Why Does The Actor Who Plays Marlene In HBO's The Last Of Us Look Familiar?

The first trailer for HBO's "The Last of Us" series was released today as a self-indulgent celebration of "The Last of Us Day," which commemorates the day the in-universe Cordyceps fungal infection took over the world. Grim? Maybe, but for fans of the game, there's plenty of exciting surprises and details in the trailer to savor on until the show releases next year.

A large cast of famous actors are portraying the game's many characters, from Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey playing Joel and Ellie all the way to Nick Offerman as Bill. But one actress has a striking resemblance to her character in the original game, and that's because she is the character in the original game.

Merle Dandrige, the original mo-capped voice actress who portrayed Marlene in "The Last of Us" games is returning to reprise her role in the live-action series. While this was announced a while ago, it is fantastic to see her embody the role on an even more physical level than before.

Dandridge's on-screen roles paved the way for her reprisal of Marlene

Even if you didn't make the connection between Dandridge and her CG counterpart, there's a lot of other media you've probably seen her in before. Dandridge has a long history of stage credits, from local Chicago theatre to eventually performing in Broadway shows like the original "Jesus Christ Superstar," "Tarzan," and a revival of the classic musical "Rent."

Eventually, Dandridge made the transition to acting on-screen as well. One of her first recurring roles was in FX's hit series "Sons of Anarchy," in which she played Rita Roosevelt, the wife of Eli in the fourth and fifth seasons of the show. The exposure would lead her to other recurring roles in the medical drama "The Night Shift" and HBO's "The Flight Attendant." In 2016, Daindridge booked a leading role in OWN's "Greenleaf," which exposes the Calvary Fellowship World Ministries megachurch's scandalous history. The show lasted five seasons and ended in 2020.

With the amount of on-screen experience Dandridge has under her belt, it's easy to see why creators Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann felt it was right to bring her back as Marlene. Unlike Troy Baker's Joel and Ashley Johnson's Ellie, Dandrigde already is an appropriate age, and the digital character was modeled after her own appearance. Why mess with perfection?

Marlene is not the only video game character Dandridge has portrayed

"The Last of Us" is not the only culturally significant, revolutionary video game that Dandridge has been an active part of, though. Even before Marlene, Dandridge became a nerd icon of sorts with theĀ role of Alyx Vance in the "Half-Life" video games.

For those who are less knowledgeable about Valve's breakthrough game "Half-Life 2," Alyx served as a companion character to silent protagonist Gordon Freeman. She wasn't always by the player's side, but in key story moments, she helped introduce the character to the futuristic sci-fi world of crabhead zombies, gravity guns, and fascist corporate overlords. Dandridge's Alyx was essentially the Ellie of the 2000s gaming.

The HBO adaptation of "The Last of Us" has a lot of pressure on its shoulders as it translates one of the most beloved modern video games to live-action television, but the further expansion of its world and characters is also exciting. Here's hoping Dandridge is given the opportunity to add even more depth to Marlene when the series premieres in 2023.