Pedro Pascal & Bella Ramsey on Joel & Ellie Dynamic
Jan 12, 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 goes on a journey with Joel (Pedro Pascal), a survivor of the viral outbreak that’s destroyed modern civilization and who’s tormented by his own trauma, and 14-year-old orphan Ellie (Bella Ramsey), who he’s been entrusted to protect since she may actually be the one able to save the world. The unlikeliest of allies must rely on each other as they trek across America, facing heartbreak and the brutality humans can be capable of, while also maintaining enough hope to keep them going.
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 co-stars Pascal and Ramsey about how everything for Joel hinges on his relationship with Ellie, whether Ellie understands her own significance, finding all the details that make up a character who’s been through as much as Joel has, and what it was like to work with Ellie’s switchblade.
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Collider: Pedro, as the man who’s responsible for transporting very important children, with both Grogu and Ellie, Joel isn’t the only father figure you’ve played in your career. What is the biggest difference between Joel and someone like the Mandalorian, when it comes to their approach to unexpected fatherhood?
PEDRO PASCAL: They’re both very, very grumpy, aren’t they? And they’re reluctant, hardened figures under their own different forms of armor. The more I talk, the less difference there is between them. I think that for someone like Joel, there’s such a rich source material to be researched there. And also, what it could be, more than anything, is in the experience of playing a full realization of this type of character, where the emotional richness of this experience of a hardened human becoming human again, through the experience of a relationship, can expand itself to so many different types of storytelling. I don’t know, necessarily, how to identify what’s different about it, outside of how rich it was to play Joel and to know that everything about him hinged directly to his relationship to Ellie.
Image via HBO
Bella, given Ellie’s immunity to the bite, do you think she truly understands how significant she is yet, or has the weight of it all not fully hit her?
RAMSEY: I think she does understand, and she understands more, as more people die because of the virus, including people that she’s formed relationships with. But immediately, when we first meet her, she’s just had an experience like that, with someone who she cares about very, very deeply, so I think she does understand the weight of her responsibility. She wants, more than anything, for this to be true because that’s her purpose, and that becomes her reason for living and existing, to carry this purpose and to save the whole of humanity. It’s such a big concept and responsibility that I don’t think it’s possible for her to fully grasp it, or for anybody to fully grasp the weight of that. But personally, she feels the emotional weight of it, for sure.
Pedro, how did you want to emphasize the small differences between playing a pre-pandemic Joel with someone who has been surviving in the world for years, apart from just having the gray hair? What were the little things that you wanted to do?
PASCAL: It was this fascinating experience of starting with a character in one place, and then the defining moment for him happening so early, and creating, with an incredible makeup team and hair team and costume team, an entire portrait of loss in survival. There are so many different components that were part of the exterior, that fed the interior for me, and I loved that. I loved that part of it because, if I didn’t have that dry gray hair, and wrinkled, sun-stained and damaged skin, I wouldn’t be able to feel the experience of the character, and thereby know how to play it. It was all about putting those details together and continuing to discover them.
Image via HBO
Bella, how long did it take to perfect the trick with the switchblade?
RAMSEY: I stabbed myself, a couple of times. Thankfully, we had a dummy knife, so it wasn’t actually sharp. It was rubber. But I didn’t start training for that as soon as I should have done. I did it on the day I was aware that I had to do this thing. I was like, “Oh, I should have practiced this.” But it was fine. That’s where editing comes in handy. I didn’t have to be very good at it. I just had to do it a couple of times, and they could loop it, or something. It was pretty fun. I quite enjoyed that. But I don’t think it’s a skill that I’ve continued to possess. It came for the day, and then it ran away again pretty quickly.
The Last of Us airs on HBO and is available to stream at HBO Max.
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