Showrunners on The Last of Us Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin recently responded to criticism from fans of the franchise to the effect that lead actors Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey never actually played the games, noting how this gave them enough creative space to reinterpret the roles of Joel and Ellie. Druckmann and Mazin specifically instructed Pascal and Ramsey not to play these landmark titles.
The news comes from an interview by The Washington Post with Druckmann and Mazin. While several other topics were broached, some of the most interesting comments concerned the ongoing controversy about Pascal and Ramsey never having completed the games. “I didn’t coach her to do Ellie’s mannerisms,” Mazin said about Ramsey. “I didn’t coach her to do Ellie’s rhythms. I didn’t coach her to do anything except inside of the scenes, I let her know what the intentions were in the dialogue and in the text.”
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Pascal and Ramsey appear to have cheated by watching some gameplay videos on YouTube, but Mazin clearly wanted the actors in question to make Joel and Ellie their own characters. “A lot of people got worried,” Mazin remembered when the news became known. “It was frustrating to know what we had and to see people doubting,” the showrunner remarked.
Mazin added that people “should be encouraged. It’s our job. It’s Neil’s job and my job to put all of Ellie and Joel on the page. We know Ellie and Joel completely. We know them inside and out, not only as they were manifested in such a beautiful way by Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson, but just from the ground up as Neil thought it all through. And as he and I created these new versions.”
The result was of course a wonderful and entirely unique reinterpretation of the characters Joel and Ellie. The show has been well received by viewers and critics alike, at least so far. The first episode in the series, When You’re Lost in the Darkness, came out earlier this week on January 15, 2023 to widespread acclaim. The second episode is currently scheduled to be released on January 22.