Troy Baker Wasn't Ready For All The Blood When Shooting The Last Of Us TV Show

This post contains spoilers for "The Last of Us" HBO adaptation. 

One of the best aspects of HBO's "The Last of Us" adaptation is that showrunners Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann have designed the show with several audiences in mind; even though season 1 of the show follows the first game's entire plot, there are enough surprises for both hardcore fans and newcomers of the source material. For those who have played the game, you might have recognized plenty of familiar voices throughout the series, such as Merle Dandridge reprising her role as Marlene, or Ashley Johnson as Ellie (Bella Ramsey)'s mother, Anna, in the finale episode's cold open. One of gaming's most recognizable performers, Troy Baker (who originated Joel in the 2013 game) made it into the penultimate episode, "When We Are In Need," this time playing a supporting character in this post-apocalyptic world. 

As David (Scott Shepherd)'s second in command, Baker truly got to challenge himself by playing a character so distinct from his original role in this story universe. In a special behind the scenes reel for episode 8 of "The Last of Us," Baker shared that while he was ready to take on the challenge of playing a more despicable character than Joel, he wasn't quite ready for all the prosthetics and fake blood that came with it.

Performance capture versus live-action

James is a relatively minor character in the both iterations of "The Last of Us," but he has an especially brutal death that plays out during one of the most tense moments in Ellie's harsh winter. Frustrated with Ellie's disobedience, David, the religious zealot cannibal, decides it would be more worthwhile to cut her up for fresh meat than try to integrate her into his community. In order to escape, Ellie reveals her bite mark, and while Davis and James are confused, she strikes James with a cleaver and runs away.

As a voice actor with previous experience in motion capture technology, the different approach to performing something so violent and visceral in live-action was a challenge for Baker. "Having played the game, I knew what James — what his arc was going to be. So, I knew going into it that, ultimately, I would meet my demise," Baker explained. "What I didn't know is, when you do performance capture, a lot of it is pretend. And so, if you're bleeding, you have to pretend that there's blood. If you get stabbed, you have to pretend that you get stabbed. When you're making an actual film or a show like this, they go all out."

A joyous, cinematic tradition

Baker had nothing but great things to say about working with Ramsey. He once revealed that there was an improvised scene between James and Ellie that didn't make the final cut — but even with a great scene partner to bounce off of, it's still difficult to act like you're dying, especially when connected to prosthetics and a pump full of fake blood. Thankfully, it does sound like a lot of fun. Baker shared:

"So, I spent the entire morning in prosthetics. And they had this magnetic attachment in my neck, so that when Bella swung the cleaver, it would stick. And it did. It was like [mimics magnets connecting], right there. And then, they had this bladder full of blood. That's actually what they called it. They had a bladder full of blood that was piped up through my neck, through this prosthetic. So, when Bella hits me with the cleaver, I stagger back and blood goes everywhere. It was just blood, blood, blood. I went through eight changes of wardrobe. And each time, I got to sit in a cold pool of my own blood. It was awesome."

Fake blood is a joyous cinematic tradition — ask any student filmmaker out there. Whether it's a combination of corn syrup and food dye or industry-quality fake blood pumped through complex machinery, it's great to know the novelty doesn't wear off in a professional set environment. Fans of Troy Baker's work know he loves a good challenge, and behind one of the most harrowing scenes in the entirety of "The Last of Us," he might look like he's dying, but he's having a blast.