The Last of Us showrunner Craig Mazin defends deviating from the game for TV show

The Last of Us
(Image credit: HBO / Sky)

The Last of Us showrunner Craig Mazin has discussed the difficulties of adapting the hugely popular game for the small screen – and the changes it necessitated. 

The HBO series stars Pedro Pascal as Joel, a hardened survivor of a deadly virus outbreak, who is hired to smuggle Ellie (Bella Ramsey) out of a quarantine zone. However, the series writers, Chernobyl showrunner Mazin and game creator Neil Druckmann, have discussed how the story will deviate from the game.

"Ultimately, adaptation is all about choices. And we can talk until our faces turn blue about how we make those choices," Mazin told Radio Times (opens in new tab). "And there's a lot of math to it. But for me, what it always came back to was, 'What do I love?' What, as a fan, would I be hurt if I didn't see it in the show?

"And what do I think we would absolutely have to change to adapt to a medium that is passive, that isn't interactive, that doesn't require gameplay? And what are the things that we can be inspired by and adjust and just let ourselves be creative, but always within the bounds of 'what do we love'?"

Druckmann echoed Mazin, sharing that viewers will notice they have "deviated" from the source material, but explained the reason for this. "We did deviate, but not to surprise the audience," Druckmann added. "That was never our goal, like, 'how do we surprise them?' We knew that would happen organically as we just kind of adapt this from one medium to another, and the surprises will emerge in that way. But yeah, that was never, never a focus of ours."

One change already revealed by the creators is how the fungus spreads in the series. Mazin opened up about how the spores will not transfer through the air in the show, but stopped short of explaining exactly how it spreads.

The Last of Us begins on January 15 on HBO in the US and January 16 on Sky Atlantic in the UK. For more, check out our list of upcoming video game movies, as well as all of the new TV shows on the way.

Fay Watson

I’m an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering TV and film for the Total Film and SFX sections online. I previously worked as a Senior Showbiz Reporter and SEO TV reporter at Express Online for three years. I've also written for The Resident magazines and Amateur Photographer, before specializing in entertainment.