Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann reveal how they built up Ellie and Sarah for The Last of Us’ first episode, both in relation to Joel and each other.
The following contains spoilers for The Last of Us Season 1, Episode 1, now streaming on HBO Max.
Sarah and Ellie on The Last of Us play similar but different roles in Joel’s character arc.
During The Last of Us‘ first “Inside the Episode” video, co-showrunner Craig Mazin broke down how he and Neil Druckmann went about adapting both video game characters for the pilot episode, “When You’re Lost in the Darkness.” With Sarah, Mazin explained, “We asked Nico Parker to play an incredibly challenging part. We have to fall in love with her, and she also has to be a specific kind of person, very different than the person that Joel is going to meet later in the episode in the guise of… little Ellie.” Mazin also revealed why he and Druckmann deliberately imbued Joel’s daughter with hero-like qualities, stating that they wanted “to present the audience with a Sarah that we felt we could follow for the rest of the series. She’s almost the protagonist, until disaster strikes.”
HBO’s Version of Sarah and Ellie
Later, the duo discussed the pilot’s final scene and how it provides a contrast between Sarah and Ellie’s reactions to Joel hurting people who threaten their lives. According to Mazin, “The most remarkable thing about that moment is that, when Ellie watches him beating a man to death, she is activated. Earlier in the episode, when Sarah sees him killing this old woman who’s infected who he has to kill, she cries. Ellie doesn’t cry. Ellie likes it. She likes the idea of someone defending her like that and she likes the idea of that guy being punished.”
Originally voiced by Hana Hayes and Ashley Johnson, Nico Parker and Bella Ramsey portray Sarah and Ellie’s live-action incarnations on The Last of Us. While Sarah’s story and tragic death remained game-accurate, The Last of Us also provided viewers with more Sarah-centric moments not shown in the 2013 source material, such as her day-to-day activities leading up to the cordyceps outbreak. The pilot also revealed Ellie’s first interaction with the Fireflies militia group and their leader, Marlene — played by Merle Dandridge, Marlene’s original voice actor — prior to her meeting Joel.
Reviews for The Last of Us have been universally positive, with many critics deeming it one of the best video game adaptations of all time. While Season 2 has not yet been greenlit, Druckmann and Mazin confirmed that future The Last of Us stories will only go as far as the published Naughty Dog titles, indicating that they intend to adapt The Last of Us Part II next. Season 1, meanwhile, will also feature scenes and content that Naughty Dog cut out of the original Last of Us game.
New episodes of The Last of Us air Sundays at 9:00 p.m. ET on HBO and stream on HBO Max.
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