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This ‘The Last of Us’ Episode 8 Cameo Pays Homage to Original Naughty Dog Video Game

Troy Baker as Joel in Naughty Dog's The Last of Us video game

While HBO’s The Last of Us TV series has garnered massive attention since its premiere on January 15, 2023, it is important to remember where it all started. Before it was a hit TV show starring Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey, it was a hit video game developed by Naughty Dog and released in 2013. The game also received critical acclaim, taking home numerous Game of the Year awards, being hailed as one of the greatest video games of all time, and spawning a sequel, The Last of Us Part II. As a result, fans of HBO’s The Last of Us owe a lot to the game creators and voice actors who first launched the franchise.

Fortunately, it seems HBO’s adaption has paid its due respect to the original actors. While it isn’t always feasible for voice actors to portray their live-action counterparts, HBO was open to this idea. In fact, The Last of Us made this happen with the character Marlene. Merle Dandridge voiced Marlene in the video game and reprised her role as Marlene in the TV show adaption. Meanwhile, viewers still anticipate a few more nods to other voice actors in the series.

The two biggest voice actors in The Last of Us game are Troy Baker, who voices Joel, and Ashley Johnson, who voices Ellie. Johnson, who is now 39, could not portray 14-year-old Ellie for obvious reasons. Meanwhile, showrunners Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann alleged that Baker was too “physically different” from Joel to reprise his role. Baker doesn’t have many live-action credits to his name but has an extensive career in voice acting that has spanned video games, anime, and DC/Marvel animated projects. However, all the way back in December, HBO’s The Last of Us trailer promised to honor Baker and Johnson with cameos in the show, though it didn’t confirm who they would appear as.

Related: The Last of Us Evolves Video Game Adaptation on The Escapist

Is Troy Baker in The Last of Us?

Troy Baker as James in The Last of Us

Johnson’s cameo remains elusive, but Troy’s appearance in The Last of Us was revealed in episode 8, “When We Are in Need.” Troy appears in the episode as James, the right-hand man of David (Scott Shepherd), the so-called “preacher” and leader of a small, starving religious community of survivors. While out hunting, James and David encounter Ellie when they come across a deer she shot. Initially, the pair are seemingly subdued by her and even reach a tentative agreement to give Ellie penicillin in exchange for half of her deer. However, while James runs to fetch the medicine, Ellie realizes that he and David are part of the group that attacked her and Joel in episode 6, “Kin.”

The group left Joel with a nasty stab wound, but he did kill one of their men. Hence, James is very eager for vengeance, but David suspiciously instructs him to let Ellie go. Of course, it isn’t long until James and David return and reveal that their intentions are much darker than just vengeance. As viewers might’ve anticipated, David is no preacher, but a cult leader, who is willing to do anything necessary to make his followers “love” and obey him. He is even willing to resort to cannibalism, butchering members of his community and feeding human remains to his starving followers. Only his closest confidants are aware of the horrific practice, including James.

This explains why James is so eager for blood, even willing to murder a mere child who wasn’t responsible for Joel’s actions. In the end, James isn’t much more than “Buddy-Boy,” as Ellie so appropriately labeled him. He’s a pawn of David and viewers aren’t too crushed by the outcome of his story. While a cannibal is a very not-Joel kind of role, James was a perfect way to give a nod to Baker. He revealed in an interview with GamesRadar that he really didn’t expect to be given a role in The Last of Us, due to all the technicalities and details of show-making. However, he was very grateful for HBO to include him and his cameo was a nice treat for fans of the game and Baker.

(featured image: Naughty Dog)

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Rachel Ulatowski is a Freelance Writer, blogger, and aspiring author. As a Freelancer Writer she hopes to give readers the same comfort and enjoyment that she finds in all things nerdy and noteworthy, as a blogger she enjoys snarking on YouTubers and reality stars, and as a future novelist she hopes to raise awareness for child abuse through literature.