Welcome to ‘The Last of Us’: How the HBO Cast Brought The Video Game Characters to Life

HBO is primed for another hit with “The Last of Us,” an adaptation of the mega-popular PlayStation video game from 2013. The game presents a poignant and haunting tale of the human costs of survival when civilization collapses following a zombie outbreak caused by a parasitic fungus; it’s regarded as one of the best video game stories of all time. Premiering on Sunday, Jan. 15, HBO’s live-action adaptation — created and executive produced by Neil Druckmann (who wrote and created the game) and Craig Mazin (of HBO’s Emmy-winning “Chernobyl”) — is already garnering rave reviews as a gripping interpretation of the game, at once faithful to its story and unafraid to expand upon and even change some key plot lines.

The show follows Joel (Pedro Pascal), a hard-bitten smuggler with a grief-stricken past who is charged with transporting headstrong teenager Ellie (Bella Ramsey), who’s never known a pre-infection world, across a decimated United States. Together, they face monstrous, fungus-ridden “clickers” and transform their rocky relationship as total strangers into a father-daughter bond.

Pascal, Ramsey and their co-stars Gabriel Luna, Anna Torv, Merle Dandridge and Nico Parker explain to Variety how they brought their video-game characters to life and what to expect in the show.