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The Last of Us TV show: Everything we know so far about the HBO series

The Last of Us
(Image credit: Naughty Dog)

The Last of Us TV show is in production, but it will be a while yet until the HBO release arrives on the streamer The latest update is that 2022 isn't a realistic timeframe, and we can instead think of 2023 as a likelier candidate. From everything known about the series so far, though, it seems this adaptation of the beloved video game will be very much worth the wait.

Stepping into Ellie's shoes is Game of Thrones' Bella Ramsey, while The Mandalorian's Pedro Pascal is our live-action Joel. We've got a full rundown of the rest of the cast below, as well as everything that's out there about the plot, and enough set pictures and videos to almost make the lack of a trailer bearable. Plus, we've got quotes from co-creator Craig Mazin, and much more besides. So, to get up to speed on all things The Last of Us TV show, scroll on.  

The Last of Us TV show release date: 2023, according to HBO

The Last of Us series 2023 release

(Image credit: Sony)

We don't have an exact release date for The Last of Us series just yet, but HBO has now said we shouldn't expect the show to hit our screens until 2023.

"It's not going to air in 2022 – they are still shooting in Canada. I imagine you will see it in '23," HBO Max chief content officer Casey Bloys told Deadline. That's despite previous director posts and other whispers pointing to 2022.

The Last of Us TV show story: "enhanced" but will it adapt both games?

(Image credit: Naughty Dog)

So far, only a synopsis has been officially revealed by HBO: "The story takes place 20 years after modern civilization has been destroyed. Joel, a hardened survivor, is hired to smuggle Ellie, a 14-year-old girl, out of an oppressive quarantine zone. What starts as a small job soon becomes a brutal, heartbreaking journey, as they both must traverse across the U.S. and depend on each other for survival."

As revealed by The Hollywood Reporter in early March 2020, the series will "cover the events of the original game… with the possibility of additional content based on the forthcoming game sequel [The Last of Us 2]." 

A separate report from the publication indicates that "future seasons" are a possibility, meaning this is unlikely to be a Chernobyl-style miniseries but instead one that will stretch out over several years. The mention of sequel story beats making their way into the HBO series should also whet the appetite of many who enjoyed The Last of Us 2. 

The first season, meanwhile, is set to last for 10 episodes. It's not yet known if the first season will cover the entirety of the first game's events.

Co-creator Craig Mazin has also hinted that The Last of Us HBO series may be a more definitive version of the game's story, telling the BBC, "In this case, I’m doing it with [Neil Druckmann], and so the changes that we're making are designed to fill things out and expand, not to undo, but rather to enhance." In the same interview, he added that the TV series will include a moment not in the games that will make our jaws drop.

(Image credit: Sony)

So, how do you adapt one of the most beloved games of all time? Carefully, probably. 

The Last of Us creative director Neil Druckmann has briefly touched upon the challenges of bringing the game's story across to HBO in an interview with EW.

"You have to figure out [with a TV show] how it communicates ideas or tells stories. In removing the interactivity of the story, how do you make it unique for this other medium? It's an interesting challenge, and I think there's a lot to learn from it... Craig [Mazin] had ideas about how to adapt the show, it became intriguing to work with another creative who I admire. It just became a no-brainer - and to do it under the umbrella of HBO and all their content."

Troy Baker, who plays Joel in both The Last of Us and its sequel, has full faith in the story adaptation versus the original plans to turn it into a movie.

"The thing that encourages me most [about the HBO show] is that while there were a lot of people in Hollywood that stood up and took notice [of The Last of Us and its success] and were thinking, 'Oh, a lot of people like this - we should turn it into a movie,' Craig [Mazin] came at it from a fan's perspective," Baker told Fandom in a recent interview. "He just wants everybody to know this experience."

The Last of Us TV show cast: who's playing Joel and Ellie?

(Image credit: Naughty Dog)

The Last of Us TV show has its Joel – The Mandalorian's Pedro Pascal, AKA television's favorite dad, will be taking on the series' lead male role and Troy Baker, the actor behind Joel in the video game, has given the casting decision his seal of approval. "This IS the way. Full support. Full stop. Can't wait for you to show me a side of Joel I never knew, Pedro," he posted on Instagram.

