The Last of Us TV show: release date, cast, story and everything we know

Joel and Ellie walking in The Last of Us TV show
(Image credit: HBO)
The Last of Us TV show: key info

The Last of Us TV show

(Image credit: HBO)

-Begins streaming on HBO Max and Sky Atlantic on January 15, 2023
- Season 1 will comprise nine episodes
- Stars Pedro Pascal, Bella Ramsey, Nick Offerman, Gabriel Luna and more
- Will mostly follow the plot of The Last of Us, with elements of its sequel thrown in
- First official trailer released in September, second trailer followed in December 

Load up on guns: The Last of Us TV show is almost here. The series' source material tops our list of the best videogames of the 2010s, and original writer Neil Druckmann and Chernobyl creator Craig Mazin are on board as The Last of Us' showrunners, so suffice to say, there's reason to be excited. 

As in the Naughty Dog games, The Last of Us TV show will follow the journey of wanderers Joel and Ellie as they try to survive in a post-apocalyptic America overrun by the zombie-like Infected. The series will loosely mirror the plot of the first game, The Last of Us, which came out all the way back in 2013 on PS3 and instantly became a critical hit thanks to its incredibly emotive storytelling and grim world. Fans were then treated to an equally-brilliant follow-up in 2020 in the form of The Last of Us Part 2 on PS4.

So, with The Last of Us TV show’s debut now just days away, we’ve herded together all the confirmed details about its release date, development and cast. Luckily for us, we've already seen the series (check out our The Last of Us review), but we've kept this one-stop-shop guide open for those keen to learn more about HBO's upcoming adaptation. 

Release date: The Last of Us' nine-episode first season will begin streaming on HBO Max on January 15, 2023. UK viewers will be able to watch the series’ debut in the early hours of Monday, January 15 on Sky Atlantic and Now. 

Cast: Pedro Pascal will star as Joel, alongside Bella Ramsey as Ellie. Merle Dandridge, Nick Offerman, Gabriel Luna, Storm Reid, Anna Torv and Nico Parker have all been confirmed to feature, too, while the game's original voice actors, Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson, will also be appearing as new characters. 

Story: The show will follow the story of the first game, with elements of expanded lore (plus the Left Behind DLC) thrown in. Showrunner Neil Druckmann has also said that some episodes will “deviate greatly” from the source material.

The Last of Us TV show release date

HBO has confirmed that The Last of Us will begin streaming HBO Max on Sunday, January 15, 2023. As with other HBO-produced shows, UK viewers will be able to watch the series’ debut in the early hours of Monday, January 15 on Sky Atlantic and Now. 

Confirmation of The Last of Us' release date came just a day after HBO inadvertently revealed the news (opens in new tab) through a rogue description in the series’ HBO Max preview listing.

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News of the show's 2023 release date also came after a series of misleading blunders from the show's cast and crew during its lengthy production. For instance, one of the series' directors, Kantemir Balagov, for a time had an Instagram bio reading, "The Last of Us series (2022)", while GamesRadar (opens in new tab) highlighted an IMDb post, shared on star Bella Ramsey's Instagram Story, that also wrongly gave the show a 2022 release date.

In any case, we now know that we'll be seeing The Last of Us TV show in January, which will qualify the series for next year's Emmy awards. 

Where can I watch The Last of Us TV show?

The Last of Us TV show will be available to stream on HBO Max in the US and Sky Atlantic and NOW in the UK. In Australia, you're looking at Foxtel or Binge. 

The Last of Us TV show development

There'd been chatter around a movie adaptation of The Last of Us for a good few years before HBO announced the TV version, with the project even reaching a second draft script and auditions being held for actors before development stalled.

Back in 2015, Naughty Dog co-president (and writer of The Last of Us games) Neil Druckmann was quoted as saying (opens in new tab) he'd “just finished a second draft" and had "a table read with a bunch of actors". Although "there are some big changes," he added at the time, "the tone and what the story’s trying to say is pretty faithful to the game."

Shortly after Druckmann's comments, screenwriter and executive producer Craig Mazin (who won numerous awards for his work on the highly acclaimed Chernobyl mini-series) said (opens in new tab) his feelings were that "you can’t make a movie out of this, it has to be a show. It needs length. It’s about the development of a relationship over a long journey, so it has to be a television show – and that’s that, that’s the way I see it." 

It appears Druckmann and Mazin reached some sort of agreement, then, with a TV adaptation of the game being confirmed back in March 2020 – with the pair both on board as writers and executive producers.

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Unlike the six-episode Chernobyl, season one of The Last of US TV show will have 9 instalments. While we were initially told that Chernobyl director Johan Renck would be helming the pilot for the show, it turns out that award-winning director Kantemir Balagov (Beanpole) will be handling its debut outing instead. 

HBO's Chernobyl

Craig Mazin is hot property after his brilliant but harrowing 2019 mini-series Chernobyl. (Image credit: HBO)

He'll be joined on the directing roster by (via Collider (opens in new tab)) Peter Hoar (It's a Sin, Daredevil), Jasmila Zbanic (Quo Vadis, Aida?), Jeremy Webb (Shadow and Bone, The Umbrella Academy) and Liza Johnson (American Horror Story, What We Do in the Shadows). Webb and Johnson will reportedly share shot-calling duties with Mazin and Druckmann.

The composer for both the original The Last of Us game and The Last of Us 2, Gustavo Santaolalla, will be returning to work on the HBO show adaptation, too. So get ready for a tense and tear-jerking soundtrack to accompany the action.

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The Last of Us TV show story

HBO's official synopsis for its big budget adaptation reads as follows: 

"The story 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, heartbreaking journey, as they both must traverse across the U.S. and depend on each other for survival.”

