How The Last Of Us Cast Looks Compared To The Game Characters

Last of Us Game Cast Comparison

Warning! This article contains minor spoilers from The Last of Us game.HBO’s The Last of Us has a great cast to tell the beloved story, and some characters in the series are more similar to their digital counterparts than others. The Last of Us is adapting the 2013 video game of the same name and tells the story of Joel and Ellie, two survivors of a disease that has decimated mankind. The original video game is one of the most beloved of all time, meaning HBO had immense pressure from audiences when adapting the story.


One of the aspects of the show that HBO has also faced pressure for is its cast. The cast was primarily announced throughout 2021 and 2022 when shooting began and has received its fair share of discourse from online communities. From Pedro Pascal’s Joel to smaller side characters, the cast does a great job of embodying the spirit of the source material.

Related: Last Of Us’ Ellie Promise Proves The Show Can Avoid An Adaptation Curse

Pedro Pascal as Joel Miller

Pedro Pascal as Joel in Last of Us HBO

Joel is the central character of The Last of Us, who, upon flashing forward to 2023, is a very cold, distant, broken man. In the game, Joel is from Austin, Texas, before moving to the Boston quarantine zone after the Cordyceps outbreak. Joel’s journey brings him into contact with Ellie, a young survivor who accompanies Joel on a journey across the decimated United States.

Pedro Pascal plays Joel, best known for playing the titular role in Disney+’s The Mandalorian. Pascal’s other notable roles include Oberyn Martel in Game of Thrones and Javier Peña in Narcos. In terms of physical appearance, Pascal mostly matches Joel. Besides the thinner, shorter-length beard, Pascal’s general look matches Joel’s, and The Last of Us episode 1 makes it clear that Pascal nails Joel’s Texan accent.

Bella Ramsey as Ellie Williams

Bella Ramsey as Ellie Last of Us

The Last of Us’ Cordyceps infection sees another survivor in the form of Ellie, who was born and raised in the Boston quarantine zone. After befriending the leader of the Fireflies due to her immunity to the infection that has decimated mankind, Ellie is placed under Joel and Tess’ protection so that she can be taken across the country to a Firefly base in hopes of synthesizing a vaccine. Ellie is played by Bella Ramsey, who is also notable for a role in Game of Thrones as Lyanna Mormont. Ramsey’s other roles include Jane Grey in Becoming Elizabeth and Angelica in His Dark Materials.

While Ramsey does not exactly match Ellie’s appearance, her performance is great nonetheless. Ramsey lacks the green eyes, red/auburn hair, and younger age of Ellie’s game character. That being said, Ramsey captures the youthful – and rebellious – elements of Ellie well despite being slightly older in age and proves the ridiculous Last of Us casting criticism wrong.

Gabriel Luna as Tommy Miller

Gabriel Luna as Tommy Last of Us-1

Tommy is the younger brother of the series’ protagonist, Joel. Before the Cordyceps outbreak, the two worked together in Texas. After the outbreak, however, Tommy and Joel grow distant with the former becoming a member of the Fireflies before losing contact with his brother. Gabriel Luna portrays Tommy in HBO’s The Last of Us. Luna is perhaps best known for playing Robby Reyes/Ghost Rider in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 4 and Paco Contreras in ABC’s Wicked City. Another of Diego Luna’s more recent roles comes in the long-running Terminator franchise where Luna played the Rev-9 Terminator in the James Cameron-produced Terminator: Dark Fate.

Anna Torv as Tess

Anna Torv as Tess Last of Us

In The Last of Us, Tess is Joel’s smuggling partner in the Boston quarantine zone. Joel and Tess often work together on jobs, with Joel providing the muscle and Tess being the brains of the operation. Tess is also tasked with delivering Ellie to the Fireflies and accompanies Joel outside the Boston QZ. Tess is played by Anna Torv in HBO’s The Last of Us, best known for playing FBI agent Olivia Dunham on Fox’s Fringe. Other roles include Wendy Carr in Netflix’s Mindhunter. Similarly to Ramsey, Torv’s look does not perfectly match Tess’ due to her slightly different hair color, yet she captures the smuggler’s fiery-yet-calm demeanor well.

Related: Who Does Melanie Lynskey Play In The Last Of Us? We Have An Idea

Merle Dandridge as Marlene

Merle Dandridge as Marlene Last of Us HBO

Marlene is the leader of the Fireflies in the Boston quarantine zone. At the start of the 2023 timeline of The Last of Us episode 1, Marlene is in charge of looking after Ellie. Later in the episode, Marlene is wounded in a firefight before encountering Tess and Joel. She gives Ellie to the smugglers and tells them to take her to the Massachusetts State House where a team of Fireflies will be waiting. Marlene is played by Merle Dandridge in both HBO’s The Last of Us and the original game, marking her as the only actor playing the same character across both mediums.

Arguably more than any other actor in The Last of Us, Dandridge matches Marlene’s look perfectly. This is expected, due to the motion capture performance Dandridge performed for Marlene in the original game. While other cast members’ appearances differ from their game counterparts, Dandridge and Marlene are almost identical.

