From the outside, it’s very easy to compare Pedro Pascal‘s roles as Joel in The Last of Us and as Din Djarin/Mando in The Mandalorian, and it’s not lost on him. Both characters are duty-bound and committed to bringing young characters to their respective destinations, but there’s a lot more to them than meets the eye.
In an interview with Collider, Pascal explained that he understands the comparisons, but there are specific and important ways in which they diverge.
“They’re both very, very grumpy, aren’t they? And they’re reluctant, hardened figures under their own different forms of armor. The more I talk, the less difference there is between them. I think that for someone like Joel, there’s such a rich source material to be researched there. And also, what it could be, more than anything, is in the experience of playing a full realization of this type of character, where the emotional richness of this experience of a hardened human becoming human again, through the experience of a relationship, can expand itself to so many different types of storytelling. I don’t know, necessarily, how to identify what’s different about it, outside of how rich it was to play Joel and to know that everything about him hinged directly to his relationship to Ellie.”
In The Last of Us, Joel’s armor is more metaphorical as he fights to survive a viral outbreak with 14-year-old Ellie, played by Game of Thrones star Bella Ramsey. She’s an orphan with a built-in immunity and could possibly be the world’s best chance of a cure. In The Mandalorian, Mando is first commissioned to find Grogu and hand him over to Doctor Pershing, but he instead decides to take the little green guy on an adventure to find his home. He’s force-sensitive and also represents hope in the galaxy.
One of the main differences between Joel and Mando is that Mando is not much of a talker. He’s all about his missions and lives by a code to never take off his helmet, which also means he’s inherently less expressive. Joel isn’t exactly open with his emotions either, but his past trauma and the underlying pursuit of regaining his humanity lead to some interesting developments over the course of the story.
Another difference is the setting of these shows. The Mandalorian is filled with sci-fi elements, lightsabers, and starfighters, and Mando is a highly skilled bounty hunter. Joel, while not a slouch by any means, is a regular man who pushes himself to do the incredible under difficult circumstances. Both are heroes in their own right, but two very different kinds of heroes.
It’s from writer and executive producers Craig Mazin (Chernobyl) and Neil Druckmann, who wrote the video game. The series is expected to remain rather faithful to the video game story, but the timeline will be altered in The Last of Us. Instead of taking place in 2013 as the game did, the show will take place in 2023, with the infection happening in 2003. As a result, culture will be sort of frozen in time with the gadgets and clothing of the early aughts.
The Last of Us premieres on HBO on Jan. 15.