It seems that the show will be following the basic story of the games, then – though Druckmann has confirmed that some episodes will “deviate greatly” from the source material, in terms of their focus on drama over hardcore action. For the production team, the “philosophical underpinnings of the story“ were the essential aspects they wanted to get right with the adaptation.

“As far as the superficial things, like should [a character] wear the same plaid shirt or the same red shirt? They might or might not appear in it," Druckmann said, "that’s way less important to us than getting to the core of who these people are and the core of their journey.“

The Last of Us TV show will also be set in a slightly different time period to the game that inspired it. In the game’s chronology, the Cordyceps pandemic erupts in 2013, with the main events of The Last of Us taking place twenty years later (i.e. 2033). But in the HBO series, proceedings kick off in 2003, with the bulk of the show’s story set in 2023. 

In an interview with TechRadar, Druckman revealed that the decision to set The Last of Us in 2023 was made to “help make [the story] more real”, with co-showrunner Craig Mazin feeling that TV shows can benefit from taking place in familiar timelines.

For more details on how The Last of Us TV show will deviate from its source material, read our extended interview with Druckmann, Mazin and series stars Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey.

The Last of Us TV show cast

Back in 2020, Druckmann confirmed a few familiar characters from the game who'll be appearing in The Last of Us TV show.

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We know Tess (Joel's partner of sorts), Marlene (a member of the Fireflies), Riley (a childhood friend and romantic interest of Ellie), and Maria (wife of Joel's younger brother) are all going to be part of the show – and we also know some of the actors who have signed on to play them.

Right now, The Last of Us TV show cast list looks like this:

  • Bella Ramsey as Ellie
  • Pedro Pascal as Joel
  • Merle Dandridge as Marlene
  • Gabriel Luna as Tommy
  • Nico Parker as Sarah
  • Anna Torv as Tess
  • Nick Offerman as Bill
  • Storm Reid as Riley

Ellie is going to be played by Bella Ramsey, who played Lyanna Mormont in Game of Thrones. Joel has an equally titanic casting choice in the form of fellow Game of Thrones star-turned-Mandalorian warrior/Baby Yoda's minder Pedro Pascal. 

Merle Dandridge will reprise her videogame role as Marlene (opens in new tab), while Gabriel Luna will also star as Tommy, Joel's younger brother. Joel's daughter, Sarah, has been cast, too – she’ll be played by newcomer Nico Parker.

It was also confirmed in December 2021 (opens in new tab) that Parks and Recreation and Devs star Nick Offerman will be starring as Bill, a post-pandemic survivalist living alone in an isolated town. He was brought on to replace actor Con O’Neill in the role, who reportedly had bow out of the show due to scheduling conflicts.

The Last of Us

Sarah and Joel in Naughty Dog's The Last of Us game. (Image credit: Naughty Dog)

The Hollywood Reporter (opens in new tab) confirmed in July 2021 that Fringe and Mindhunter star Anna Torv will play "smuggler and hardened survivor Tess", while Deadline (opens in new tab) revealed in January that Storm Reid (Euphoria, The Suicide Squad) is on board to play the aforementioned role of Riley.

There is, of course, still the matter of the blanked out name in Druckmann's aforementioned tweet. Given that it's four letters, there's a chance he could have been referring to Bill (now confirmed to be played by Offerman), though there are other characters who fit that description, too, depending on what kind of time frame we're looking at.

The first of these is Anna, Ellie's mother, who would be a new character, as she was only mentioned in a letter in the first game. The other two choices come from The Last of Us: Part 2 in the form of Dina or Abby. 

Dina is Ellie's love interest in the second game (no prizes for guessing what happens to Riley), while Abby is another protagonist in Part 2. If they're included, we could be looking at some multiple perspective stuff akin to The Witcher.

Ellie and Abbie in The Last of Us: Part 2.

Ellie and Abbie in The Last of Us: Part 2. (Image credit: Naughty Dog)

The Last of Us TV show trailers

HBO released the first official trailer for The Last of Us TV show in September 2022, before a second, longer trailer followed in December. You can watch both below. 

These extended teasers followed a much shorter teaser trailer, which released by HBO back in August as part of the broadcaster's 2022/2023 sizzle reel:

The Last of Us TV show: how many seasons?

There's been no confirmation of how many seasons HBO is planning for the series, though Joel voice actor Troy Baker has provided a vague window of "three, four seasons" being necessary to match the story beats of the game at an appropriate pace – rather than constraining the story within a single two-hour film or rushed single season.

“I think that, episodically, you can far more effectively tell this story, because trying to condense that experience of 16 hours into [a few] hours is impossible… it goes past the point of distillation, into reduction," Baker said in an interview with GameSpot (opens in new tab)). "I think being able to do this episodically and go, ‘We’ll do this for say, three or four seasons’ and be able to almost 1:1 tell [the story of the game] presents a great opportunity for more people to experience it."

HBO has made passing references to "future seasons" beyond an initial first season, though any continuations are likely to depend on the success of season one. Here's hoping, then, The Last of Us season 1 – which, as a reminder, begins streaming on January 15, 2023 – can deliver on the promise of its source material. 

Axel Metz
Staff Writer

Axel is a London-based staff writer at TechRadar, reporting on everything from the newest movies to latest Apple developments as part of the site's daily news output. Having previously written for publications including Esquire and FourFourTwo, Axel is well-versed in the applications of technology beyond the desktop, and his coverage extends from general reporting and analysis to in-depth interviews and opinion. 

Axel studied for a degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick before joining TechRadar in 2020, where he then earned a gold standard NCTJ qualification as part of the company’s inaugural digital training scheme.