In somewhat surprising news, The Last of Us video game voice actor Merle Dandridge will reprise her role for the upcoming TV series adaptation in the works at HBO. Developed by game creator Neil Druckmann and Chernobyl creator Craig Mazin, the series is said to be a rather faithful adaptation of the award-winning video game. Several cast members have already been announced, but Dandridge is the first to be reprising a role originally portrayed in the game.
Dandridge will be back in the role of Merle Dandridge, the head of the Fireflies. It's the character she voiced in the 2014 video game along with its 2020 sequel, The Last of Us Part II. Other cast members that have also been announced are Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian) as Joel, Bella Ramsey (Game of Thrones) as Ellie, and Gabriel Luna (Terminator: Dark Fate) as Joel's brother Tommy. Both Pascal and Ramsey played popular roles on Game of Thrones, though their characters never shared the screen at any point.
"HBO's been great in pushing us to move away from hardcore action and focus more on the drama of the character. Some of my favorite episodes so far have deviated greatly from the story, and I can't wait for people to see them," Druckmann said of the series at SXSW 2021, per Collider.
It is expected that the TV series will feature a similar story to the video game. In The Last of Us, which is set 20 years after the fall of modern civilization due to a zombie-like viral outbreak, a hardened smuggler is hired to escort a teenage girl named Ellie across a dangerous wasteland. The nature of Joel's mission changes when he uncovers the true reason he's been tasked to smuggle the teenager, and as the two bond, they begin to rely on each other for survival.
Kantemir Balagov will direct the pilot episode of The Last of Us with Jasmila Zbanic and Ali Abbas also serving as directors. Druckmann and Mazin will also executive produce alongside Carolyn Strauss, Naughty Dog president Evan Wells, Asad Qizilbash, and Carter Swan of PlayStation Productions, as well as Rose Lam. The series is a joint collaboration between Sony Pictures Television, PlayStation Productions, Word Games, The Mighty Mint, and Naughty Dog, who developed the original video game exclusively for PlayStation platforms.
The Last of Us video game players know Dandridge well for her role as Marlene, and she has lent her voice to a variety of other video games, including roles in Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, Dota 2, and Half-Life 2. She also won a BAFTA Game award for her portrayal as Katherine Collines in Everybody's Gone to the Rapture. On the live-action side, Dandridge recently appeared in the hit HBO series The Flight Attendant with Kaley Cuoco and has other roles in Murphy Brown, The Night Shift, and Star-Crossed.
Last year, HBO gave The Last of Us a series order. While it's clear that production is now moving along rather well, it's unclear when the show is expected to make its premiere on HBO. This news comes to us from Deadline.