‘The Last of Us’ Star Pedro Pascal Was Told Not to Play the Game, but He Did Anyway — Here’s What He Learned

Not everyone is a gamer, and apparently, that includes Pedro Pascal. He stars in HBO’s adaptation of Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us video game as Joel, a smuggler who must get a teen named Ellie (Bella Ramsey) across a post-apocalyptic U.S. But how familiar is he with the source material? In a recent interview, Pascal revealed that he was instructed not to play The Last of Us, but he went against orders and played anyway — and he was terrible. As Pascal has learned, though, that might be a good thing.

Pedro Pascal as Joel holing a flashlight in The Last of Us
Pedro Pascal as Joel in ‘The Last of Us’ | Liane Hentscher/HBO

Pedro Pascal initially received criticism when he was cast as Joel

Turning a video game into a movie or TV show is a dangerous game in itself. Most video game adaptations have notoriously failed to live up to fan expectations. They’re also prone to criticism over every detail, especially when it comes to casting. HBO’s The Last of Us co-creator Craig Mazin recently revealed to The Hollywood Reporter that fans criticized Pascal for not having a beard like Joel’s in the game.

“You’re laughing, but for some people, that’s a serious deal-breaker for them! They’re like, ‘Oh my God, he can’t even have the same beard as Joel in the game,'” he said.

Over time, though, many fans grew to accept Pascal’s portrayal of Joel. When HBO released early footage of The Last of Us last year, many viewers gushed over how well he captured the character. Critics have also raved about Pascal’s performance, among many other things. The Last of Us has even been called one of the best video game adaptations to date.

Did Pedro Pascal play ‘The Last of Us’?

Another common criticism of video game adaptations is the stars not being familiar with the source material. That’s not a problem for Pedro Pascal, as he did play The Last of Us, even though he never heard of it before his casting.

“Their instruction was: Don’t play the game. I ignored them,” Pascal recently told Wired.

He didn’t specify who “they” were, but Pascal did reveal that he was “very, very bad” at the game. He passed it over to his nephew, who was much better.

In all fairness, The Last of Us can be difficult to complete. There are plenty of infected enemies that require stealth and skill to get around. Plus, resources aren’t always available. Luckily for Pascal, though, all he had to do was pay close attention to Joel to achieve his goal.

“It was important to me to play notes that were directly related to what was originally in the game —physically, visually, vocally,” he added.

Pedro Pascal says not being able to play ‘The Last of Us’ might have been a good thing

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Pascal was never too stressed about his inability to play The Last of Us. He spoke more about the game in an interview with GQ, revealing that he watched his nephew play for a while. Pascal found it all “visually impressive,” but he did have a concern.

“I got worried that I would want to imitate too much, which I think could be right in some circumstances, and then a mistake in others,” the actor said.

So, Pascal put the controller down and left The Last of Us behind.

“I just wanted to create a healthy distance, and for that to be more in the hands of Craig Mazin and [game writer and show co-writer] Neil Druckmann,” Pascal added.

The Last of Us premieres on Jan. 15 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max.