‘The Last of Us’ Showrunner Craig Mazin Warns ‘Terrifying’ Cordyceps Fungus Is a ‘Real’ Threat

"What we're doing in this scene is telling people this has always been here," Mazin said of the post-apocalyptic HBO series.
"The Last of Us"
"The Last of Us"

Could “The Last of Us” really be predicting the apocalypse?

The series, which is decidedly not a zombie series despite showing infected undead, hinges on the takeover of the parasitic Cordyceps fungus, which typically infects ants and insects. In “The Last of Us,” based on the videogame of the same name, the fungus has evolved and infected humans.

Showrunner Craig Mazin revealed that the 1968 prologue in the first episode of the HBO series explained the very real possibility of Cordyceps fungus evolving due to climate change. John Hannah plays Dr. Neuman who details the evolution of the parasite.

“What I told John [Hannah] was, ‘What we’re doing in this scene is telling people this has always been here,'” Mazin told The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s real — it’s real to the extent that everything he says that fungus do, they do. And they currently do it and have been doing it forever. There are some remarkable documentaries that you can watch that are quite terrifying.”

While Mazin personally does not believe the fungus could infect humans, hallucinatory drugs like LSD do have roots in funguses.

“Now his warning — what if they evolve and get into us? — from a purely scientific point of view, would they do exactly to us what they do to ants? I don’t think so. I doubt it. On the other hand, he’s right — LSD and psilocybin do come from fungus,” Mazin said.

The “Chernobyl” writer added that “The Last of Us” echoed the possibility that something is “just waiting to blow up” like the fungus itself.

“You just don’t know about it. It was so upsetting to say to people, ‘We knew about this, it’s been there, now we’re gonna show you the night it finally happens,'” Mazin said. “Not suddenly, but finally.”

Mazin and series co-creator Neil Druckmann shared during a press conference that the choice on how to present the Infected zombies came from thinking of how it would expand in a second season.

“There is more ‘The Last of Us’ to come,” Mazin confirmed. “And I think the balance is not always just about within an episode or even episode to episode but season a season. It’s quite possible that there will be a lot more Infected later, and perhaps different kinds. But within the episodes that we were concentrating on, I think ultimately we generally stressed the power of relationships and trying to find significance within moments of action. So there may be less action than some people wanted, because we couldn’t necessarily find significance for quite a bit of it. After all, you’re not playing it, you’re watching it. And although a lot of people do like to watch gameplay, it needs to be a little bit more focused and purposeful when we’re putting it on TV.”

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