If you're also a huge fan of The Last of Us, one of the people to thank is Neil Druckmann. Not only is he the writer and director of the games, but he is the co-creator of the new HBO series. In short, the man is a certified expert on everything about the horror series.
So, BuzzFeed (virtually) sat down with Neil to get the inside intel on all things The Last of Us:
1. Pedro Pascal agreed to play Joel within a day of being sent the script. After chatting with Neil over Zoom, he was locked in for the role.
2. Neil watched over 100 auditions for Ellie before seeing Bella Ramsey's audition, of which he said, "It didn't feel like I was watching someone acting like Ellie. I was watching Ellie."
3. Indeed, the video game actors look nothing like the roles they're playing — especially Troy Baker, who was a "tall, skinny, bleached-hair hipster" when he played Joel.
4. One challenge with the adaptation was how to change gameplay scenes that would be "long and boring" if they were adapted exactly as they were in the video game.
5. However, the adaptation offered the opportunity to expand on characters' backstories — like Marlene and Ellie's relationship — as they weren't limited to a first-person POV.
6. The TV show also offered Neil the opportunity for "another bite at the apple" to iterate on certain moments differently — such as making Ellie's infection more "scientifically plausible."
7. Huge apocalyptic sets had to be made for the show that were only used once — like the interior of the Capitol Building, which was "built on a soundstage from scratch." Matching the "lushness" of the game while making it "more realistic" was the end goal, and art books from Naughty Dog (the company that developed the video games) were used as a jumping off point.
8. As the clickers were a "home run" in the games, prosthetic artists from Game of Thrones were brought on to make them look as close to the source material as possible.
9. There was even a "movement bootcamp" to train extras how to move like infected.
10. And to separate the recently infected from a "typical zombie," they landed on the concept of transmission via tendrils.
11. The art teams were given the direction to "find the beauty" in the fungus. As Neil said, "When you see the beauty in these monsters, it somehow makes them creepier."
12. It was Bella Ramsey's suggestion to have Ellie sleep with a switchblade during her first night with Tess and Joel.
13. Neil's favorite Easter egg is a drawing made by a kid in Episode 5.
14. Neil always thought of Joel and Tess's relationship as romantic, and the TV show offered the opportunity to make that "explicit."
15. And that Tess and Joel can "only find comfort in each other."
16. Neil will sometimes cry while watching episodes of the show.
17. Neil is open to a The Last of Us Part 3 game, but it depends on whether the team can "come up with a compelling story that has this universal message and statement about love."
18. There have already been "conversations" about a Season 2 of The Last of Us.
19. However, the show will not go beyond the scope of the games.
20. Finally, the show means that Neil's parents can finally check out The Last of Us.
Thanks for talking to us, Neil! Keep an eye out for more The Last of Us exclusives in the coming weeks.
Note: Some quotes have been edited for length and/or clarity.