside Balagov, we’ve got Chernobyl Creator Craig Mazin co-writing with Neil Druckman, who was the writer and executive producer on the games themselves. 

All we know about story so far is what HBO has given us as a synopsis, which is “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.”

It seems like the show will be following along with the story of the games, and this tweet below shows that Neil Druckmann has already considered which characters will be featuring. 

So, while we know that characters like Tess (Joel’s partner of sorts), Marlene (member of the Fireflies), Riley (childhood friend and romantic interest of Ellie), and Maria (wife of Joel’s younger brother) seem to be part of the show, which suggests a big focus on the first game, we’ve yet to have anybody cast as them.

The only casting announcements we’ve had so far are for Ellie and Joel, which makes sense, as they’re really the main characters. Ellie is going to be played by Bella Ramsey who starred in Game of Thrones. Joel has an equally titanic casting choice in the form of fellow Game of Thrones actor turned Mandalorian Pedro Pascal. 

There is, of course, the matter of the blanked out name in Druckman’s tweet. Given that it’s four letters, we’re assuming it could be one of three different characters depending on what kind of time frame we’re looking at. 

The first of these is Anna, Ellie’s mother, who would be a new character as they were only mentioned in a letter in the first game. The other two choices come from The Last of Us Part 2 in the form of Dina or Abby. 

Dina is Ellie’s love interest in the second game (no prizes for guessing what happens to Riley), while Abby is another protagonist in Part 2. Abby, for the record, is the hench one, and if they’re included, we could be looking at some multiple perspective stuff akin to The Witcher. Hopefully though, that won’t include the confusing timeline. 

The blocked out section in the tweet suggests a four-letter name, which could be any number of characters. Possibly Anna, Ellie’s mother – who is only mentioned via letter in the game? Or maybe even Dina, if the TV show jumps forward to The Last of Us 2’s character list? 

We’ve also now heard – from Neil Druckmann himself – that the composer for both the original The Last of Us game and The Last of Us 2, Gustavo Santaolalla, will be returning to work on the HBO show adaptation. So get ready for some tense and tear-jerking soundtracks to accompany the action.

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