‘The Last of Us’ Sets Early 2023 Release at HBO: Here’s Everything You Need to Know

HBO is adapting the critically acclaimed video game franchise into a television series.
"The Last of Us"
"The Last of Us"

After decades of maligned Hollywood adaptations of critically acclaimed video games, the tide might finally be starting to turn. Several high-profile TV series based on hit video games are currently in development, helmed by showrunners with a deep passion for the source material. Many also believe that television is an inherently better medium than film for adapting sprawling video games.

Of all the upcoming video game adaptations, few are as highly anticipated as HBO’s upcoming “The Last of Us” (January 15 on HBO). Neil Druckmann’s post-apocalyptic video game and its sequel are some of the most beloved games of the past decade. The artistry behind both “The Last of Us” and “The Last of Us Part II” has been held up as some of the best interactive storytelling in recent memory. And HBO has assembled quite the creative team for its adaptation.

The upcoming drama series will be executive produced by the talents behind some of HBO’s most successful projects, as well as the minds behind the video game franchise. Craig Mazin (“Chernobyl”) and Carolyn Strauss (“Chernobyl,” “Game of Thrones”) will executive produce alongside Neil Druckmann (“The Last of Us” and “Uncharted” video game franchises), Evan Wells (Naughty Dog, the game’s development company) and PlayStation Productions’ Asad Qizlibash and Carter Swan.

We’ve gathered all the most up-to-date info about the buzzy show. Keep reading for everything you need to know about HBO’s “The Last of Us.”

Tyler Hersko and Samantha Bergeson contributed to this story.

“The Last of Us” Reveals Early 2023 Release Date

The Last of Us
“The Last of Us”screenshot/HBO

The highly anticipated HBO series will debut Sunday, January 15 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HBO. “The Last of Us” takes place 20 years after modern civilization has been destroyed. Joel, a hardened survivor, is hired to smuggle Ellie, a 14-year-old girl, out of an oppressive quarantine zone. What starts as a small job soon becomes a brutal and heartbreaking journey as they both must traverse the U.S. and depend on each other for survival.

Craig Mazin
Craig MazinSipa USA via AP

Craig Mazin is Spearheading the Show

After writing and producing a massive hit in “Chernobyl,” Craig Mazin could have done just about anything in Hollywood. He chose to spend his newfound creative capital on “The Last of Us” with the hope that it could usher in a new era of high-quality video game adaptations.

Mazin discussed his work on the HBO series and the challenges of adapting video game IPs for film and television in an interview with IndieWire in August. At the time, Mazin noted that HBO’s willingness to support an adaptation of “The Last of Us” could mark a shift where Hollywood begins to look at video game adaptations with more seriousness.

“I don’t think the folks at HBO were necessarily plugged into the game world, but it would only take them 20 minutes on Google to realize that ‘The Last of Us’ is the ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ of video game narratives. Just by dint of the fact that they said ‘yes’ [to a 10-episode first season], you get a feeling that this is going to be different,” Mazin said in an August 2021 interview.

The series is written by Mazin and Neil Druckmann, who wrote and co-directed the video games. It’s a co-production with Sony Pictures Television. PlayStation Productions, Word Games, and Naughty Dog produce. “Beanpole” director Kantemir Balagov has been tapped to direct the pilot for HBO’s adaptation. Jasmila Žbanić and Ali Abbasi will also direct episodes of the show.

“Craig and Neil are visionaries in a league of their own,” Francesca Orsi, executive vice president, HBO Programming, said in a statement on November 20, 2020. “With them at the helm alongside the incomparable Carolyn Strauss, this series is sure to resonate with both die-hard fans of ‘The Last of Us’ games and newcomers to this genre-defining saga. We’re delighted to partner with Naughty Dog, Word Games, Sony and PlayStation to adapt this epic, powerfully immersive story.”

"The Last of Us"
“The Last of Us”Screenshot/Twitter

The Story Follows a Brother and Sister Traveling Across a Post-Apocalyptic United States

HBO’s synopsis for the upcoming series reads reads: Twenty years after modern civilization has been destroyed Joel, a hardened survivor, is hired to smuggle Ellie, a 14-year-old girl, out of an oppressive quarantine zone. What starts as a small job soon becomes a brutal, heartbreaking journey, as they both must traverse across the U.S. and depend on each other for survival.

"The Last of Us Part II"
“The Last of Us Part II”Sony

Both “The Last of Us” Games Were Almost Universally Praised By Critics

“The Last of Us” video game was a critical and commercial success for Sony and Naughty Dog. The developer’s 2020 sequel, “The Last of Us Part II” was also a commercial success and sold over 4 million copies within its first weekend. The 2020 sequel was lauded by IndieWire’s David Ehrlich, who wrote that the sequel improved on the original classic in almost every way.

Pedro Pascal
Pedro PascalEvan Agostini/Invision/AP

Pedro Pascal Plays Joel

“The Mandalorian” star Pedro Pascal is adding another genre TV credit to his resume with his lead role on “The Last of Us.” And Pascal believes there are quite a few similarities between the ways the two shows approach their beloved source material.

“It’s similar to the way Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni treat ‘The Mandalorian,’ in how [Mazin and Druckmann] are treating ‘The Last of Us’ — it’s in good hands because they love it so much,” Pascal recently said. Well, clearly Neil created the video game, but Craig loves it so much,” he said. “So it really is made for the people that love it. And there’s some very intense storytelling for people who might be less familiar.”

Bella Ramsey on "Game of Thrones"
Bella Ramsey on “Game of Thrones”HBO

Bella Ramsey Plays Ellie

Pedro Pascal is going to have some company in the form of Bella Ramsey. The “Game of Thrones” standout has been cast as Joel’s sister, Ellie on the show. And it appears that the two castmates are already getting along, as Ramsey has been known to joke about their lack of video game skills on Twitter.

Nick Offerman
Nick OffermanJordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Nick Offerman Plays Bill

In a piece of fan-favorite casting, Nick Offerman has signed on to play the survivalist Bill. He took the role over from Con O’Neill.

The Trailer Shows the Apocalyptic Aftermath and a Surprise Cast Member

The Last of Us
“The Last of Us”HBO

“The Last of Us” trailer introduces fans to Joel (Pedro Pascal) who is tasked with smuggling tween Ellie (Bella Ramsey) out of a quarantine zone to safety across the U.S. in hopes for a cure for the zombie-like plague. “Yellowjackets” star Melanie Lynskey appeared in the trailer as a surprise cast member, along with Murray Bartlett and Nick Offerman who were previously announced to star.

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