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The Last Of Us HBO TV Series - What We Know So Far

With Game of Thrones' controversial final season in the rearview mirror and Damon Lindelof's confirmation that there will be no second season of Watchmen, genre fans are wondering where HBO may be headed next. Well, wonder no more! The premium cable platform of record recently announced a forthcoming small screen adaptation of The Last of Us, the hit survival RPG from legendary game developer Naughty Dog.

According to Variety, a series based on the hit Playstation title is already well into the development process at HBO. Craig Mazin is spearheading the new show after coming off his award-winning stint on Chernobyl, a limited series chronicling the 1986 nuclear meltdown in then-Soviet Ukraine. Given the success of that endeavor, it's no surprise that HBO decided to lock Mazin down for another run at ratings gold.

That doesn't mean this latest project isn't still a bit of a curveball. Video game adaptations have a spotty track record both on television and in movies. Who can forget the muddled Warcraft theatrical debut? Or the money bonfire that was Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within? Even given the pedigree of the talent associated with The Last of Us, fans of the original IP are likely awaiting the series' bow with qualified excitement. Let's address some of the basic questions surrounding the project.

What's the release date for HBO's The Last of Us?

HBO's The Last of Us project is currently categorized as in development, so we don't have much information about when to expect a release date. We don't even know what the episode order is from on high. HBO could order the show straight to series, or they could test the waters with a pilot a la that ill-fated Game of Thrones spin-off starring Naomi Watts. Given the strength of the IP and all the top tier talent attached, it seems unlikely that this project will die in development. Then again, this is Hollywood — you never know.

Casey Bloys, president of programming at HBO, seemed to confirm the network's commitment to the project to Variety, saying, "This is an incredibly exciting opportunity for us to partner with Craig, Neil, Carolyn and the teams at Sony, Naughty Dog and PlayStation to bring the virtual world of this acclaimed game to life."

What do we know about the cast of HBO's The Last of Us?

The world of The Last of Us is populated by many memorable characters, but the success or failure of the series will turn almost exclusively on the two lead roles: Ellie and Joel. While we don't have any hard information on the actors set to bring the viral apocalypse to life on screen, we do know that both leads will have quite the narrative burden to haul. 

One casting rumor being touted by Digital Spy is sure to delight fans of HBO's Game of Thrones. According to their reporting, none other than Arya Stark herself, Maisie Williams, is the current front runner to play Ellie. That leaves one more lead for the casting directors to land. Whoever plays Joel will have to be quite a bit older than Maisie to preserve the unevenness of the relationship that's so critical to their dynamic in the game. While we agree that either Josh Brolin or Hugh Jackman would be formidable picks, we'd like to make our own plug for a veteran of a different post-apocalypse, Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Negan from AMC's The Walking Dead).

What's the plot of HBO's The Last of Us?

The 2013 video game follows protagonist Joel, a smuggler trying to navigate a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by a deadly pandemic. Early in the game, Joel encounters Ellie, a young girl who may hold the key to curing the disease that brought down civilization.

Joel is hired to smuggle the 14-year-old Ellie out of a quarantine zone, but this small job expands into a brutal journey across the broken hellscape of the viral apocalypse. At first, Joel protects Ellie out of professional obligation and self-interest, but over the course of the game, the two lead characters acquire genuine affection for one another.

Almost instantly at the time of its release, The Last of Us scored praise from both gamers and critics alike for its engrossing story anchored by the pathos of the central relationship between Joel and Ellie, going on to sell over 17 million copies across two separate releases. Thanks to the story-driven gameplay, The Last of Us withstood the test of time well enough to make the jump from PS3 to PS4 with only minor updates. Given the success of these elements in the video game format and Drucker's involvement with the project, it seems likely that HBO will preserve most — if not all — of these character beats in the forthcoming series.

Will talent from Naughty Dog be actively involved with HBO's The Last of Us?

In a development sure to mollify apprehensive game players, HBO confirmed to Variety that video game writer and creative director Neil Druckman is actively involved with the adaptation. He will serve as an executive producer on the new show, and is likely to help Mazin actually pen the episodes of what they both intend to be an ongoing series.

Druckman is a journeyman video game writer, who started with Naughty Dog as a programming intern back in 2004. Just three years into his career, he earned his way up to the role of game designer on Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. The game was a hit, and in 2013 Druckman turned his talents to The Last of Us, widely considered by the gaming world to be his magnum opus.

Joining Druckman as an EP on the series is Carolyn Strauss, another writing veteran from the video game franchise. HBO also tapped Naughty Dog president Evan Wells to join his former employees. For the series' production, Sony Pictures Television is teaming up with PlayStation Productions. This represents the latter company's first foray into scripted TV.

Gamers are a discriminating bunch, and Hollywood has given them plenty of reason for skepticism, but it looks like HBO plans to make every effort to do justice to one of Naughty Dog's crown jewels. With Mazin heading the squad as auteur and Druckman, Strauss, and Wells on board to ensure the new series does right by their original creation, it looks like This is Us is shaping up to be a project to watch.

Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann are excited to bring The Last of Us to HBO

We may not be able to confirm much about HBO's The Last of Us, but at the very least, fans should take solace in the fact that all the executives involved sound pretty amped about the project.

Mazin, who is apparently an avid fan of the game, echoed Casey Bloys' enthusiasm for the partnership, according to the Hollywood Reporter. "Neil Druckmann is without question the finest storyteller working in the video game medium, and The Last of Us is his magnum opus," Mazin said. "Getting a chance to adapt this breathtaking work of art has been a dream of mine for years, and I'm so honored to do it in partnership with Neil." That's high praise from the mastermind behind Chernobyl, a show that won him an Emmy, a PGA award and a WGA award — all for outstanding writing.

If the series were to enter production before year's end, it could feasibly make its way to the small screen by late 2021 or early 2022. That's if everything goes perfectly. Fans hoping to catch a glimpse will have to maintain their composure until that first trailer drops. Until then, we'll keep an eye out for you and provide all the relevant updates.