According to The Last of Us actor Jeffrey Pierce, the PlayStation adaptation could have looked a whole lot different at one point.
Pierce, who plays Tommy Miller in The Last of Us games, has had the unique experience of getting to see the franchise grow over the last decade, even having the chance to appear as Perry in the currently running HBO Max series based on Naughty Dog's original game (a series Pierce sees having a future going forward).
But this critically-acclaimed television adaptation was not always the plan. The Last of Us was originally adapted to be a theatrically released blockbuster with Sam Raimi attached to direct before that project was ultimately abandoned.
And, as it turns out, the series took another detour on its way to becoming the prestige HBO Max drama it is today.
An Animated The Last of Us Series
Speaking exclusively with The Direct's Klein Felt, star of The Last of Us games and HBO's The Last of Us series Jeffrey Pierce revealed the franchise was once almost adapted into an animated TV series.
After being asked if Pierce had any potential hopes of reprising his video game role as Tommy for the HBO Max series, the actor remarked that "no, not in the course of the HBO show."
However, he did mention the "couple of different iterations" this adaptation had over time, including "[the] movie" as well as a "motion-capture cinematic animated series:"
“No, not in the course of the HBO show. There have been a couple of different iterations over time. There was a movie at one point. There was a motion-capture cinematic animated series at one point. And both of those are things that I thought, ‘I got a pretty good shot at being involved to some degree.’"
The Last of Us actor added that "that was a long time ago and a lot of white beard in the past," so as time passed and names like Mahershala Ali and Pedro Pascal started being discussed, he realized "[he was] not gonna play Tommy:"
"But that was a long time ago and a lot of white beard in the past. So… I think initially they had talked to Mahershala Ali about playing Joel, which is an obvious cue that I’m not gonna play Tommy… And when they cast Pedro [Pascal], I knew like, yeah, that was certainly not going to happen regardless, I’m older than Pedro Pascal. So I was not under harboring any illusions about that, for sure.”
Would an Animated The Last of Us Series Work?
No one can know exactly what kind of success an animated The Last of Us project would have found, but with the hindsight that comes with living in 2023, it is not difficult to imagine this sort of project working.
Other R-rated animated video game adaptations have found success in recent years. Things like Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, Castlevania, and Arcane have all found audiences and garnered near-universal critical acclaim on Netflix.
If The Last of Us was starting development as a TV series now, it would not be all that surprising if it had gone down the animated route.
However, the title did always feel like a gritty prestige HBO drama. So to see it playing out in live-action on the network, it's hard to imagine this playing out any other way.
It was a rocky road to get to the The Last of Us adaptation that audiences are currently getting, but it certainly feels like the right choices were made to get here.
HBO Max's The Last of Us continues its nine-episode run with new episodes airing Sundays at 9 p.m. EST.