Gabriel Luna on the Games and Bonding with Pedro Pascal
Jan 9, 2023
From writers/executive producers Craig Mazin (Chernobyl) and Neil Druckmann (who also wrote the video game of the same name), the highly anticipated HBO series The Last of Us explores what life is like after a viral outbreak has destroyed modern civilization. Taking place 20 years after it all started, Joel (Pedro Pascal), a man who’s tormented by his own trauma, has taken a different path than his brother Tommy (Gabriel Luna), who’s tried to hold onto his idealism as he hopes for the possibility of something more.
During the junket, which took place after members of the media were able to see the first four episodes of the season, Collider got the opportunity to chat with Luna about how much time he spent playing the video games prior to shooting, wearing his character’s iconic jacket, the little details he wanted to bring to Tommy, establishing the brotherly bond with co-star Pascal, and what makes the infected so terrifying.
Collider: Did you have a chance to play The Last of Us games before stepping into the shoes, or the jacket, of this character? What did you learn from that experience?
GABRIEL LUNA: Yes, I did. To step into the iconic Sherpa denim, which I call my Bruce Springsteen jacket, I felt like The Boss whenever I put that jacket on. I played both games in their entirety. I probably overplayed them, in that I’m a very curious person who likes to turn over every stone and check around every corner, for all the little extra items. It also took me a while, just because of the nature of the story and how emotional it is, and how sometimes you need to take a little break just to give yourself a little recovery time. But I started shortly before I got the part, and I finished it two days before I shipped out to Calgary.
Image via HBO
Was there anything that you wanted to bring from the games that maybe hadn’t been in the script, but that you wanted to have for the character?
LUNA: I think there were some details that I was able to add, like to the wardrobe, for instance. I got to have a lot of input as to the belt buckle the Tommy wears. We had this beautiful belt buckle made by this 85-year-old First Nations craftsman, who made it out of silver and gold and turquoise. My idea was that it would be like an artifact, something that Tommy found and treasured because it was just so well-made. That’s a big element of the world that we’re in – the post-outbreak world – just scavenging for everything. And also, there were little details on the boots. I had our boot maker put an Indian Paintbrush on, just to remind me of Texas. In Texas, we plant Indian Paintbrushes, along with Bluebonnets, alongside the highway, every year. And so, I wanted to keep little details of where I’m from and where, coincidentally enough and fortunately enough for me, Tommy is also from – the great city of Boston.
Tommy and Joel are largely separated for most of the story. How did you and Pedro Pascal try to establish that brotherly bond because it’s something that’s so important to the story, even though your characters are on-screen for such a short amount of time together?
LUNA: It was important that we establish that bond very quickly. I had to rely on technology and FaceTime to see him because, once he came off a job and came to Calgary, we had a two-week quarantine. So, I had to rely on technology, talk to him via FaceTime, learn about him, learn about his family, and tell him about my history and my family. I made the exciting and pleasant discovery that he was raised in San Antonio, Texas, and I was raised in Austin. He was born in Chile and raised in San Antonio, so we know what it is to be Texas boys. That helped us when it came to our relationship, and building it as quickly as possible, before we started. I did a lot of observation of him and his overall physicality. I think he used me as a resource in my experience and the way I speak, matching our voices, to the extent that he asked me to record a bunch of passages from Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, so he could hear it and let it soak in. Plus, we were together constantly, in a very confined space, in the cab of that truck, for the whole episode. We took every moment we could, just to talk about each other’s families and get to know each other, and then let all that show on-screen.
Image via HBO
What do you think it is about the infected that makes them terrifying, in a way that sets them apart from other shows that we’ve seen live in this lane?
LUNA: I think it’s the fact that it’s all sprouting from nature. The threat is, literally, the entire environment around you. And there are varying forms of the infected. There are stages. The longer you’re infected, the more dangerous you become. The fungus doesn’t stop growing. It continues. It perpetuates itself, to where it completely overtakes you and you become, as you see in the games. People who have been infected quite a long time eventually become melded and intertwined with the natural world around them. Their bodies cease to exist and they are fully the fungus. The fungus among us. And so, I think that absolutely distinguishes us from other monster shows, or if you want to call it zombie shows. For me, they’re fungal creatures, and they’re a very naturally occurring thing. It’s the earth defending itself against us, and I think that’s interesting.
The Last of Us airs on HBO on Sunday nights and is available to stream at HBO Max.
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