Nico Parker as Sarah Miller

Nico Parker as Sarah Last of Us

Sarah is the daughter of Joel at the beginning of The Last of Us, adapting some of The Last of Us‘ most important scenes. In 2003, Sarah spends her time with daily tasks, such as school and seeing her neighbors. All of this happens before the Cordyceps outbreak, which then sees Sarah trying to escape alongside Joel and Tommy. Parker made her Hollywood debut as Milly Farrier in 2019’s Dumbo.

Whereas Dandridge most closely matches her game character, Parker is arguably the most distinct from her counterpart. Nico Parker is the daughter of Ol Parker and Thandiwe Newton, the latter of Zimbabwean descent. Due to this, Parker has a darker complexion than Sarah in the game, as well as darker hair, marking a stark contrast between the two.

Nick Offerman as Bill

Nick Offerman as Bill Last of Us

In The Last of Us, Bill is another survivor from an isolated town west of Boston. Bill will be accompanied by his partner Frank where the two have placed traps and defenses around their secluded town. Bill is a paranoid man who is reluctant to allow anyone to enter his and Frank’s domain. HBO’s The Last of Us sees Nick Offerman play Bill, majoritively known for his role as Ron Swanson in Parks and Recreation. Other notable roles of Offerman’s include Richard McDonald in The Founder, Karl Weathers in Fargo season 2, and comedic roles in the likes of We’re the Millers, 21 Jump Street, and 22 Jump Street.

Offerman and Bill look very similar appearance-wise. From the long, dark hair to the greying beards, the two match well. Offerman also matches Bill’s physical appearance in terms of their size. In the game, Bill is bigger than Joel, something Offerman and Pascal have in common.

Murray Bartlett as Frank

Murray Bartlett as Frank Last of Us

In HBO’s The Last of Us, Frank is the partner of Bill in their secluded town west of the Boston QZ. In the game, Frank is briefly scene as a corpse with no dialogue scenes, which is confirmed to be different for HBO’s version. Neil Druckmann, co-creator of The Last of Us and writer-director of both The Last of Us games, confirmed that Frank’s inclusion in the show may upset some viewers/players due to changes to the game’s narrative. Bartlett is known for playing roles such as Dominic Basaluzzo in HBO’s Looking, Michael Tolliver in Tales of the City, and more recently, Armond in The White Lotus.

Related: The Last of Us’ Nick Offerman Casting Makes Sense (But It’s Problematic)

Lamar Johnson & Keivonn Woodard as Henry & Sam

Lamar Johnson & Keivonn Woodard as Henry & Sam Last of Us

Henry and Sam are survivors who, in the original game, are encountered by Joel and Ellie in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, west of Boston. The Last of Us show is confirmed to change Henry and Sam’s story to Kansas City, where the duo will be hiding from a revolutionist movement. In the game, Henry is hiding from a group of bandits who have control over Pittsburgh’s downtown area while trying to protect his younger brother. Lamar Johnson will play Henry, known for his roles in The Next Step, The Hate U Give, and All The Bright Places. Sam will be Keivonn Woodard’s first prominent Hollywood role.

The physical appearances of both Johnson and Woodard match their game counterparts closely. From the dark skin, dark hair, and fraternal similarities, the casting is some of the more accurate, physically. One slight difference concerning Sam is the confirmation that he is autistic and deaf, something not present in the game.

Storm Reid as Riley Abel

Storm Reid as Riley Last of Us

Riley Abel is a young girl who lived in the FEDRA military school alongside Ellie in the Boston QZ. In the original game’s DLC – The Last of Us: Left Behind – Riley’s story with Ellie in Boston is divulged. From her appearance in the trailers of HBO’s The Last of Us, it is confirmed that this story will be part of the show’s central plot. Storm Reid will portray Riley in the show, taking over from Yaani King. Reid is largely known for her breakthrough role as Meg in A Wrinkle in Time, as well as for playing Gia in Euphoria.

Like Henry and Sam’s actors, Storm Reid matches Riley’s appearance almost perfectly. She embodies the character’s personality well, too. Reid has a similar physical appearance and may have been cast for this as well as her chemistry with Ramsey due to the characters’ closeness.

Ashley Johnson as Anna

Ashley Johnson as Anna Last of Us

Anna is described as a lone pregnant woman who is forced to give birth under terrifying circumstances. Both Johnson and Troy Baker have roles in the show after playing Ellie and Joel respectively; however, a comparison to the former’s cannot be made as many theories have stated Johnson will be portraying Ellie’s mother. This character was only mentioned in the game. Another thing that supports this theory is Johnson herself providing the voice and motion capture for Ellie in both The Last of Us Part I and The Last of Us Part II. Johnson is largely known for her game roles, among other TV roles in The Killing and Blindspot.

Troy Baker as James

Troy Baker as James Last of Us

James is described as a senior member of a specific group of settlers. These settlers are taken from the original game and will encounter Joel and Ellie in the winter sections of HBO’s The Last of Us. James is played by Troy Baker the original voice and motion capture performer for Joel, who is known for voicing iconic video game characters from Sam Drake in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End to Booker DeWitt in BioShock Infinite to name a few besides Joel, Baker’s video game repertoire is impressive, to say the least.

In terms of looks, Baker does not typically match James’ appearance. While the character is not too important to the story, he has a distinct look, one which Baker could match if not for his long beard. However, it is clear Baker’s James and the game version have similar dress codes, if not identical appearances.

New episodes of The Last of Us release every Sunday on HBO.

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