Yes, Pedro will have his own take on it.
Baker: I think Pedro brings a whole different level of brokenness to it.
Any specific points?
Baker: For me, it’s an understanding of what Joel found to work. Because at the very beginning we see a father who is fighting for a job. Then, 20 years later, we see him still fighting for the job.
And he throws the bodies into the fire.
Baker: But Pedro does it where… it’s like PTSD. He picks up the boy and throws him into the fire. For me, it was a moment where we just told the whole story and in 10 seconds established who this character is and where he is.
Why do you think this story resonated with so many people?
Dandridge: Because it raised some of the toughest moral questions we as humans can face in our lives, or fear we can face. Watching people misbehave, try to survive and do their best, try to connect and try to heal, it’s all there in this story.
I think it’s a real obsession with Joel. Why do you think this is so? What is special about him as a character?
Baker: I have a very strong opinion on this. We have already seen the Joel archetype in many games. So there is nothing remarkable about Joel. But this story is a story about Joel and Ellie. This whole game was based on those relationships. If we only had Joel in the game, that would be fine, because this is a Naughty Dog game. And people would love to play it because beating zombies is fun. But we wouldn’t have that level of experience in the same story without Ellie. So Joel is nothing without Ellie.
So it is this cordial relationship at the center that distinguishes him. What else?
Johnson: I think what makes it a bit different from other zombie genres, at least for me, is that the infestation is based on something we have, you know, Cordyceps. I think because it’s a small grain of reality of something that is in our world, something that happens to insects and creatures is visually different. It’s very cool to see how this manifests itself on the human body.
And I think the last three years too.
Johnson: I think, especially now that we have a real pandemic in our world, I feel like there is a connection to it that people can feel.
There is a long history of video game adaptations that may not have lived up to people’s expectations. Neil called it the “curse of video games”. I wonder if that’s what you think about when you go to a production like this?
Dandridge: I think that’s one of the reasons why the game was so successful, because it got into people’s souls, into their spirit, and captured them completely. And this heart, this core is completely intact in this adaptation, and that is why it is different from anything you have seen adapted.
So do you feel Last of us will it be different?
Johnson: I think with this game, because it’s so intimate, and it’s not about zombies or being in a post-apocalyptic world, but about the connection of these two people, I think that’s why this bridge from the game to the TV show worked.
This interview has been edited and condensed.