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The Only Actor From The Last Of Us To Also Play Their Character On HBO

As with most live-action adaptations of video games, HBO's "The Last of Us" uses different actors to portray the main characters. Though the TV series confirmed a few stars of the games would be featured in the show – like original Joel and Ellie voice actors Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson — only one cast member from "The Last of Us" returns to reprise the same role in the show that they had in the original game. 

According to an Entertainment Weekly interview with series co-creators Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin, neither Baker nor Johnson were practical choices for their original characters. Mazin used the physical differences between Joel and Baker as an example of why the legendary voice actor wasn't considered. As far as Johnson is concerned, she was the wrong age for the role, much like other actresses who were considered for Ellie's role. "Ashley Johnson is in her 30s and clearly not gonna play a 14-year-old girl," Mazin said.

Ultimately, the production cast Pedro Pascal as Joel and Bella Ramsey as Ellie for the TV series. With the leads out of the picture (at least in their original roles), it proved a delight when fans realized another character from "The Last of Us" game was played by their original actor.

Marlene is played by Merle Dandridge in the game and series

Fans familiar with the video game series might've noticed that the actress who plays Marlene in the show, Merle Dandridge, bears a striking resemblance to the character seen in the original game. Well, that's because it's the same actress. Unlike most other actors from the game cast for the show in various roles, Dandridge is the only cast member of the original project to play their original character — and fans are loving it. Over on Twitter, fans of the game expressed their excitement at the realization after watching the first episode

In an exclusive with Entertainment Weekly, series co-writers Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin revealed why they decided to go with Merle Dandridge to reprise her role as Marlene, rather than go through the process of finding a new actress to portray the character in the show. As they explained, Dandridge was still a bit younger than the character she was portraying, and her physicality was just right for the part; all production had to do was age her up a bit. Not only that, but she just played the character like no one else.

"It's 10 years later [after the first game's debut] and she does have this wonderful gravitas," Mazin said. "So it was really a question of, 'Hey, if we just wig her, I think we're there.' That was an easy one. It's obviously not anything we could contemplate with, say, Troy Baker." Ultimately, bringing Merle Dandridge back just seemed to fit their vision for the show.

Still, that's not to say Baker, Johnson, and a few other talents from the games didn't have a place in the TV adaptation.

More actors from The Last of Us are playing different roles

The two leads of the original game will appear in key roles during the adaptation's first season on HBO. Troy Baker will play James, a member of a memorable enemy faction from the game, while Ashley Johnson will appear as Ellie's mother, Anna. In an interview with Rotten Tomatoes, Neil Druckmann said that being able to show events from Anna's perspective "was one of those stories that was near and dear to my heart and I'm so glad that it gets to live."

Jeffrey Pierce, the original actor to play Joel's brother Tommy, will instead be playing a new character named Perry in the TV series. Lastly, the infected will probably sound familiar to fans of the games. The male and female clickers in the TV series are voiced by actress Misty Lee and Phillip Kovats, the Sr. Director of Sound for PlayStation Studios. The pair originally provided haunting vocal effects for the games, and according to Kovats, he and Lee greatly enjoyed the opportunity to contribute to "The Last of Us" once again. Of course, this pair voiced a wide range of infected humans, so although they've found themselves portraying the same enemy type, they're technically not playing the same specific characters in the adaptation. 

In other words, Merle Dandridge is still the only member of the cast who holds the distinction of bringing the same character to life for both the games and TV. Even so, she's in very good company when it comes to members of "The Last of Us" family making the move to the television series.