One of the early television highlights of 2023, The Last of Us is finally here after early reviews indicated the series was set to be something very special indeed.
Film and TV adaptations of video games are typically greeted with critical reticence, and by definition, they frequently cater to a niche audience. However, HBO’s most recent tentpole series may change that.
The series was already getting raving reviews ahead of transmission - NationalWorld’s own Alex Moreland dubbed it a "clear, emphatic triumph” - the kind that suggest genuine crossover potential, likely to draw in hordes of new viewers who’ve never picked up the PlayStation classic.
Based on the 2013 video game of the same name, the series is set in the United States after a horrific mutated pathogen has wiped out most of the population, and follows a smuggler, Joel Miller, who escorts teenage girl Ellie across the hostile wreck of the country on a mission to save the last remnants of humanity.
Star of the show is Pedro Pascal, who steps into the gruff shows of Miller with precious cargo in tow. BUt just exactly is Pascal, and where have you seen him before? Here is everything you need to know.
Who is Pedro Pascal?
Pedro Pascal is an actor born in Chile in 1975. His parents were devout followers of the country’s socialist President Salvador Allende - Pascal’s mother was the cousin of Allende’s nephew - and active in resistance groups against the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.
Because of this, nine months after his birth, Pascal’s family sought refuge in the Venezuelan Embassy in Santiago, and were later granted political asylum in Denmark. The family ultimately moved to the US, and Pascal was raised in both California and Texas.
It looked for a time as if swimming was to be Pascal’s calling, and he took part in the state championships in Texas at the age of 11, but his interest in the sport waned after getting into drama class. He studied acting at the Orange County School of the Arts, graduating in 1993, and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, graduating in 1997.
What else has he been in?
Pascal began his on-screen career guest-starring on various television shows, before rising to prominence for portraying Oberyn Martell on the fourth season of the HBO fantasy series, Game of Thrones
Recent big screen roles have included 2022’s Nic Cage meta-quest The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, DC superhero movie Wonder Woman 1984, and the Oscar-winning If Beale Street Could Talk.
Ahead of The Last of Us, Pascal’s most famous role was probably that of Din Djarin, the titular Mandalorian in Disney Plus’ successful Star Wars spin-off series.
While he has starred in every episode across two seasons - a third is in the pipeline - and even appeared in episodes of The Book of Boba Fett, Pascal’s face may not be instantly recogniseable, even to longtime Star Wars fans.
That’s because by the Star Wars galaxy’s Mandalorian culture, such characters never remove their helmets to reveal their face, and while his character has briefly unsheathed his phizog - a move for which he will have to face the consequences in the upcoming series three - Pascal’s features have remained mostly covered.
In fact, that made production on the latest season of the Star Wars series all the more easier, as production did not have to pause while Pascal was away filming The Last of Us, instead making use of stunt actors, with Pascal lending his voice in post-production.
What has he said about The Last of Us?
It seems every major television series to debut in recent years has been met with accusations of “woke politics”, with diverse casts that represent not just the make-up of the fictional world of the show itself but also that of society at large representing an aggressive force-feeding of social justice to some fans.
Unfortunately, The Last of Us has not been exempt from these sorts of comments from particularly toxic corners of the internet, particularly as Pascal - a Chilean actor - plays Joel, who was white in the original game.
But now Pascal has weighed in on the debate, offering a sarcastic “apology” to fans in an interview with Yahoo Entertainment.
"The game is very, very innovative in its inclusiveness," Pascal says. "So really, it’s a way of honouring the original source material, the way that Craig and Neil [Mazin and Druckmann, the show’s creators] have gone about casting and telling this story."
The series will also explore the sexuality of Ellie, who was revealed to be in love with her best friend in an extra chapter of the game released between The Last of Us and The Last of Us Part II.
But the series’ writers won’t wait so long to explore that side of her character, something that has also been getting closed-minded fans in a tizz.
"It’s not a spoiler — Ellie’s a lesbian," Mazin confirms in the same interview. "That’s just the way it is. We had the benefit when we made the show of something that Neil didn’t have when he made the game. We have all of it."
Druckmann, who spearheaded the effort to diversify The Last of Us, said his own experience as an Israeli-born immigrant who now lives and works in the United States served as inspiration.
“I saw this story as kind of a love letter to the United States, especially the landscapes. America has its problems, but its superpower is that it’s a melting pot of every kind of person from every walk of life. It was important that the show capture that.”