The characters from Jeffrey Pierce, Murray Bartlett, and Con O'Neill offer more clues as to how the show is adapting the games.

By Nick Romano
July 15, 2021 at 03:33 PM EDT
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As the cast and crew of HBO's The Last of Us settle into their new filming home in Calgary in Alberta, Canada, some new casting has come to light that offers more hints at how the story for season 1 is going to play out.

Actors Jeffrey Pierce, Murray Bartlett, and Con O'Neill have joined the ensemble fronted by Game of Thrones veterans Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey, EW has learned.

It's exciting news for fans of the beloved video games. Pierce featured prominently in the voice cast for Naughty Dog's The Last of Us (2013) and The Last of Us Part II (2020) as Joel's brother Tommy. Gabriel Luna is playing Tommy in the live-action series, and Pierce will now play Perry, who's described as a rebel in a quarantine zone. The character name Perry isn't featured in the games but is likely a way to incorporate more talent that helped make the franchise what it is into the adaptation.

Merle Dandridge is another voice from the games, and she'll actually be reprising her role as Marlene, leader of the rebel group known as the Fireflies. Character details for Bartlett and O'Neill's parts further tease how the story for the show might be shifting slightly for the screen.

The Last of Us 2
Jeffrey Pierce, Murray Bartlett, and Con O'Neill.
| Credit: JB Lacroix/WireImage; Amy Sussman/WireImage; Ian West/PA Images via Getty Images

The Last of Us is the story of Joel (Pascal) and Ellie (Ramsey), years after a fungal plague wiped out much of humanity. Joel is living in a militarized quarantine zone when he's tasked by the Fireflies to smuggle Ellie out of the city. What starts as a small task explodes into a cross-country journey across an apocalyptic America.

O'Neill joins the show as Bill, who, in the first game, is a survivor and a not-super-friendly acquaintance of Joel's. He's living in an isolated town that he boobytrapped to death. Bartlett will play the guest-starring role of Frank, another survivor in this town.

Without spoiling the games too much, Frank mainly features in the 2013 Playstation title by name. He's referenced by Bill as his "partner." In the official Last of Us podcast, the games' creative director Neil Druckmann confirmed the intent here was that Bill and Frank were lovers.

"At first, I think we conceived of [Frank] as a surviving partner, his best friend," Druckmann said in the podcast. "As I was writing those scenes, sometimes things just come out of you. It felt more interesting to say that this partner is his lover, as well."

The Last of Us 2
Joel and Ellie in 'The Last of Us Part II.'
| Credit: Naughty Dog/Sony Interactive Entertainment

This new casting offers an opportunity to expand that relationship in the show, and the presence of Bartlett (HBO's Looking, Netflix's Tales From the City) and O'Neill (HBO's Chernobyl, Warner Bros.' The Batman) suggests maybe that's where this could be going. But that's speculation at this point.

Luna shared an image recently of him gathered on location in Calgary with Pascal and Dumbo actress Nico Parker, who plays Joel's daughter Sarah. The Last of Us is still in preproduction, EW has learned, but the photo of these specific actors mimicked a crucial moment in the first game that kicks everything off. (More on that here if spoilers don't faze you.)

Chernobyl Emmy winners Craig Mazin and Carolyn Strauss executive produce The Last of Us with Druckmann. Kantemir Balagov (Beanpole) directs the pilot.

Deadline was the first to report the new batch of casting.

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