The Last Of Us Actor Merle Dandridge Wanted To Revisit This Aspect Of Marlene In The HBO Series

HBO's adaptation of "The Last of Us" will largely see a new set of faces play its ensemble cast of characters, but one voice actor will be making her way back to the post-apocalyptic world. Merle Dandridge is set to reprise her role as Marlene, to whom she lent her voice and motion-captured performance in the original video game. The leader of a resistance movement called the Fireflies, Marlene plays a pivotal role in the overarching narrative of "The Last of Us." Dandridge is not the only crew member returning to the franchise, but unlike Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson, who are playing different roles than they played in the games, Dandridge faces the unique task of revisiting a role she defined long before this live-action adaptation. And she's not taking the unique opportunity for granted.

In the original "The Last of Us," Marlene was a complex character who sought to change the world for the better by whatever means necessary. She represented the philosophy that in a destroyed society, it was possible to fix it by curing the very infection that upended it. But the cruel nature of the surviving population can't be cured overnight, and that long-standing fight against the militarized establishment shook Marlene to her core. According to Dandridge, the HBO series allowed her to revisit a certain aspect of the character that remains well intact the second time around.

Heavy footsteps

Last month, /Film's Ben Pearson attended a press conference for "The Last of Us" which featured the cast and crew. During a roundtable interview, Ben asked if there was anything specific she was looking forward to taking another crack at when inhabiting the role of Marlene again, and the actress revealed that replaying Marlene allowed her to hone in on the physical deterioration that comes with a life-long battle:

"I think there was a heavier stillness to her that ended up coming through, which surprised me, because I think I've always remembered and understood her as in front of the microphone with a fist in the air and all of that. But there was the weathered-ness of the 20 years of living in this very dark world and not knowing whether or not another side is actually going to happen. You can believe, you can have faith, you can hold the beacon up, but do you actually have evidence? And what does that do to you in your daily walk?"

As seen in the promotional material, Marlene is wounded at the start of the series after being shot. The "good" fight against opposing forces caught up to her in a very literal way. That, of course, would impede anyone's movement, but there is an underlying theme that Dandridge aptly considers for her live-action performance. The stillness comes after decades of a never-ending crusade that culminates in "The Last of Us."

The weight of the world

In the opening hours of "The Last of Us" game, Marlene appears as a sort of wise parental figure to Ellie before the young girl sets off on her adventures with Joel. At this point, Marlene had a weathered look and brandished plenty of battle scars, but her footsteps were heavy with purpose. The declining state of society did not deter her from trying to achieve a renewed vision of a better world. If anything, the arrival of Ellie reinvigorated her hope that she'd see that mission come to fruition.

Dandridge was originally able to bring a subtle weariness to her voice-over performance, but it is exciting to know that she won't just be putting out the exact same work in the HBO series, either. There are already a lot of big shoes to fill in "The Last of Us," so I'm glad we'll get a familiar face and voice to help anchor it to the original game. But accentuating and improving upon what was already present in the franchise should always be the goal of a great video game adaptation.

"The Last of Us" is set to premiere January 15 on HBO and HBO Max.