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Why James From The Last Of Us Looks (And Sounds) So Familiar

Since the cliff-hanger ending of "The Last of Us" Season 1, Episode 6, "Kin," longtime fans of the original video game have known exactly where the series is headed. After a devastating chance encounter with a group of bandits at the abandoned University of Eastern Colorado, Joel (Pedro Pascal) is suffering from a mortal wound in an almost identical fashion as he does in Naughty Dog's original story. With Ellie (Bella Ramsey) now caring for him in the dead of winter, Episode 8, "When We Are in Need," will feature the introduction of a new and important character: David.

The character, voiced by "Uncharted" star Nolan North in the video game, is set to be portrayed on the HBO series by Scott Shepherd ("X-Men: Dark Phoenix," "Jason Bourne"). A soft-spoken and seemingly compassionate community leader, David offers Ellie life-saving medicine in exchange for a deer she hunted down. Their partnership unfortunately leads to one of the game's most disturbing chapters.

In the promo for next week's episode, fans finally got their first look at Shepherd's David, along with his right-hand man, James. Like many of the supporting players on "The Last of Us," James is seemingly given more focus than he is in the video game, with the character already seen opposing David's decision to offer Ellie "mercy."

The actor who plays James will almost definitely have video game fans wondering where they've heard his striking voice before. If you don't know the answer to that already, you may want to take a seat before reading further.

Troy Baker voiced Joel in The Last of Us

On "The Last of Us," James is played by prolific voice actor Troy Baker. What's his best-known role? Just a little 2013 video game called "The Last of Us," in which he starred as none other than Joel Miller.

Opposite Ashley Johnson as Ellie, Baker voiced and provided motion-capture work for one of the most iconic video game characters of all time. While Merle Dandridge was able to reprise her role as Firefly leader Marlene in the series, however, creators Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann opted not to cast Baker as the same character in the adaptation since he is "so physically different from Joel" (via Entertainment Weekly). Of course, they ultimately cast Pedro Pascal as their new leading man and offered Baker the role of James instead. For his part, Baker has been consistently and vocally supportive of Pascal, even giving the "Mandalorian" star his blessing onstage at the Game Awards 2022.

On Comicbook.com's podcast "The Last of Pods," which covers each episode of the new series as it airs, Baker called working on the series "surreal," telling the hosts, "I had this one moment when we were shooting my episode, and I'm on set in this beautiful, very cold location. ... I just chuckled, and the person I'm next to goes, 'What are you laughing about?' ... I was like, 'If you could go back 12 years to the version of me that walked into that audition on that soundstage and go, 'Just to let you know, this is going to be the biggest thing you've ever done in your life and you're going to be standing here on a set of what will be, I think, one of the greatest television shows ever,' I never would've believed it."

He voiced Booker DeWitt in BioShock Infinite

Also in 2013, Troy Baker starred in another massive video game franchise installment: Irrational Games' "BioShock Infinite." Set in a fictionalized version of 20th-century America, the game follows the story of Booker DeWitt, a war veteran and detective whose gambling addiction lands him in a whole world of trouble.

When he was first offered a role in the "BioShock" franchise, Baker admitted to The Escapist that he was both starstruck and dumbfounded. As "a huge fan" of the first two games, he was stunned that the creative team wanted to make drastic changes for the third entry, saying at the time, "The thought of shaking things up on such a fundamental level was...horrifically disconcerting."

Though he initially freaked out, wanting to ask Irrational Games creative director Ken Levine "what the hell he was thinking," Baker said his new boss ultimately helped him trust both the process and the strengths of the characters and writing. "BioShock Infinite" received near-universal critical acclaim upon its release, with review aggregator Metacritic ranking it the third-best video game of 2013 (behind "Grand Theft Auto V" and "The Last of Us").

He's one of the most beloved Joker actors

Across the DC Comics universe, Troy Baker has played a staggering number of characters, including Prince Brion Markov, aka Geo-Force ("Young Justice"); Tim Drake, aka Robin; Harvey Dent, aka Two-Face ("Batman: Arkham City"); Jason Todd, aka Red Hood ("Batman: Arkham Knight"); Superman ("Infinite Crisis"); and the Caped Crusader himself ("Batman: The Telltale Series"). Yet even among this impressive roster, it's Baker's performance as the Joker that clearly stands out.

In an effort to cast younger-sounding actors for the "Batman: Arkham Asylum" prequel "Batman: Arkham Origins," Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill were swapped out for Roger Craig Smith ("Wreck-It Ralph" series, "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania") and Baker, respectively. Since then, Baker has turned in several performances as the Clown Prince of Crime for the animated series "Batman Unlimited," as well as animated features like "Batman: Assault on Arkham" and "Batman: The Long Halloween."

Upon taking the role, Baker was immediately conscious of the massive purple suit he'd have to fill. As he told Inverse in 2018, Hamill is "his" Joker, the voice he heard in his head when he read the character's dialogue. When he was presented as Hamill's successor to an apprehensive audience at the 2013 New York Comic Con, Baker wanted to prove himself worthy of the role to fans worldwide. In a gutsy display of on-the-spot commitment, he recited the character's classic monologue from Alan Moore's "The Killing Joke," a clip that soon went viral.

Baker has many video game credits, including Fortnite

When we say Troy Baker has a prolific career as a voice actor, we don't use that word lightly — Baker boasts 400 acting credits, almost all of them coming from popular video games, from "Batman: Arkham City" to "God of War: Ragnarök." In fact, it may be easier to list the games Baker hasn't appeared in. One of his most widely heard roles, however, may also be one of his least appreciated.

In Epic Games' ubiquitous and groundbreaking battle royale "Fortnite," Baker has voiced John Jones, aka Agent Jonesy, since 2013. One of the most recognizable characters featured in the insanely popular game, Jonesy is almost as iconic a role as Joel Miller. In the surprisingly robust and absurd lore of "Fortnite," Jonesy is a hapless man of mystery whose voice can be heard guiding players through quests at various points throughout the game.

Baker could be heard on Young Justice in its final seasons

After being canceled on Cartoon Network and then revived on the now-defunct streaming platform DC Universe, "Young Justice" was given the opportunity to tell a more mature story to longtime fans who had since grown into adulthood themselves. As Baker said in an interview at San Diego Comic-Con, the series had been known for following the adventures of scrappy adolescent heroes. The introduction of his character — a prince from a foreign country — heralded a significant shift in tone and scope.

Baker voiced Prince — and later, King — Brion Markov, also known as the metahuman Geo-Force. In the series, Brion's powers manifest at a time when the public generally hates metahumans. But compared to some of Baker's other DC credits, Geo-Force is a relatively obscure character.

"I had to look him up," said an amusingly baffled Baker in another Comic-Con interview. "I was like, 'Who ...? Oh! I think I remember seeing a few comic books with that dude.' But that's what I love ... To me, it's almost more challenging to go, 'Here's someone that you may have never heard of, and we're going to make you care about him."