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Everything You Should Know Before HBO's The Last Of Us Releases

There's been an influx of movie and TV adaptions of video games in the last couple of years. In 2021, audiences were surprised by HBO's "Mortal Kombat" reboot, and 2022 saw an "Uncharted" movie, "Sonic the Hedgehog 2," and the first season of the divisive "Halo" show. Gaming and film will continue to intertwine in 2023, with HBO's take on "The Last of Us" hopefully kicking off a stellar year for video game adaptations.

HBO's "The Last of Us" is one of the network's most highly-anticipated shows in recent memory, and for good reason. It's not being adapted by someone unfamiliar with the series or its setting. In fact "The Last of Us" creator Neil Druckmann has been involved with the project throughout the process. From everything shared so far, it looks like a faithful representation of the acclaimed game's story, characters, and aesthetic. Fans can only hope that its star-studded cast inspires the same emotions in viewers that "The Last of Us" did for players.

"The Last of Us" releases soon and keeping track of all the specifics can be a bit tricky. Here's what you should know in the leadup to this major TV launch.

The Last of Us cast and crew

Craig Mazin created "Chernobyl," an award-winning miniseries based on the infamous 1986 disaster that focuses heavily on individual character narratives. Neil Druckmann, of course, created "The Last of Us" in the first place and has remained at the helm of the series ever since. The two serve as the co-writers of the HBO adaptation.

The series will also have several directors, rotating in and out for select episodes. Jeremy Webb, who also worked on "The Umbrella Academy" and "Altered Carbon," will direct four episodes, Iranian director Ali Abbasi will direct three episodes, and Russian director Kantemir Balagov will direct two. Other directors include Peter Hoar, Liza Johnson, Jasmila Zbanic, and Neil Druckmann himself.

The gorgeous cast for "The Last of Us" is filled with HBO and TV royalty. Joel and Ellie are both played by "Game of Thrones" alums: Pedro Pascal, who portrayed Oberyn Martell, will be Joel, and Bella Ramsey, who brought Lyanna Mormont to life, will be Ellie. Nick Offerman of "Parks and Recreation" fame plays survivalist Bill, while Joel's smuggling partner Tess is portrayed by "Mindhunter" and "Fringe" star Anna Torv. 

Some of the show's cast were voice actors in the games, too — Merle Dandridge reprises her role as Marlene, for example, while Jeffrey Pierce, Tommy's voice actor, will play a new character named Perry. Tommy is played by "Terminator: Dark Fate" actor Gabriel Luna. Joel and Ellie's original voice actors, Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson, will make appearances too.

The show adapts the first game's story

The narrative turns and character progression players experience in "The Last of Us" are intrinsic parts of the game, and the HBO series has looked to it for inspiration. According to the series' producers and writers, the show will be mostly based on the original "The Last of Us" with changes made to fit the TV show format. 

In an interview with IGN in early 2021 a few months after the show got the green light, Neil Druckmann discussed how far the series goes to maintain accuracy to the game franchise. Reflecting on the similarities between the show's script and the game's progression, Druckmann said that because they don't have to worry about mechanics and gameplay, the show's framing is different. "HBO's been great in pushing us to move away from hardcore action and focus more on the drama of the character," Druckmann said. "Some of my favorite episodes so far have deviated greatly from the story."

In early 2022 leaks showed behind-the-scenes footage compared to the game, and by all appearances the showrunners seem to stay true to the source material as much as possible. Fans of "The Last of Us" should expect some alterations to accommodate the new medium, though.

Trailers, posters, and behind-the-scenes set photos

HBO has treated "The Last of Us" fans to a swathe of behind-the-scenes photos, official media like character posters, and a handful of trailers. All of this taken together offers a pretty good idea of what the show will look like — though none of it goes into great detail. 

A teaser for "The Last of Us" was unveiled in late August and introduced audiences properly to Pascal's Joel, Ramsey's Ellie, and Offerman's Bill. The first official trailer debuted in late September, driving fans wild with a much deeper look into the world of "The Last of Us" as realized in this adaptation. 

On November 23, the official HBO "The Last of Us" Twitter account unveiled a series of detailed posters portraying the show's major characters. Every actor is featured on their own character poster, while Joel and Ellie are also pictured on one together. The other posters showed Sarah, Riley, Henry, Frank, Sam, Bill, Tess, Tommy, Marlene, and, of course, Ellie and Joel.

There are a lot of unofficial behind-the-scenes pics out there, too. "The Last of Us" leaks began in late 2021 with a picture of a masked Pascal as Joel, and leaks from early 2022 showed the cast on set with Bella Ramsey in winter clothing, possibly for the later-revealed teaser that depicted the duo walking through a snowy backdrop. Comparisons between the game and leaked footage were abundant and mostly positive.

The Last Of Us premieres in early 2023 on HBO and HBO Max

"The Last of Us" will release on January 15, 2023. The show finished shooting a few months ago, which means it's still in post-production. With such a short time before the launch, "The Last of Us" probably won't undergo major changes — barring something completely disastrous, that is.

Like many shows tied to a network or streaming service, "The Last of Us" will only be available on HBO and HBO Max. Subscribers will have access to it for free the day it debuts; HBO doesn't charge extra for newly released movies and shows like Disney Plus did for several movies as part of its hybrid release model, including 2020's "Mulan" and 2022's "Jungle Cruise." These films concurrently dropped in theaters, though, while "The Last of Us" is locked to HBO.

The HBO Max service has two tiers of membership: one with ads and one without. The regular subscription costs $9.99 each month, while the ad-free membership is $14.99 a month. HBO Max does offer a free trial for new subscribers, which means the free subscription time can't be given to users with an inactive but already registered account.