Casting Call: The Last of Us

By John Wahl

The Last of Us was one of the most critically acclaimed video games of the past decade.

Chernobyl was one of the most critically acclaimed television series of all time.

What happens when the creator of the latter (Craig Mazin) signs a deal to adapt the former into a television series for HBO? You get one of the most highly anticipated video game adaptions ever. The story of Joel and Ellie on their journey west through a dangerous post apocalyptic world seems perfect for the prestige television treatment, and we’re hopeful that this telling of the story will live up to the original material.

The inclusion of TLOU director Neil Druckmann as executive producer ensures that this adaptation will be a faithful telling of the story, but you also need just the right cast of actors to pull off a story like this. Luckily, I have a few suggestions and since Neil and I became total besties when we met that one time at E3 I’m sure he’ll take these picks to heart.

Veteran actor Karl Urban has made a career of playing cranky grumps. From Billy Butcher (The Boys) to ‘Bones’ McCoy (Star Trek) he has taken the art of being a lovable jerk to the next level. For a character like Joel, you need to be able to pull that off while also having the emotional range to play a man wrestling with the grief of an unimaginable loss and saddled with a mission to safely guide a young girl from Boston to Seattle, a task he neither asked for nor welcomes. But while he may not have wanted the responsibility of watching over Ellie, but he will protect her at all costs.

Perhaps best known for her roles in the television series Justified and Last Man Standing, Dever’s breakout performance was in the 2019 comedy Booksmart. She’s one of the most talented young stars in Hollywood and not only bears a pretty striking resemblance to Ellie but is also able to pull off the quiet intensity and razor sharp wit of the character. The Last of Us is the story of Ellie, so getting this casting right is critical to it’s success, and we think Dever would fit the bill perfectly. She also has history with developer Naughty Dog, having played the character Cassie in the game Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.

To play Joel’s hardened smuggling partner Tess, we looked to seasoned television actress Jennifer Morrison. Best known for her portrayals of Dr. Cameron on House M.D. and as Emma Swam on Once Upon a Time, it was her performance this past year as Cassidy on This is Us that really sold us on the idea of her in the role of Tess. Cassidy was a veteran of the war in Afghanistan and upon returning home struggled with addiction and PTSD. It was the type of tough as nails, but emotional role that we think would prepare her well for being a smuggler in the apocalypse.

Fresh off of her roles in Creed, Westworld, and Thor: Ragnorak, Tessa Thompson has been a rising star in Hollywood for several years, and we think she would be the perfect fit to portray the leader of the rebel group, The Fireflies. Marlene is a strong leader, having led the charge in the fight against the military regime responsible for locking people behind the walls of the quarantine zones, and she’s responsible for the mission to get Ellie to Seattle. That character has a commanding presence and would be a perfect fit for Thompson.

Joel’s brother Tommy is haunted by the events that occurred during the opening days of the outbreak, and after spending several years surviving with his brother, Tommy decides to leave and join the Fireflies to try and fight for a batter future. After several years however, he abandons that fight and settles down in a small colony with his with, Maria. For the role of Tommy, we think that Kick-Ass star Aaron Taylor-Johnson would bring the right energy to the part.

The role of Bill is a small, but incredibly important part in The Last of Us. He helps Joel and Ellie as they make their way to Seattle but his is a cautionary tale, having succumbed to loneliness and paranoia of being on your own in the apocalypse. Actor Bill Camp is the first name I thought of for the role, the veteran of several HBO series such as The Outsider, The Leftovers, and The Night Of would be absolutely ideal for the part.

Joel and Ellie come across brothers Henry and Sam as they attempt to make their way out of Pittsburgh. The pair are trying to get out of the city to join up with the Fireflies and the four of them work together to try and escape. The story of Henry and Sam is one of the most emotional and heartbreaking of the entire game, so you need two actors who are up the task. Lakeith (Sorry to Bother You) and Blackk (When They See Us) are the perfect fit to portray the tragic siblings.

2 thoughts on “Casting Call: The Last of Us

  1. I really agree with this casting, Karl Urban would be perfect for Joel in my opinion although we haven’t seen much representation of an emotional soft side from him, I think he can do it ^^

  2. Karl Urban is a fine choice. But, my choice for Ellie is Maisie Williams. Maisie Williams would knock this role out of the park just like she did Arya Stark. In fact, Ellie is a contemporary version of Arya Stark. Remove the period piece costume and swords for contemporary clothing and guns, you have Ellie.

    My money is on Maisie Williams to pull off the role of Ellie.

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