The Last Of Us huge interview: character info, plot details, gameplay and zombies
[Editor's note] A while back Naughty Dog invited the world’s press to pop over and see The Last Of Us. A few did. Part of all that involved a round table interview with creative director Neil Druckmann and the main cast,Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson, who play survivors Joel and Ellie respectively. This is a full transcription of that interview with loads of info on the game, characters and more. It’s a great read so get stuck in.
Q Tell us the basics of the game?
Neil Druckmann, The Last Of Us' co-writer and creative director
Neil Druckmann: I will tell you it takes place in the United States, in more than one location. You can look at our past games and see how important pacing is to us, and changing things up. If you guys want to talk about your perception of your characters…
Troy Baker: I think that for me, you know as an actor you get the audition and you need to immediately decide where that character is, and who he is to you. Whether you’re right or wrong it doesn’t matter, you just have to make a decision. And for me I think we’ve seen the model of the character change dynamically over the last several years. I mean before it was Marcus Phoenix from Gears Of War – still a great protagonist, a great hero, but people don’t relate that well to him anymore.
We’re seeing someone who’s the antihero, a bad guy, like Cole from infamous. That’s not what we’re going for. I think what I’ve seen from the last several days as we’ve been teasing this, people think they know what the game’s about, they think they know who Joel is, who Ellie is, what their relationship’s about. And it’s kind fun to watch on this side, because I don’t think anybody really does.
And for me you’re exactly right – Joel is a survivor, he’s not a hero, he’s not badass. He’s a guy that learned how to use a gun because he had to, and he’s fighting every day because that’s what you do. You don’t die. I don’t know what that means. Does that mean that I steal this? That I do this? Maybe. But it’s not that he has a plan, that’s he a strong archetypal character. I really think it’s gonna to kind turn the model of the hero on its ass.
Q Can you say where you drew any personal inspiration from characters in books etc?
Troy Baker who plays Joel.
TB: Yeah – I’m a thief. I’m a thief. You know I really do, I think it was a really good meeting of the minds where the game was pulling its inspiration from in terms of, Children Of Men, No Country For Old Men, Neil recommended City Of Thieves to me which I highly recommend as well, it’s an incredibly book.
I think that those kind of people are interesting. I think that Josh for one is an incredible actor, and what he did specifically in No Country was flawless, absolutely flawless. So I think intrinsically any time you watch something you absorb that, and whether you’re conscious of it or not you’re emulating that. And I’m hoping to do the best that I can.
Someone pointed out to me that Steve McQueen on The Great Escape came back with the script on the first day shooting and had scratched out 60% of his lines. And he said ‘I’ll give you eyes, I’ll give you emotions, but I’m not going to talk. I don’t need to talk.’ And I think that’s a great choice, that’s the kind of person, the kind of actor I want to be. Someone who says a lot without saying anything. So I think I pull inspiration from anywhere and anything that I can and I bastardise it.
ND: I will say on the set sometimes Troy will ask ‘Do you want it like this, or like this kind of actor’ and it’s like ‘No, I just want you to be natural. Just be in this moment, and react off of Ellie. Don’t get in your head, just be in the moment.’
Ashley Johnson: You know when I first saw, when I first got the audition and I first saw the character design, I know this sounds weird but I really didn’t think the character was that different from me. I didn’t really pull a lot from other things, I was like that these are very real people in a pretty bad situation. And I feel like it’s the first time it’s happened in a videogame, you know, I think in videogames the character’s always… you’re so easy to kill, it’s so easy to kill somebody, it’s not a big deal. But this is sort of dealing with, ‘Wow, I’ve just killed a person’ and how that is to deal with. I don’t feel like she’s that different to me, which sounds different to me.
Q There aren’t that many strong, complex female characters in games. Did it appeal to you to be something different?
Ashley Johnson plays teenager Ellie.
AJ: Of course, that was very appealing. This is my first videogame. Not to be cheesy but this is a complete dream for me, and knowing that I am able to play that kind of character, and be that female character who’s stronger, and younger, and tougher and not just tits and ass. That’s awesome.
Q How old is she?
AJ: Fourteen. They’re not father and daughter. That’s all I’m going to say as far as that. The thing we’re really trying to explore with these characters is a father-daughter like relationship – it’s a love story, not a romantic love story, a love story between these two characters. For Ellie it’s: what does it mean for a teenager to grow up in this world? What does it mean to not know the world that we know today? How would you react to things? If you see bleakness all the time how would you react to that? How would you be in that world? And those are all interesting questions to explore.