In light of the Hollywood strikes, it'll be quite a bit longer before fans will get more of The Last of Us, the video game-inspired drama that became a pop culture hit earlier this year. But before the writers and actors hit the picket lines, significant progress was made on season 2, according to showrunner Craig Mazin.
"We were able to map out all of season 2," Mazin says during an interview for EW's The Awardist podcast (which was organized through his personal PR team in accordance with WGA guidelines). "And I also wrote and submitted the script for the first episode and sent it in [to HBO] around 10:30 or 10:40 p.m. right before the midnight [makes a "kajoomph" sound] and the strike began."
Mazin, who heads The Last of Us with game creator Neil Druckmann, is happy to be able to keep some of his below-the-line crew members, who are working off of the season 2 outline and episode 1 script, employed amid the strikes. (WGA and SAG-AFTRA have resources in place to aid writers and actors who are financially struggling through the strikes.)
Liane Hentscher/HBO Pedro Pascal on 'The Last of Us'
"To the extent that we can keep anybody below the line working, that's fantastic," he remarks. However, Mazin also admits, "I think it's becoming essentially a near certainty that we won't be able to start [filming] when we were hoping to start, which is upsetting. We are all raring to go. This is what we are born to do. This is how we not only choose to live our lives, but I believe [how we] are compelled to live our lives. Otherwise, why the hell would we do this insane job? I can assure you it's not for money."
Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey star on The Last of Us as Joel and Ellie, two survivors in a post-apocalyptic America, decades after the world has been forever changed by a zombie-like fungal plague that transforms the infected into monsters. Season 1 was based on the 2013 video game of the same name. Joel, a smuggler in a Boston quarantine zone, is tasked with ferrying Ellie, a young girl mysteriously immune to the virus, to a rebel group across the country — dodging human survivors, militia groups, and, of course, the infected along the way. Both Pascal and Ramsey received lead actor and actress Emmy nominations, amid a total of 24 noms for the show.
After a pulse-pounding, emotional rollercoaster of an ending, season 2 will now begin to tackle the events of The Last of Us Part II, the 2020 sequel game that Mazin and Druckmann have said will be adapted across multiple seasons. Mazin previously told EW he's already expecting some "furor" from viewers, given the fact that gamers had such an intense reaction to the game's twists and turns. Druckmann once said he even received death threats over the story.
Liane Hentscher/HBO Bella Ramsey's Ellie in 'The Last of Us' season 1 finale
"Neil and I are both mappers and outliners and planners. We believe in endings, we believe in knowing where you're going. We know where we're going," Mazin says of mapping out the beginning and end of The Last of Us. "We also give ourselves space inside of the basic route to wander and discover and invent. As that happens, we then can go and reincorporate and fiddle with and go back in the writing. What we don't do is write narrative checks that we cannot cash later."
"There is this thing that happens sometimes where people will create mysteries that are tantalizing, infuriating — which we love — and then later just never pay them off, which is cheating. Because it's exciting," he continues. "It's exciting when, like a magic trick, something happens and you're like, 'Well, how the hell did...? What does this mean?' And then, as it turns out, it means that they wanted you to be excited at the end of that episode. It doesn't mean that they know why either. That's very upsetting and disappointing. We don't do that. I refuse. So, when we have any kind of confusing, mysterious, or shocking story element, it's purposeful and it will be understood."
Check back next week for EW's full conversation with Mazin on the Awardist podcast, during which the showrunner discusses The Last of Us Easter eggs, whether new characters introduced in the show could make their way over to the video games somehow, the Hollywood strikes, and more.
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