The Coolest Behind-The-Scenes Details We Never Knew About HBO's 'The Last of Us'

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Vote up your favorite facts from behind the scenes of the show.

HBO's heart-wrenching, post-apocalyptic drama The Last of Us was a hit from the first episode, and its viewership only continued to grow over the course of the first season. The story of Joel and Ellie's journey from smuggler and cargo to surrogate father and daughter has drawn in not just old fans of the critically acclaimed 2013 video game, but a completely new audience ready to experience it all for the first time.

So, how did the cast and crew manage to bring it all to life so successfully? And what are some of the fun behind-the-scenes facts new viewers may not yet know about the show and its characters? Read on to find out, and don't forget to vote up the coolest details you learn in the process.

Looking for more The Last of Us content? Be sure to also check out these hilarious interviews with the cast, interesting fan reactions, or this breakdown of the smartest changes made in adapting the game for TV.

  • 1
    167 VOTES

    The Actor Who Plays Ellie's Mom In The Show Voices Ellie In The Game

    The Actor Who Plays Ellie's Mom In The Show Voices Ellie In The Game
    Photo: HBO

    As the show managed to incorporate the original actors for Joel, Tommy, and even Marlene, how could they not find a way to include the original Ellie? Luckily, they did just that when they cast Ashley Johnson, who voices Ellie in the game, as Anna Williams - Ellie's mother.

    Interestingly enough, Anna doesn't appear in the games, though Ellie does mention her; as such, the inclusion of her character is a great opportunity to further flesh out Ellie's history. Fans even spotted her in the role before the show premiered, as she flashed on screen during the trailer in a blink-and-you'll-miss it moment, in which Anna appears to have just given birth and holds up a newborn Ellie.

    167 votes
  • 2
    189 VOTES

    The Clickers Were Terrifyingly Practical

    The Clickers Were Terrifyingly Practical
    Photo: HBO

    A dearth of time and money on TV productions often means special effects are left for digital post-production, but the cast of The Last of Us got a lucky (or perhaps unlucky) treat when they showed up to set to shoot the show's first clicker scene. Turns out, they would be tussling with these monsters face to face.

    Anna Torv, who plays Tess, revealed in an interview that clickers were fully practical. Actors were in full costume and prosthetics and had been trained on how to make the creepy, jerky movements seen in the show. They even made the iconic sounds themselves, emitting growls, snarls, and guttural clicks throughout filming. Fittingly, they were also just as blind as their characters, since the prosthetics completely covered their eyes.

    For the cast, this realism sometimes got a bit too real. Torv said, “It was pretty easy to feel kind of a little bit panicked… because so much of [it] was real. So the faces and the prosthetic and everything was just unbelievable… even the sounds, that was all happening in the room.”

    Pedro Pascal concurred: "It was very practical. It was too practical. Yeah… sometimes things are better left to the imagination. Because that was very disturbing.”

    189 votes
  • 3
    125 VOTES

    The Giraffes In The Season Finale Were Real

    The Giraffes In The Season Finale Were Real
    Photo: HBO

    The scene in which Ellie discovers a small herd of giraffes (likely escaped zoo animals) wandering Salt Lake City is a much-needed moment of rest and hope after her harrowing encounter with David. After all the desolation, the scene seems almost magical - and this magic is enhanced by the fact that those aren't CGI animals, but real-life giraffes courtesy of Canada's Calagary Zoo.

    Production designer John Paino revealed how they accomplished this, saying it took over and month and half to acclimate the giraffes to the set, which consisted of an indoor balcony for the actors and an outdoor enclosure with green screen panels all around it for the giraffes and scenery.

    The production team also had to train the giraffes to be able to eat out of strangers' hands. Said Paino, “That was probably the most complicated piecing of VFX stage, scenery and location I’ve worked on.”

    125 votes
  • 4
    147 VOTES

    The Makeup Artist Behind The Bloater Also Created Vecna From 'Stranger Things'

    The Makeup Artist Behind The Bloater Also Created Vecna From 'Stranger Things'
    Photo: HBO

    The show's first appearance of a bloater comes at the horrifyingly awesome finale of episode 5, when a tidal wave of infected emerge from beneath the streets of Kansas City and wreak havoc on Kathleen and her hunters.

    This lumpy monstrosity, a result of a human surviving with the cordyceps fungus growing inside of them for many, many years, needed to inspire as much fear for viewers as it did for the characters, and it took a top team to bring it together.

    At the head of this team was Barrie Gower, a four-time Emmy award-winning makeup artist and prosthetic designer whose creations you may have seen before: Not only was he the architect behind the villainous Vecna from Stranger Things, but he also created the Night King from Game of Thrones.

    As for the bloater, Gower brought it to life by coating 6’6” UK stuntman Adam Basil in 88 pounds of prosthetics, then topping that off with plenty of lubricant to keep him looking nice and shiny.

    147 votes
  • 5
    153 VOTES

    The Actor Who Plays James In The Show Voices Joel In The Game

    While there are plenty of new faces to fall in love with in the cast of The Last of Us, showrunners Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann still managed to sneak some of the game's original actors into minor parts. Case in point: James, one of David's men from episode eight, is played by none other than Troy Baker, who voiced Joel in the game.

    Of course, this will come as a delightful surprise to old fans, but Mazin says bringing back cast members from the game was more than just an Easter egg: “It's a dramatic genetic connection between the game and the show… They needed to be there," he explained in an interview.

    153 votes
  • 6
    140 VOTES

    The Actor Who Plays Perry In The Show Voices Tommy In The Games

    The Actor Who Plays Perry In The Show Voices Tommy In The Games
    Photo: HBO

    Fans of the show who've played the game may have recognized a familiar voice coming from within the ranks of Kathleen's Kansas City hunters in episodes four and five. In fact, Kathleen's right-hand man was played by Jeffrey Pierce, who originally voiced Tommy Miller.

    Pierce's character, Perry, is new to The Last of Us lore, created specifically for the show. But the actor certainly didn't mind stepping into fresh shoes rather than reprising his role as Joel's brother. Said Pierce,

    I knew that Tommy was not gonna be something that I was gonna play in this go round… But I emailed [Neil Druckmann] early on and said, “Look, man. If there's anything that I can do to help support this story, if there's something that I can come in and create that's different from Tommy or that stands in the back and carries a f*cking spear, I'll be there in a heartbeat because I wanna support this thing that we've been a part of for so long.”

    140 votes