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

The Last of Us TV show on HBO
(Image credit: Sony)

Filming for The Last of Us TV show is currently underway, and its showrunners have already confirmed an impressive cast list, an episode count for season one and hinted at tentative details as to its plot.

The series seems set to 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 incredible emotive story-telling and grim world. The story follows the journey of Joel and Ellie as they try and survive in a post-apocalyptic America and potentially help save humanity. We gave it the number one spot in our roundup of the best games of the decade, to dispel any doubts about its quality.

After we got the PS4 remaster of the first game, we were finally treated to The Last of Us Part 2 last year. Once again, it seemed to defy all reason and was another huge critical hit. There were plenty of interesting new characters added into the world, and the gritty feeling of the first game was only more intense in the new story. 

With a movie no longer an option for The Last of Us, we're excited to see how well the game can be translated into an episodic TV Show. It seems to make a lot more sense than a film, especially as we could well see it slowly bridging into the second game, too. 

So, what do we know so far about The Last of Us TV show’s release date, streaming platform, story and cast? Well, information is slowly starting to emerge, and despite a change in the director for the pilot, more names attached to the project are being announced. 

Here's everything we know so far about The Last of Us TV show.

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Nico Parker has signed on to play Sarah, Joel's daughter, in the show. She'll star alongside other confirmed cast members Pedro Pascal, Bella Ramsey, Gabriel Luna and Merle Dandridge.

The series will also “deviate greatly” from the source material in some episodes, according to showrunner Neil Druckmann, but only in terms of its focus on drama over hardcore action.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? A TV show based on The Last of Us video game 
  • Where can I watch it? HBO Max
  • When can I watch it? 2021 if we’re lucky, but probably early 2022
  • Who’s in it? Pedro Pascal, Bella Ramsey, Gabriel Luna, Nico Parker and more
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The Last of Us TV show release date

The Last of Us TV show was only confirmed as being in development last year, so we still haven't got an official release date – beyond "coming soon to HBO," that is.

Co-writer Craig Mazin commented on the series' production back in 2020, telling GamesRadar that The Last of Us 2 would need to be tied up before the wheels really get moving on the TV show.

That game has been out for some time now, though, and filming for the HBO series is currently underway, if set images (see below) shared by Twitter user @necromonica1 are accurate. Naturally, we're no more confident of a concrete release date, but early 2022 seems the most likely arrival time at this point.

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Wait, so there's no The Last of Us movie?

No! There'd been chatter around a movie adaptation for a good few years, with the project even reaching a second draft script and auditions being held for actors before development stalled.

Back in 2015, the game's writer, Neil Druckmann, was cited as saying he'd “just finished a second draft" and had "a table read with a bunch of actors," while calling the script "pretty faithful to the game."

"There are some big changes," he added at the time, "but the tone and what the story’s trying to say is pretty faithful to the game."

Shortly after Druckmann's comments, screenwriter Craig Mazin said 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 the pair reached some sort of agreement, with a TV adaptation of the game confirmed back in March last year.

The Last of Us TV show: where can you watch it?

The show is being developed for HBO, with Naughty Dog’s Neil Druckmann acting as co-writer alongside screenwriter Craig Mazin, who won an Emmy for outstanding writing on HBO's highly-praised Chernobyl miniseries, which aired last year. 

Unlike the six-episode Chernobyl or nine-episode Watchmen, Mazin has confirmed that season one of The Last of US TV show will have 10 episodes.

HBO's Chernobyl

Chernobyl (HBO) (Image credit: HBO)

It will end up on HBO Max – the streaming platform launched by HBO in May 2020. 

HBO is a US-exclusive platform, but if you're in the UK, your best bet is likely Now TV, which often carries HBO shows such as Watchmen or Succession – though Sky is also a home for some HBO titles, too. 

In Australia, you're probably looking at Foxtel. We'll update this page when we're a bit closer to the show's release with more information on this.

The Last of Us on HBO: 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 (via GameSpot).

“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. "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 reference to "future seasons" beyond an initial first season, though any continuations are likely to depend on the success of season one.

The Last of Us: Part II (2020)

The Last of Us: Part II (2020) (Image credit: Naughty Dog)

The Last of Us TV show: story, cast, and characters

While we were initially told that Chernobyl director Johan Renck would be helming the pilot for the show, it turns out that he's a very busy person. That means we've now got the award-winning director Kantemir Balagov, instead. 

Alongside Balagov, Jasmila Zbanic and Ali Abbasi are also confirmed to be directing some episodes, with Craig Mazin confirming on a recent Scriptnotes podcast that only two directors are left to be announced. Both Mazin and Druckmann will serve as executive producers on the show.

All we know about story so far is what HBO has given us as a synopsis, which is that "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 like the show will be following along with the story of the games, then, and we have an idea of the characters that will be featuring, too.

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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.

Ellie is going to be played by Bella Ramsey, who starred in Game of Thrones. Joel has an equally titanic casting choice in the form of fellow Game of Thrones actor-turned Mandalorian Pedro Pascal. 

Merle Dandridge will play Maria in the series, while Gabriel Luna will also star as Tommy, Joel's younger brother. Joel's daughter, Sarah, has been cast, too – she will be played by newcomer Nico Parker.

The Last of Us

(Image credit: Naughty Dog)

Then there is, of course, the matter of the blanked out name in Druckmann's above tweet. Given that it's four letters, we're assuming it could be one of three different characters, 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. Hopefully, though, that won't include the confusing timeline. 

More recent comments from Druckmann confirmed that some episodes will “deviate greatly” from the source material, but only in terms of their focus on drama over hardcore action. For himself and Mazin, 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," he added, "that’s way less important to us than getting to the core of who these people are and the core of their journey.“

It's clear, then, that whichever characters appear in the show, it'll be more of a deep-dive into their personal experiences, rather than focused on their violent, zombie-killing exploits.

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We've also heard – again from Druckmann himself – that 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. So, get ready for some tense and tear-jerking soundtracks to accompany the action.