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The Last Of Us Creators Explain The Interesting Decision To Make Sam Deaf In The Series

Contains spoilers for "The Last of Us" Season 1, Episode 5

HBO's "The Last of Us" has given us plenty of deviations from the plot of the game, both major and minor. Smaller changes include Tess' (Anna Torv) death at the hands of Infected instead of FEDRA in Episode 2 and the location of Episodes 4 and 5 being in Kansas City instead of Pittsburgh, while larger changes include having Episode 3 tell an entirely new story about the relationship between Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett).

One of the changes in Episode 5, "Endure and Survive," appears to be in between the previous examples in terms of significance: Sam (Keivonn Woodard) is deaf, whereas he isn't in the game the series is based on. However, this doesn't change much about the plot. Following the episode, the creators of the show discussed why they made that decision on the companion podcast.

Craig Mazin wanted Sam and Henry's communication to look different from Joel and Ellie's

On Episode 5 of "HBO's The Last of Us Podcast," where host Troy Baker interviews co-creators Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann about the behind-the-scenes of the series, Baker asked why they chose to make Sam deaf.

"I became nervous that there was a mode of communication between Joel and Ellie that I didn't want to feel like I was repeating between Henry and Sam because as Neil points out, in the game, you don't spend time with Henry and Sam on their own," Mazin said. "But if they are on their own, and we knew we wanted to do that, what do those discussions sound like? And it could very easily fall into the trap of exasperated father figure and curious, concerned, scared child figure."

Mazin then talked about the show "The Close," in which the two main characters are deaf, which put the idea in his head. Once he and Druckmann had decided to cast Sam as deaf, however, they ran into a lot of problems finding the right person.

As they discussed on the podcast, they had trouble finding someone who was young, Black, deaf, and an excellent actor as well. Getting frustrated with the traditional casting methods not working, Mazin decided to turn to social media, asking for actors who fit the description. Expecting 80 auditions, Mazin only got five, but fortunately, one of those five was the brilliant Keivonn Woodard, who has everything they were looking for.