How The Last Of Us On HBO Will Differ From The Original Game

Naughty Dog's 2013 post-apocalyptic saga "The Last of Us" is one of the most beloved video games of the 21st century. The award-winning game's heart-stopping thrills, devastating character arcs, and stunning visuals made it an instant fan favorite upon its release, while a sequel and additional playable content deepened the story even more. It's no wonder, then, that fans of the game have been extra protective of the source material during the game's years-long path to an on-screen adaptation. Why mess with a story that's already about as close to perfect as possible?

Luckily, it sounds like the team behind HBO's "The Last of Us" is deeply invested in preserving the magic of the original. The game will be making the jump to the premium cable network soon, with a series adaptation starring Pedro Pascal as hardened smuggler Joel and Bella Ramsey as Ellie, the girl he's supposed to be transporting. Neil Druckmann, who wrote and directed the PlayStation game, is shepherding the series as an executive producer, co-creator, co-writer, and director. The show will also see the return of several voice actors from the games, including Jeffrey Pierce, Merle Dandridge, Troy Baker, and Ashley Johnson.

Keeping the soul of the game

"We're adhering to the things that we as the players of the game know to be the essence and the soul of the game, because we want it to be accurate and authentic to that experience [for newcomers]," actor Gabriel Luna, who plays Tommy, said in an interview with the YouTube channel "What Would Kay Say?" Luna says that the original game "rips our hearts out," and that any changes made to the series "expanded the lore in a way that, whatever little bits of your heart remain -– those of us who have played the game -– we're gonna go ahead and just go and rip those out, too."

While the show has yet to reveal any trailers that might drop hints about exactly how it plans to break fans' hearts, Druckmann has also shared some insight about the differences between the two formats. He told IGN that some episodes of the show hew closely to the games, and even pull full lines of dialogue from it, but that "sometimes they deviate greatly to much better effect, because we are dealing with a different medium." Druckmann cites the game's gory player mechanics tutorial as one aspect the show doesn't need to carry over, since viewers aren't being trained in console controls. According to Druckmann, this has led the series to "move away from just hardcore action" in order to "focus on the drama and character."

New characters and superficial changes

Druckmann also explains that the series could have some superficial changes to aspects like costuming. The filmmaker told IGN he's most concerned with getting "the philosophical underpinnings of the story" just right, while questions like "should the person wear the same plaid shirt or the same red shirt?" are much less vital to the team bringing the show to life. For instance, as the official first look photo of Ramsey and Pascal shows, this version of Joel doesn't seem to have the full beard the character is known for. Still, the images the team has shared to date have been uncannily similar to their source material. A shot Druckmann shared of the actors on set last fall could easily be mistaken for one of the game's cutscenes.

With much of the show still under wraps, fans will have to wait to see how Luna and Druckmann's teases play out, but other minor changes are already apparent. Casting announcements for the series have included a few characters whose names aren't familiar to "The Last Of Us" fans. Last year, Deadline reported that Jeffrey Pierce would be joining the cast not in the role of Tommy, which he originated in the game, but as a new character named Perry. The outlet simply describes Perry as a quarantine zone rebel. Meanwhile, "The White Lotus" actor Murray Bartlett will play Frank, a supporting character who's alluded to in the original game.

'Not to undo, but rather to enhance'

Two more actors have also signed on to play characters who "The Last of Us" fans may not recognize. "Y: The Last Man" actor Natasha Mumba has added a credit for the show to her Instagram account, along with the unfamiliar character name Kim Tembo. Meanwhile, Brad Leland, best known for his role on "Friday Night Lights," revealed on The A List Productions podcast that he filmed scenes for the series. While Games Radar reports that the actor could be playing a character named Mr. Adler based on IMDb credits, HBO hasn't supplied official information about the role.

Overall, it sounds like HBO's take on "The Last Of Us" plans to be additive rather than reductive, so while fans may get moments they didn't expect, it sounds like the ones they love will likely also be there. Series co-creator, executive producer, and writer Craig Mazin confirms as much to BBC Radio, explaining that "the changes that we're making are designed to fill things out and expand: not to undo, but rather to enhance." All these additions will take up some screen time, which means the biggest change to "The Last of Us" as it shifts from game to show may be its length. Though future installments of the show haven't been officially announced, all involved refer to the upcoming batch of episodes as its first season, meaning the big-budget series is likely built to last.

"The Last Of Us" will debut on HBO, with a release date still to come.