To make sure you never miss out on your favourite NEW stories, we're happy to send you some reminders

Click 'OK' then 'Allow' to enable notifications

HBO’s The Last of Us interview: Troy Baker ‘would love’ to create a Joel DLC

HBO’s The Last of Us interview: Troy Baker ‘would love’ to create a Joel DLC

We had the opportunity to talk to actor Troy Baker about returning to The Last of Us to play James, and his desire to create a Joel DLC.

I’m sure I can speak on behalf of all of us when I say that watching The Last of Us unfold over the past nine weeks has been joyous. Well, it’s also been emotionally devastating, but isn’t that what we all signed up for in choosing to adore this franchise? Unfortunately, there’s just one episode left to air. Yes, I just released a sad sigh.

As I’m sure you’re aware, HBO’s adaptation of Naughty Dog’s acclaimed video game series has proved to be a major hit. The good news is this means that season two - which will adapt Part II - is on the way. HBO’s The Last of Us feels both new and familiar, and one of the more familiar aspects that’s gone down particularly well is seeing the original video game cast return. Merle Dandridge reprised the role of Marlene while Tommy actor Jeffrey Pierce originated the character of Perry in the series. In the most recent instalment, we saw Joel himself Troy Baker portray James.

Take a look at Troy in action as James below.

Troy is, of course, best known for portraying Joel in The Last of Us Part I and Part II but in the HBO series, he plays James - a close confidant of David. We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Troy to discuss what it was like to return as an antagonist in the series and whether he’d be open to returning as Joel in a future game or DLC.

You must feel very attached to Joel. Did you reach out to Pedro Pascal after he was cast to offer any advice?

Troy Baker: It's one of my favourite stories, my first meeting with Pedro. We were shooting my episode as I like to call it, no for real, it’s Bella Ramsey’s episode, but we’re outside of a wintery Calgary, huddled in this hotel and I’m having dinner with our director. All of a sudden, we see Pedro speed past the window outside and he waved and you see this moment of decision. He came in and it was our first chance to meet face-to-face and we just kind of stand there looking at each other awkwardly.

I wasn’t sure what to do but we gave each other a hug and I took him by the shoulders, and I just said, ‘I have so many questions for you,’ and he looked at me and he goes, ‘I have none for you.’ That's when I knew that we were gonna get along great. I love his humour - and to be honest with you, he needs no notes from me. The one thing that I wanted when we first began discussing this as a show, or even as a movie, I just wanted someone to show me something different about Joel. Is there something that I missed? [...] I've had my run. I've done my job with this character. It's somebody else's turn. Now, I get to sit back and appreciate it as an observer. [...] It has been an absolute joy over the last several weeks watching a new version of this character present itself.

Fans are keen to see Joel in the early days out of the outbreak. It’s not something we’ve seen in the game, and it’s something the show has expanded on either. Have you ever thought about bringing those years to life in a potential DLC or future franchise instalment?

One of my favourite things about being in this franchise have been the conversations that I’ve had with Neil Druckmann, our co-showrunner alongside Craig Mazin, and creator of this thing. As an actor, I feel like it’s kind of important to think about those things and whether or not it’s ever put on display, that’s for people further down the line but for me, I thought exhaustively about what Joel was like when he was married. I thought about Joel being a dad. [As a dad now], there's a whole new layer that I look at this character with.

I would love to explore more but what I have learned though, is that for the most part, Neil has far better ideas than I do so any idea, any story that I could come up with is instantly going to be trumped by him and Craig, as now the leaders of this thing, but if they ever asked me to suit up again, or any way to be a part of this franchise, you can count on me being there day one.

The Last of Us Part I /
Sony Interactive Entertainment

What changes have you enjoyed seeing in the show?

The best change has been the commitment to enriching the story as opposed to recreating it. You can slow things down. We have the opportunity to change where the camera is because when you’re playing a game, you’re seeing everything from the perspective of one person, Joel or Ellie. With this medium, there’s been the opportunity to really check in with other characters that were only briefly introduced in the game, or just not as exhaustively explored.

The perfect example is episode three with Bill and Frank. Frank is nothing but two dangling feet and a Hawaiian shirt in the game but in the series, we get the opportunity to explore the 20 years that went into that relationship and really put that prominently on display. That's not something that you do as a gimmick. That is something that is a commitment to philosophically telling the story in a novel way, while never deviating from what the core foundation of the story is.

What in particular have you enjoyed about Pedro’s performance?

