HBO’s The Last of Us series, based on the wildly popular PlayStation exclusive of the same name from Naughty Dog, premiered on January 15 with “When You’re Lost in the Darkness.” Launching with a 99 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, showrunner Craig Mazin and Naughty Dog Co-President Neil Druckmann’s live-action adaptation seemed to be a hit with the crowd, who were understandably skeptical as to whether or not theirs would be a faithful rendition of the critically acclaimed franchise. There’s no word yet as to whether the series made enough of an impact to be renewed for another season — it’s simply too early to tell — but both Mazin and Druckmann have been vocal about their interest in continuing, saying they’d be “lucky” to return for more.
Credit for the success of The Last of Us is due, in part, to the phenomenal casting choices. Auditions took place virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic, then on February 2021, Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey were cast as Joel and Ellie, respectively. Originally, candidates for the role of Ellie — such as Maisie Williams and Kaitlyn Dever — aged out of consideration by the time auditions had commenced. Just in the debut episode, we saw several familiar female faces in Ellie, Sarah, Tess and Marlene. With a prospective second season on the horizon, one can expect other central females to appear later down the line, specifically Ellie’s rival Abby and love interest Dina.
Speaking of Dina, who’s a crucial element to Ellie’s growth and character arc, there’s been plenty of buzz surrounding her eventual appearance alongside Pascal and Ramsey. In The Last of Us: Part II, Ellie and Dina become romantically involved after the latter ends her relationship with Jesse, who — unbeknownst to all those involved at the time — impregnates her and becomes the biological father of her son, JJ. While Shannon Woodward is credited with Dina’s motion capture and voice, it’s Cascina Caradonna who became the literal ‘face’ of the character after lending her distinctive features to her in-game model. But who could star alongside Ramsey in a live-action take on Dina?
Some may know her from Jojo Rabbit, others from The Power of the Dog or Last Night in Soho, but horror fans will most certainly recognize her from M. Night Shyamalan’s Old. The 22-year-old New Zealand native rose to prominence with a starring role in Debra Granik’s Leave No Trace, then became an overnight sensation for playing Elsa in Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit, alongside Roman Griffin Davis, Scarlett Johansson and Waititi himself. She hasn’t had quite the same illustrious career in television, but a turn as Dina in The Last of Us would surely open some doors for the future — particularly as far as HBO are concerned. It’s not the wisest casting choice, since Dina originally hails from New Mexico and McKenzie is white, so there’s some ethnic erasure there, but McKenzie’s impressive filmography speaks for itself.
Canadian actress Anna Cathcart gained worldwide fame for portraying Kitty Covey in Netflix’s To All the Boys franchise. She also had a turn as Dizzy Tremaine, daughter of Drizella Tremaine and granddaughter of Lady Tremaine, in Disney’s Descendants 2 and its sequel, Descendants 3. Before kick-starting her acting career, Cathcart would appear in commercials for companies such as Crayola and Campbell’s Soup. Cathcart identifies herself as “half Chinese and half Irish,” so there’s an opportunity to further expand The Last of Us‘ ethnic diversity, especially as Marlene’s actress, Merle Dandridge, comes from half Asian, half African-American descent. Likewise, Riley’s actress, Storm Reid, is African American. Otherwise, on a visual basis, Cathcart looks the part, so there’s no fear of backlash, such as that succeeding Bella Ramsey’s casting.
In The Last of Us: Part II, Ellie is supposedly around 18-19 years old, so we’ll assume — for the record — that Dina is around that same age bracket, perhaps a year or so her elder. With that information in mind, Samantha Scaffidi might not be the most suitable choice, considering she’s 33 years old. Regardless, there’s no lack of talent in Scaffidi’s résumé; she starred as Victoria Heyes in Terrifier, alongside David Howard Thornton’s Art the Clown, then reprised the role in Terrifier 2. She began her acting career with minor roles in short films, then after her breakout role in Terrifier, she found further success in Demon Hole and American Fango. Interestingly, Scaffidi was given the choice between Dawn or Victoria in Terrifier. She chose the latter and handed off the former to her co-star, Catherine Corcoran. She might be a tad too old to make Dina convincing as a young adult, especially when acting opposite 19-year-old Bella Ramsey, but there’s potential for future projects.
It’s the most obvious choice of them all. There’s no denying that Caradonna looks like Dina… because she is Dina. It might be Dina’s voice that we associate the most with her mannerisms and personality, but there’s significance to her face, as well, which is instantly recognizable — even for a side character. She’s a social media personality, actress and model, but she’s yet to have her breakout role. Nevertheless, Dina was modeled in her likeness, so that credit alone skyrocketed her following on Instagram and Twitter, plus allowing her to literally make her face known to the world. There isn’t much more to say about Caradonna other than the fact that she’s the living, breaking embodiment of Dina herself. And, she’s expressed multiple times in various videos/streams that she’d love to star as Dina in live-action, so that’s her ticket in.
Like McKenzie, this is another risky choice. It erases Dina’s Mexican heritage, which we certainly wouldn’t want. Gideon Adlon has dual American-German citizenship on her father’s side, but she was born into a Jewish family. That similarity works wonders for Dina, whom the developers have confirmed to be Jewish. What’s more, Adlon has already dabbled in the post-apocalyptic survival realm with a role as Violet in the acclaimed video game The Walking Dead: The Final Season. It wasn’t until 2018 — in the comedy film Blockers — that Adlon rose to prominence, then went on to star in the supernatural film The Craft: Legacy and the Peacock original Sick. Like Scaffidi, she might be a little outside of HBO’s age bracket for casting Dina, since she’s 25, but as far as looks and overall presence, there’s a striking resemblance to Dina there.
We can only speculate right now, but here’s hoping that another season is fast-approaching, so we’re not left wondering for too long.