'The Last of Us' creator says the Cordyceps fungus danger is 'real' and 'has always been here'

Pedro Pascal as Joel and a Clicker in "The Last of Us."
Pedro Pascal as Joel and a Clicker in "The Last of Us."HBO
  • "The Last of Us" creator Craig Mazin said the Cordyceps fungus danger is "real."

  • Mazin said that everything it does in the show, it does to ants.

  • Mazin added that he doubts the Cordyceps fungus could affect humans in the same way.

HBO's post-apocalyptic series, "The Last of Us," imagines a world where the parasitic Cordyceps fungus, which typically infects ants and insects, has evolved in such a way that it can control the human race.

Based on the video game of the same name, it follows Joel (Pedro Pascal) as he's tasked with escorting Ellie (Bella Ramsey) across the United States after the fungus has decimated society as we know it. And according to showrunner Craig Mazin, the danger of Cordyceps is "real."

The show's premiere opens with a brief prologue in 1968, in which Dr. Neuman (John Hannah) explains how the fungus infects ants, before pointing out that if the world gets warmer due to climate change then Cordyceps could evolve and target humanity.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Mazin said that the prologue is based on reality.

"It's real — it's real to the extent that everything he says that fungus do, they do," Mazin said. "And they currently do it and have been doing it forever. There are some remarkable documentaries that you can watch that are quite terrifying."

Mazin added that he doesn't think the fungus would be able to evolve and infect humans, but noted that hallucinatory drugs like LSD do come from different funguses.

The showrunner said: "Now his warning — what if they evolve and get into us? — from a purely scientific point of view, would they do exactly to us what they do to ants? I don't think so. I doubt it. On the other hand, he's right — LSD and psilocybin do come from fungus."

Mazin added: "What I told John [Hannah] was, 'What we're doing in this scene is telling people this has always been here.'"

Mazin previously created the Emmy award-winning series "Chernobyl" for HBO about the infamous 1986 disaster, and he said working on "The Last of Us" reminded him of the 2019 series.

He said: "What was so chilling to me was that [the Chernobyl nuclear plant] blew up that night, but it could have blown up a week before or it could have blown up a month before."

The showrunner went on to say that these disasters could happen, but we "just don't know about it."

He explained: "Which means that right now, there's something that's just waiting to blow up — you just don't know about it. It was so upsetting to say to people, 'We knew about this, it's been there, now we're gonna show you the night it finally happens.' Not suddenly, but finally."

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