Blade star Mahershala Ali almost played Joel in The Last of Us

Mahershala Ali in True Detective
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Blade star Mahershala Ali was almost The Last of Us HBO show's Joel, according to Jeffrey Pierce, the voice of Tommy in the games. 

Pedro Pascal plays Joel in the TV show, opposite Bella Ramsey's Ellie. As hard as it is to imagine anyone else as the character, it turns out that Ali almost shouldered the backpack and starred in the series. 

Speaking to The Direct, Pierce revealed that he didn't expect to play Tommy in the TV adaptation, and, explaining why, he revealed: "I think initially they had talked to Mahershala Ali about playing Joel, which is an obvious cue that I'm not gonna play Tommy… And when they cast Pedro [Pascal], I knew like, yeah, that was certainly not going to happen regardless, I'm older than Pedro Pascal. So I was not under harboring any illusions about that, for sure."

Although Pierce doesn't appear as Tommy in the show – the role is instead played by Gabriel Luna – he did feature as Perry, an ally of Melanie Lynskey's brutal Kathleen, seen in episode 4 and episode 5. Similarly, Troy Baker, who voices Joel in both games, has a role in episode 8, as revealed by the episode's action-packed trailer

"I told [co-showrunner Neil Druckmann] early on, I was like, look, I'll come and carry a spear and stand in the corner if there's anything that I can do to help support telling the story of the game – you know, count me in," Pierce told us of his role in the show. "And the fact that it turned into Perry is kind of one of those [laughs]. He sent me the scripts and I read him. I was like, 'Oh shit, this is gonna be so much fun'. He is one of the most lovely, talented, decent human beings going, and he is so good at his job that when he hands you writing, you just know how to make it fly. And this was one of those moments."

The Last of Us continues weekly on HBO and HBO Max. You can keep up to date with our The Last of Us release schedule and our breakdown of how many episodes are in The Last of Us.

For more from the series, check out our guide to the major Last of Us episode 7 changes from the games and a terrifying look at the Cordyceps fungus.

Molly Edwards
Entertainment Writer

I'm an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering all things film and TV for the site's Total Film and SFX sections. I previously worked on the Disney magazines team at Immediate Media, and also wrote on the CBeebies, MEGA!, and Star Wars Galaxy titles after graduating with a BA in English.