Every Voice Actor From The Last of Us Games Who Appeared in the HBO Series


Suffering from The Last of Us hangover? You’re not the only one. Season 2 likely won’t premiere until 2024 or 2025, so until then, we’ll occupy ourselves with The Last of Us podcasts, breakdowns, analyses, and more. A lot went down in Season 1 of The Last of Us—all of them good, we assure you—but perhaps our favorite part of the show was how it incorporated the people who made The Last of Us legendary in the first place.

From the get-go, the creators of the Naughty Dog game were involved in the HBO series. Unlike a lot of other famous (and failed) video game adaptations, the video game company, Naughty Dog, was part of the production from the start, and the co-creator of the video games was also a co-creator of the show. And with Neil Druckmann on board, five other actors from the video games also joined the HBO show. Their involvement was essentially an ode to their impact on the iconic video game and a gift to the fans who’ve missed hearing their voices in the game.

Also read: 

How Troy Baker Transformed From Joel to James in Episode 8 of The Last of Us

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Here are the five original voice actors from The Last of Us who appeared in the HBO series.

Troy Baker: From Joel to James

Photo by HBO.

Troy Baker voiced Joel in the video games for over a decade, and his prolific work in voice acting has made him a legend in the video game community. With the impact he left on The Last of Us fans, it was only right that he was part of the show as well. When the show’s co-creators Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann approached Baker to play James in Episode 8, Baker was ecstatic—then confused. His initial reaction was, “Thank you! …Who is James?” James was an unexplored character in the games, a thug from the Winter Group who was trying to kill Ellie. As James, Baker finally got the chance to give the character some much-needed depth, which only made Episode 8 immensely more enjoyable.

“They really gave me a character that I could do something with and there was an emotional stake in the story,” shared Baker.

Ashley Johnson: From Ellie to Anna

Photo by HBO.
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Baker’s involvement was perhaps the most expected Easter Egg, but Ashley Johnson’s was undoubtedly the most shocking. The OG Ellie from the games, Ashley Johnson was the first shot of the season finale, and her brief time on screen was one of the most integral parts in Ellie’s story. In Episode 9, Johnson played Anna, the mysterious mother of Ellie who never appeared in the video games. While she was mentioned, she was never seen but the show gifted fans with the back story that they’d been waiting years for. In the finale, Johnson gives birth to Ellie while fighting off Infected, which leaves huge implications as to why Ellie is immune to cordyceps in the first place. Not only was it a huge part of the story, but the moment itself was immensely symbolic: Johnson essentially helped raise Ellie in the video games, so it was only right that she got to birth Ellie in the show.

“In the game, there’s a letter that Anna writes that Ellie keeps in her backpack. And I wrote that letter out and just kept it in my pocket as kind of a reminder to myself of where this character came from and sort of the history of that,” said Johnson.

Merle Dandridge: From Marlene to… Marlene

Photo by HBO.

Merle Dandridge was the only original voice actor who got to reprise her role in the show because of her physical similarities to her character. Dandridge might have returned to play Marlene, but her experience filming the show versus the games was wildly different. Instead of a motion capture suit and stage, Dandridge got to wear a wig and act on a real TV set with trees, rivers, and roads. In an interview with Elle, the actress shared that it got even more emotional when she got to star in Episode 9 with Ashley Johnson, who was her Ellie for 10 years. Only this time, Johnson was playing Ellie’s mother in a full circle moment for the legacy actors of the games.

"Marlene’s love of her best friend, Anna, is so ingrained in my experience of who Marlene is, and who Ellie means to her as this last vestige of her [former] life,” said Dandridge. “Ellie is that last evidence of having had a full, beautiful, loving family and friendship before all of this happened, and [Marlene] was there when this child came into the world. So it was wonderful to be able to play that out.”

Jeffrey Pierce: From Tommy to Perry

Photo by HBO.

Jeffrey Pierce was the first legacy actor to show in the series, only this time he wasn’t playing Joel’s brother Tommy. Like Troy Baker, Jeffrey Piece went over to the “dark side,” this time playing the revolutionary rebel Perry intent on killing Joel and Ellie. As a longtime collaborator of Neil’s, Pierce told him, “Look, if there’s any way that I can support what you guys are trying to create, I’ll be there in a heartbeat.” In the show, Pierce plays an original character who doesn’t appear in the game. As Perry, Pierce got to portray another villain who wasn’t as black-and-white as expected. The right-hand man to Kathleen, the antagonist of Episode 4 and 5, Perry was portrayed as a fierce soldier who died a “samurai death” in Episode 5.

Laura Bailey: From Abby to a Firefly Nurse

Photo by HBO.

You weren’t seeing things in Episode 9 of The Last of Us. That was really Laura Bailey in the season finale. Bailey, who voiced Abby in The Last of Us: Part II, made a cameo as one of the Firefly nurses about to operate on Ellie when she’s captured by the Fireflies. Fans will immediately understand the importance of this cameo, but we won’t spoil anything for those who haven’t played the games. Just know that the entire scene in the operating room is part of the origin story of Abby, a major character coming up in Season 2. As for the second season, there’s a good chance we’ll see Bailey make a cameo again.

"I mean, she's got a mask on, so we can make her anything we want in the next season,” said Mazin.

The Last of Us Season 1 is now streaming on HBO Go in the Philippines.

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Anri Ichimura
Section Editor, Esquire Philippines
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