Why Pedro Pascal And Bella Ramsey Didn't Speak With The Original Video Game Actors Before Making HBO's The Last Of Us

The internet getting way too mad over the casting of a beloved character in an adaptation is hardly a new phenomenon, so when people went after Bella Ramsey's appearance after she was announced to play Ellie in the HBO adaptation of "The Last of Us," it sadly wasn't that surprising. Although we know from "Game of Thrones" that Ramsey is perfectly capable of playing the tough, sharp-tongued girl we all know Ellie to be, the internet was more inclined to go for someone like Kaitlyn Dever, based purely on the fact that Dever looks more like Ellie from the game.

But as it turns out, there's more to the casting process than just a performer's looks. Ellie's defining attributes are her teenage rashness and her bravery, not the bone structure of her face. And then there's the fact that the TV adaptation isn't planning to be a carbon copy of the game. This is most clearly demonstrated by the fact that both Ramsey and Pedro Pascal (who plays Joel) had been encouraged not to play the game ahead of time, in part to ensure that their performances would be their own special thing. 

Most notably, the two leads also haven't interacted all that much with the actors who originated their characters, Ashley Johnson and Troy Baker. "We did the shy little Instagram follows and likes and slid very cautiously into each other's DMs, but there was never a 'sit down, let's talk about it,'" Ramsey explained in a press event attended by /Film's own Ben Pearson. "I think that was a conscious, strategic thing for us to just exist."

Getting the original actors' blessings

While the show certainly seems to plan on being respectful to the source material — they've even included at least one wooden plank sequence from the game, seen above — ultimately it understands that there's no point in just repeating the game exactly, beat for beat, line for line. If that's all they did, why wouldn't we just play the game again? The spirit of Joel and Ellie will continue on with these new actors, but neither of them will be attempting a straightforward imitation of the originals. That's simply not the sort of adaptation anyone here's trying to make.

And of course, it's not like the group of actors have never interacted at all. Both Baker and Johnson have been cast in the live-action series, playing different roles than they're used to in this franchise. "Our paths did cross on set, and it was really cool and surreal," Pascal explained. "I remember looking into Troy [Baker]'s eyes, and it felt like I'd seen them so much, and Ashley as well, and [we were] just kind of in the light of each other's, I don't know, mutual admiration." Ramsey concurred that both of their experiences in real life with Johnson and Baker were definitely encouraging: "To have their blessing made me feel, anyway, a lot better about it all." 

So far, everything we know about the show indicates that the cast and crew understand the differences between what makes a TV show work and what makes a video game work, and they're prioritizing the former every time. Pascal and Ramsey will be doing their own separate thing from Baker and Johnson, and that's probably for the best.

"The Last of Us" premieres on HBO on January 15, 2023.