The actor has revealed he hasn't played the video games – but have no fear, it's for a good reason. "I found Joel so impressive – I found the whole of it such a visually impressive experience. And then I got worried that I would want to imitate too much, which I think could be right in some circumstances, and then a mistake in others. So I just wanted to create a healthy distance, and for that to be more in the hands of [show co-writer] Craig Mazin and [game director and show co-writer] Neil Druckmann."

Pascal will be joined by fellow Game of Thrones alumni Bella Ramsey as Ellie, which seems an ideal fit. With her role as the fan-favorite Lady Lyanna Mormont in Game of Thrones, Ramsey has already proven herself more than capable of playing a fierce, confident, show-stealing character. 

The first look at their pair of leads have been released as part of the franchise's Outbreak Day celebrations. You can see the image below.

Joel and Ellie in The Last of Us series

(Image credit: HBO)

Gabriel Luna will play Tommy, Joel's younger brother. Luna's previous roles include parts in Terminator: Dark Fate, True Detective, and Marvel's Agents of SHIELD.

Meanwhile, Merle Dandridge will play The Fireflies leader Marlene – Dandridge also played the role in the video game. It's thanks to Marlene that Joel and Ellie meet each other.

Nico Parker, will play Joel's daughter, Sarah. Parker's breakout role was as Milly Farrier in Tim Burton's 2019 reimagining of Dumbo. You might've also seen her in the 2020 HBO series The Third Day, in which she played Ellie (not that Ellie) in three episodes.

Nick Offerman will play Bill (replacing Con O'Neill due to a scheduling conflict) and Murray Bartlett is set to play Frank. The pair are described in Deadline as "two post-pandemic survivalists living alone in their own isolated town." Tommy's voice actor from the games, Jeffrey Pierce, will play an original character by the name of Perry.

Anna Torv will be playing Tess, Joel's friend and fellow smuggler who helped Joel and Ellie get to the Fireflies. Tess will be a recurring character in the series, so expect her to play a major role in more than one episode. Storm Reid will play Riley, hinting that the show will adapt parts of the Left Behind DLC.

One mysterious character, by the name of Mr. Adler, will be played by Brad Leland.

As for the other roles, Neil Druckmann has listed a large chunk on Twitter. Maria is there,  as is a redacted character with four letters – which very well could be *mild spoilers for The Last of Us 2* Abby, a member of the WLF and one of the main characters in the sequel.

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Mazin also assuaged fears that characters will change from their game counterparts by stating that Ellie will remain LGBTQ.

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Alongside the cast of characters and director is a certain composer. Gustavo Santaolalla will be scoring the HBO series, just as he did with the first two games. There are also several directors on board, including Oscar nominee Jasmila Žbanić, Kantemir Balagov, and Ali Abbasi. Neil Druckmann also appears to be helming an episode, which we know thanks to a production listing.

The Last of Us TV show set photos and videos

The first set photo from The Last of Us' production has surfaced, all thanks to Tommy actor Gabriel Luna. 

Luna appears alongside Pedro Pascal and Sarah actor Nico Parker, perhaps hinting that they're filming the tragic opening to The Last of Us. If you know, you know.

Another two batches have also given us the first look at the series' sprawling sets. Could this be the Boston QZ where Joel and Ellie first meet? Another set of photos certainly back that theory up.

Meanwhile, another photo shows Pedro Pascal wearing clothes that look extremely close to Joel’s getup from the original game, and others show off how Canmore, Alberta, will be transformed into Jackson, Wyoming. Yet another new batch shows Joel, Ellie, and Tess on a set covered in Cordyceps, the fungus that infects and turns people into groaning, gnashing, killer zombies. Then there's another batch that shows Joel and Ellie on horseback, as well as what seems to be the University of Eastern Colorado. More pictures reveal a closer look at the characters, too. 

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That's everything we know so far about The Last of Us HBO series. For something to watch now, make sure to check out the best Netflix shows currently streaming. 

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I'm the Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, focusing on news, features, and interviews with some of the biggest names in film and TV. On-site, you'll find me marveling at Marvel and providing analysis and room temperature takes on the newest films, Star Wars and, of course, anime. Outside of GR, I love getting lost in a good 100-hour JRPG, Warzone, and kicking back on the (virtual) field with Football Manager. My work has also been featured in OPM, FourFourTwo, and Game Revolution.

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