Image of Abby Anderson in a cutscene from the video game 'The Last of Us, Part 2.' Abby is a white teenage girl with brown hair in a ponytail wearing a black jacket over a black t-shirt with a brown backpack on her back. She is looking at someone with a serious expression.

In Mazin We Trust: Why the Latest ‘Last of Us’ Casting Rumor Would Be Awesome if True

"You don't get to rush this." - Abby Anderson

With the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes finally over, our favorite shows are racing to get back into development and production. This includes HBO’s The Last of Us, for which co-creator and showrunner Craig Mazin managed to deliver the first script and an outline for the second season of the show before the WGA strike began.

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Once the writers’ strike was over, Mazin was able to get crackin’ on the rest of those season two scripts along with co-creator Neil Druckmann. Now that actors can go back to work, there’s the matter of getting some key roles cast, including the role of Abby Anderson, Ellie’s main antagonist for the rest of The Last of Us‘ story. And there’s already an exciting rumor about who may be up for that plum part.

Who is in talks to play Abby in HBO’s The Last of Us?

Image of Kaitlyn Dever in a scene from the film 'Unbelieveable' on Netflix. She is a young white woman with dirty blonde hair in a ponytail wearing a grey hoodie and a blue polo shirt. She looks like she's been crying.
(Netflix)

As reported by Forbes, the big rumor is that Kaitlyn Dever, whom you probably know from the films Booksmart and No One Will Save You, is currently the frontrunner to play the coveted role of Abby in the HBO adaptation of The Last of Us.

Mazin told the L.A. Times back in August that their choice for the role had already been made but remained tight-lipped about the decision. Now, film critic and “industry insider” Jeff Sneider has taken to his industry news blog, The InSneider, to report that, “Craig Mazin told the L.A. Times that he had found an actress to play Abby Anderson in season 2. To that end, I hear that Kaitlyn Dever is in talks to tackle the role.”

The words “in talks” are very important. While it may be true that Dever is Mazin, Druckmann, and HBO’s first choice for the role of Abby, nothing is final until the money is promised and contracts are signed. According to Sneider:

Dever is represented by UTA, which did not respond to a request for comment, while HBO declined to comment on the record, though insiders stress that no one has officially been cast in season 2 just yet.

However, with union actors finally able to get back to work, I’m sure Dever’s agent has jumped into overdrive to seal a deal with HBO ASAP if there is, indeed, a deal to be sealed. The show is supposed to start shooting in 2024 and will hopefully grace our screens in 2025.

I know, I know. Dever’s not “buff.” So fu*king what?

Image of Kaitlyn Dever in a scene from the film 'Booksmart.' She is a teenage girl with long brown hair wearing a blue jacket over a red polo shirt. She looks like she's making a sarcastic comment.
(United Artists Releasing)

I’m sure plenty of fans will balk at this casting choice the way they balk at every casting choice. I’ll admit that I saw a world in which the role of Abby would provide an opportunity for an actor who doesn’t have a standard “Hollywood actress” body type to have a role in a prestige TV drama. That said, having seen The Last of Us‘ brilliant first season, I have complete faith in this team’s casting choices.

In the L.A. Times interview, Mazin said the following about casting Melanie Lynskey in the role of Kathleen, the ruthless leader of the settlement in Kansas City:

“When I called Melanie about it, I said, ‘Look, you probably don’t get a chance very often to play a kind of homicidal warlord. But I need you, because I need people to understand her and see why she is the way she is.’ It’s not because she loves blood or murder. She loves people. She loved her brother more than anything. And then you start to see the guy she’s hunting’s no different than her, behaves in the same way.”

Mazin is making choices more based on character and theme than on physical looks. While the role of Kathleen was created for the show, you can see why casting someone who looks sweet-as-pie like Melanie Lynskey in a role like that might seem like casting against type.

Then again, Lynskey plays a character capable of murder and cannibalism on Yellowjackets and started her career playing a teenager who murders her mother in Heavenly Creatures, so maybe casting her as Kathleen was typecasting—just of a certain not obviously murderous type.

Anyway, remember how everyone balked at Pedro Pascal’s casting as Joel and even more so at Bella Ramsey’s casting as Ellie? Now, everyone loves them in these roles, and they’re both up for Emmys. So, maybe shut up.

Here’s why the Dever being “in talks” rumor makes sense

There are a couple of things that Sneider says that point to this rumor being true, in addition to what he’s “heard from insiders.”

Dever just gave a brilliant performance in Hulu’s sci-fi/horror film No One Will Save You. That performance added to her already-impressive body of work and portedly sold HBO on her acting chops as far as carrying an important role on a major flagship drama for their network.

Then there’s the fact that Dever was apparently up for the role of Ellie on The Last of Us before Ramsey landed the part, so she was already known to the team. Sneider writes:

“Druckmann has previously said that for the role of Ellie, they needed somebody who could be ‘tough and vulnerable and wise beyond their years, and also have a potential for violence.’ Dever came oh-so-close to winning that role, so it makes sense that she’d be back in the mix for Abby, as Gamerant says ‘The two women are actually extremely similar.'”

And then, there’s the kind of superficial but still relevant detail that Mazin is following Dever on Instagram. He’s only following about 71 people, mostly industry friends and his talented songwriter daughter, Jessica (who did a heartrending cover of Depeche Mode’s “Never Let Me Down Again” for TLOU), so it makes sense that he’s following Dever because there’s a good chance they’ll become colleagues.

Why Dever would be an awesome choice if she does snag the part

Cade Onder on X (formerly Twitter) says, “I love Kaitlyn Dever as Abby in The Last of Us season 2, even if she’s not a hulking giant. If she’s supposed to be a sort of mirror version of Ellie, Kaitlyn Dever is a great choice. She has the emotional heart needed to sell the character.”

That “mirror version of Ellie” thing is so, so important and so obvious when playing The Last of Us Part II. Having a young actor who’s as ferocious and intuitive a performer as Ramsey in the role of Abby is far more important than Abby’s size being imposing.

Regarding her size, however, Forbes writer Paul Tassi brings up the excellent point that “While she does not have Abby’s size, she (and everyone) is bigger than Bella Ramsey, who is a tiny person.”

Abby doesn’t necessarily need to be built like an ox in the world of this show. In TLOU Part II, we watch Abby exhibit extraordinary strength against hordes of infected in all sorts of intense circumstances. The world of the HBO show, however, is much quieter, and for good reason. Infected have a different function in the television medium than they do in gameplay. With fewer infected present, and the more serious dangers coming from average people, it’s entirely possible that if Dever works out enough to be believably WLF-trained, it will be enough.

Dever is a brilliant actor who could absolutely go head-to-head with the likes of Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey. If she is the TLOU team’s first choice for the role, and she does sign on the dotted line to take on the role, I’d be jazzed.

In Mazin I trust.

(featured image: Naughty Dog)


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Author
Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.