Players of the PlayStation games this HBO title is based on know full well that the character of Abby Anderson is crucial to the story. A large portion of the second game, in fact, features her. It has been hard for game players, like me, to keep quiet on how she fits into the THE LAST OF US story. So, when any news about who possibly will play her in the HBO series comes about, we are all over it.
Casting for the second season was put on hold in May 2023 due to the WGA strike but auditioning had been happening using dialogue from the actual game, as there were no script pages. All that, of course, got compounded by the SAG/AFTRA strike. Co-creator of the show Craig Mazin though has dropped quips about the character and who might play Abby and other news about the show with THR.
THR: HBO’s Francesca Orsi teased a couple of casting announcements coming soon in a recent interview. Have you found your [major Last of Us Part II character] Abby?
Craig Mazin: Maybe. (Laughs.)
THR: You’re turning red, so that’s making me think, “Yes.”
CM: The strike stopped us in our tracks. Things were in process. Look, Abby was the first role that we wanted to tackle. We’ve got a pretty good track record of making major cast announcements and people going, “Really?” which will probably continue. So people may disagree, but I think we got it right so far and the audience seems to feel we got it right and the Academy seems to feel we got it right.
THR: Going into season two, did HBO give you a good budget bump — not that season one was low budget, mind you, but given the show’s success and scope, I could certainly see a boost being warranted.
CM: There’s always a budget bump, and then there’s a discussion about why it’s not enough of a budget bump. For as long as I’ve been doing this, I have never, ever, not once, been in a situation where I was like, “What I need is this,” and they’re like, “OK!” It eventually gets to this (holds hands at same level), so I’m not concerned about that. Even if we have a principal debate about what is required to execute a second season, a third season, a fourth season, what I always know is that they are always working in good faith and appreciate the creative value of the show. It’s not a bloodless, business-only decision for them. Maybe on some level there are people for whom it is, but not for [Casey Bloys and Francesca Orsi]. They care and want to back us up.
THR: There are so many fans out there who are only familiar with the show and have such positive vibes toward it, and there are some story moves in The Last of Us: Part II game — without spoiling anything — that are really going to challenge that. Are you sort of like, giddily looking forward to the explosive reactions to come? Or are you kinda dreading the amount of backlash you’re likely to receive?
CM: Neither, and I dispute the premise. I’m very studiously avoiding confirming anything even through a passive acceptance of a question. Anybody that has played the game and then watched the first season knows that sometimes we do exactly what happened to the game and sometimes we do something wildly different. We also don’t necessarily do things in the same order, or at the same time. In our first season, we repeatedly did things that were upsetting — everyone died except Joel and Ellie. People understood watching the show that this was a story where people aren’t safe. If you are planning on running a series for as long as it can, you put plot armor [slang for characters who repeatedly and inexplicably avoid harm or misfortune] on your main characters until such time the actors are asking for too much money or their Q score goes down or the ratings go down, and then you kill them. That’s not what we do or what HBO does. So anyone can die at any moment, as far as I’m concerned. As for backlash, sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between emotion because they care and backlash. But neither I nor Neil make things with that in mind. There are also times during the season where we think they’re probably gonna be annoyed with us, but later they’ll get it. Like until you saw Ellie and Joel properly fuse, a lot of viewers were like, “Uh, she’s annoying.” And I’m like, “Yeah, exactly! She’s annoying and you don’t like her — just like Joel finds her annoying and doesn’t like her.” Until he does, and would now kill everyone for her, just like how you feel at the end, because that’s how good Bella is.
So, are you looking forward to Season Two as much as we are? We will keep you posted.