I've watched the series now several times in preparation for the podcast that I'm able to do with Neil and Craig. They've graciously brought me in, and I've had a seat at this table that I never expected, so I've had my finger on the pulse of this thing from the very beginning and I've been anxiously waiting to see what Pedro did. What does his Joel look like? Instantly, he brings this physicality to it that is inspiring, and sometimes even frustrating because I'm like, oh, it's so good.

He brings this age to it that is persistent throughout the show. His hand never heals. When you're playing a game, that's going to create ludonarrative dissonance, right? You can't have this persistent injury because now all of a sudden, the player’s like, ‘Don't hinder me,’ but in this series, we have the opportunity to explore that. In episode one, Joel breaks his hand fighting that guy. That is something that stays with him both mentally, emotionally and physically throughout [the episodes] and Pedro brought that consistency.

One of my favourite moments - and often you don't want to bring this to the attention of the actor but I was compelled to do this backstage at The Game Awards with Pedro - I just watched the second episode, which is the episode featuring Tess’ demise. When she shows him her [bite] mark, she just [pulls back her shirt] and Joel backs away. It was this moment of fear. What we're seeing in the show is a vulnerable Joel. That is something that I don't think would have resonated with players as much [in the game], but the show has the opportunity to explore that. Pedro’s vulnerability is compelling and inspiring to watch.

The Last of Us /

You’ve been involved in this franchise for so many years now. What do you think it is about The Last of Us that appeals to people?

I really give credit to Neil for that, because his commitment was simple story, complex characters. When you're creating a new IP, there's this temptation to create lore and this big world, but at the end of the day, this story is about the love between a father and a daughter - and how terrifying that love is in the hellish landscape of a post-apocalyptic world. That's something that, regardless of the infected or FEDRA, that's something that people can relate to. When that love meets adversity head on.

How did you come to be involved in the TV series? Particularly, what’s it like bringing James to life who helps expand David’s chapter in this story?

[Being in the show] was never a consideration of mine. If there was a role then I wanted it, for sure, but it was never expected - and it was certainly not something that I really sought after. I was excited about the opportunity to be in the audience. You know, I've been on the stage. What does this show look like if you're sitting in the front row? I joked for years and said if they let me play a clicker, that'd be hilarious.

I was surprised [when they reached out]. I was expecting a walk-on cameo. With James, we had the opportunity to, again, explore characters that were kind of operating in the periphery of our story. James gets two, maybe three scenes in the game. We have the opportunity to explore what this world looks like through his eyes. For me, I’m living James' story. That's the same for every actor that's on screen. We're living David's story. We're living Ellie's story. We are all the heroes of our own story - and so approaching it from that angle, it felt like a very substantial role.

I was very surprised when I finally saw the edit. I thought, ‘Wow. They didn't cut me out like I thought they were going to.’ It’s something that has been a gracious gift from Neil and Craig. To not only involve me but then also to bring me into an episode, give me a character with some teeth, give me some meat on the bone to chew - and then also being able to sit and have a conversation with them after every episode and discuss it with the podcast, my bowl is full, my friend.

The Last of Us /

What’s your opinion on David as an antagonist and by extension, James too?

I think the purpose that David serves is the same as everybody’s that we meet through the story. Everyone in our show is in some way a reflection of Joel. Even Maria in our series, there’s an opportunity to explore some of her backstory in Jackson and we find out that she lost a child too literally within days of Joel losing his daughter. What we see are two different paths because Maria has maintained her parental instincts and her maternal role. We see her cutting Ellie’s hair, but Joel has completely abdicated his responsibilities as a father.

Because there are those reflections, you ask, why are we meeting these people? In the game, it’s a completely different version of David. First of all, in the game, you are going to fight with David. There’s a whole level where you’re fighting infected with him and that bonds him and Ellie together. In our show, we have the opportunity to pit the two of them against one another so we see a side of Ellie that we haven’t seen before. We see a side of David that we haven’t seen before.

Everything kind of got amped up. This was an opportunity to really underscore the differences between these two characters. The through line for me for David - and it may be different for Scott [Shepard, who plays David] - was that David is looking for an equal. He finds it in Ellie across the board. In Ellie, he sees someone who has charisma, who has the ability to lead, who is resourceful, who's smart, but also has a violent heart. That is something that David certainly has as well.

The season finale of The Last of Us airs on 12 March on HBO in the US, and 13 March on Sky Atlantic / NOW TV in the UK.

Featured Image Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment, HBO

Topics: The Last Of Us, Naughty Dog, TV And Film, PlayStation, Interview