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We’ve Got Casting Picks for HBO’s The Last of Us Series

Who do you think should play Joel and Ellie?

ellie, joel

HBO has announced that they’ve officially ordered The Last of Us adaptation to series. The show, an adaptation of the popular Naughty Dog game, is written by Craig Mazin (Chernobyl) and the game’s writer and creative director Neil Druckmann. HBO Programming executive VP Francesca Orsi said, “Craig and Neil are visionaries in a league of their own, … With them at the helm alongside the incomparable Carolyn Strauss, this series is sure to resonate with both die-hard fans of The Last of Us games and newcomers to this genre-defining saga. We’re delighted to partner with Naughty Dog, Word Games, Sony and PlayStation to adapt this epic, powerfully immersive story.”

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Fans of the video game will be relieved at Druckmann’s involvement, which lends an authenticity to the series. Mazin said, “I think fans of something worry that, when the property gets licensed to someone else, those people don’t really understand it, or are going to change it, … In this case, I’m doing it with the guy who did it, and so the changes that we’re making are designed to fill things out and expand, not to undo, but rather to enhance.”

Now that the series has the greenlight, all eyes turn to casting the protagonists Joel and Ellie. The series follows Joel, a traumatized and hardened survivor, who is tasked with smuggling Ellie, a 14 year old girl, through a dystopian landscape ravaged by hordes of zombies called the Infected. While Joel and Ellie come across various characters and struggles in their journey, their relationship is the emotional cornerstone of the series.

Here are our top picks for Joel:

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

(Getty Images/Getty Images for Global Citizen)

Thanks to his strong resemblance to the character, Coster-Waldau has been a popular pick for Joel since the game first debuted. The Danish actor, best known for playing Jaime Lannister on Game of Thrones, has the rugged good looks and gravitas to play Joel. And it no doubt helps that he has experience with action-heavy franchises. For many fans, Coster-Waldau is not a choice, but THE choice.

Travis Fimmel

travis fimmel

( Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images for IWC)

Fimmel, who has starred in Vikings and Raised by Wolves, also bears a strong resemblance to the Joel of the games. Plus, he’s already proven his action chops and has a commanding screen presence. And as an Australian native, he would continue the long and grand tradition of Australian actors playing beloved American tough guys.

Marwan Kenzari

marwan kenzari

(Greg Doherty/Getty Images)

This Tunisian-Dutch rising star played Jafar in Disney’s live-action Aladdin, which caused a sex riot on social media. He then won our hearts as immortal gay warrior Joe in The Old Guard. Kenzari is an out of the box choice, but he has the depth and the talent to play a compelling Joel.

Ellie is a bit harder to cast, as most child roles are. It’s unclear whether Ellie will be aged up for the series, which opens up casting options to established young actresses, or if the showrunners will go instead with an unknown actress. Here are some of our picks for Ellie:

Kaitlyn Dever


(Francois Duhamel/Annapurna Pictures)

The Booksmart star has long been a fan favorite to play the role. And Dever, a fan of the game, has already worked with Druckmann on Uncharted 4. In an interview with Collider, Dever said, “I would absolutely love to do that. But I don’t know where it’s at yet. But I love The Last Of Us.”

Dafne Keen

his dark materials


At 15 year old, Dafne Keen is the exact right age for the role. Keen currently stars in the HBO fantasy series, His Dark Materials, and the British-Spanish actress broke through with kinetic performance as Laura in Logan alongside Hugh Jackman (another fan favorite for Joel).

Sophia Lillis

i am not okay with this


Not only does Lillis bear a striking resemblance to in-game Ellie, but at a young age she’s already established herself as a rising star. Lillis played Beverly in the It films, and starred in the criminally underrated I Am Not Okay With This as a misfit teen with telekinetic powers. Lillis is another fan favorite, and it’s easy to see why.

Who do you think should take on the roles of Joel and Ellie? Let us know in the comments!

(via The Hollywood Reporter, featured image: Naughty Dog)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.