‘The Last of Us’ stars were told not to play the game before filming

Photo via HBO

With the amount of praise being heaped onto HBO’s stellar adaptation of The Last of Us, you would think that the stars of the series were locked in a cinema room with a PlayStation controller in their hands as mandatory preparation for their roles once they signed the dotted line. 

However, this doesn’t turn out to be the case – as revealed by Andor star Diego Luna, who plays Joel’s brother in the show. On the contrary, the series stars were actually asked not to play the game.

While recounting his casting experience with ComicBook, Luna detailed how he got started on the game when initial conversations began between himself and showrunners Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann about him potentially bringing Tommy to life.

I didn’t want to take a meeting with Neil and just not really know anything about it, which apparently wasn’t cause for concern or a reason to worry because they were telling everyone else not to play. I was happy to be on my own little Last of Us boat for two and a half months and discovering the characters, discovering who Tommy was, realizing how many similarities there were. All it did was build my anticipation for day one, just to finally get the chance to step into those boots.

Of course, not playing Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us was more of a loose prerequisite for the stars than it was an unbreakable rule, with Bella Ramsey also having recounted her tale of being asked not to play the source material to USA Today in October last year:

I was actually encouraged not to. After my first audition, they asked me, “Have you played it?” And I said, “Nope,” and they said, “Keep it that way.” (Laughs.) I did watch some of the game play on YouTube just to get a sense of it. 

These revelations may seem mind-blowing to those who are familiar with the game and have seen the show’s feature-length premiere, which is supremely faithful to the source material. If it had been sold to the masses that the stars were asked to get hands-on with the game, we’d have believed it. Everything from the cinematography to the stellar performances (particularly Pedro Pascal’s execution of Sarah’s heartbreaking death scene) screams reverence to the game the show is based on.

The Last of Us is now streaming on HBO Max, with new episodes coming Sunday night.