Although a live-action The Last of Us series is in the works for HBO with Chernobyl creator Craig Mazin and Naughty Dog creative director Neil Druckmann attached to writing and executive producer duties, diehard fans of the highly immersive, emotionally stirring third-person action adventure games are still wondering how closely the television adaptation will follow the source material. Thankfully, a recent interview with Mazin on BBC Radio 5 should quell at least a few reservations for those who have been through hell and high water with Joel and Ellie.
In terms of the source material being drastically altered to “better fit the TV format,” Mazin says fans shouldn’t have to worry too much about such needless modifications. “I think the one anxiety that fans of something have is when the property gets licensed to someone else, those people don’t really understand it, or are going to change it, or make it stupid,” Mazin said. “In this case, I’m doing it with the guy who did it, and so the changes that we’re making are designed to fill things out and expand, not to undo, but rather to enhance.”
What fans can expect however are some new storylines and scenes that weren’t in the game but are still congruous to the overarching narrative of The Last of Us series, like some material Naughty Dog had devised for the original Last of Us video game but never got around to using in the finished version.
“Neil, at one point, he’s like, ‘You know, there was one thing we were talking about for a while,’ and then he told me what it was,” Mazin said. “I was like, ‘Well, that’s going in. You couldn’t stop me from doing that.’ So we’re doing that and there’s quite a few things like that where it’s not like, ‘Oh, we just decided, oh, wouldn’t it be cool if there was one episode where Joel and Ellie get on motorcycles and confront a motorcycle gang?’ That’s not what we do. There’s no episodic nonsense here. This is all pretty much curated. The things that are new and enhancing of the storyline we’re doing are connected in organic, serious ways that fans and newcomers alike will appreciate.”
Mazin continued, “Everything we’re doing is being done with extreme care and thoughtfulness for what we know we love about it. Neil has enough experience talking to fans to understand what they truly love about it. Our goal is to make you fall in love with The Last of Us in a different way. You are experiencing more with more characters in more ways. I think we’ve got something good going.”
When asked what it was like translating The Last of Us‘ powerful video game narrative into a television series, Mazin explained, “You can’t repeat the gaming experience precisely. It’s not a first-person game but you are a character. For almost all of The Last of Us, you are playing Joel. You play as his daughter Sarah very briefly and you do also play as Ellie a bit more significantly. When you are watching a television show, you are not a person, you are all of them. Hopefully, you’re connecting with or experiencing something with all of them, so it’s a very different way of approaching narrative and it requires us to make certain choices as well.”
You can’t repeat the gaming experience precisely. It’s not a first-person game but you are a character.
Although the Coronavirus pandemic hasn’t made future plans for filming easy, Mazin said that he and Druckmann still have a clear cut plan. And reiterated that HBO’s The Last of Us series would be as close to the game experience as possible, while still throwing in some new twists for the television.
“We’ve mapped it all out, at least the first cycle of it of how we want to do it. Next up, we’re going to start writing. If you have played, our intention is that you will watch the show and say, ‘This has violated nothing about what I loved about the game and what I witnessed in the game, but it has also brought me a whole lot more things that I did not know.’”
Are you looking forward to the HBO’s The Last of Us series now that you’ve heard series head Craig Mazin explain more details surrounding its intended faithfulness to the source material? Let us know in the comments.