The Last of Us: Ashley Johnson Reveals First Meeting With Bella Ramsey "Felt Like Meeting the Real Ellie"

Ellie video game actor Ashley Johnson recalls the first time she met The Last of Us' Bella Ramsey. Ashley Johnson played Ellie in all of The Last of Us video games, and made a surprise appearance as Ellie's mom, Anna, in the Season 1 finale, "Look For The Light." It's here that we learn how Anna gave birth to Ellie, and how Anna's infection transferred to Ellie, possibly creating a cure. Seeing as how Ashley Johnson and Bella Ramsey are now synonymous with the role of Ellie, it only makes sense to get Johnson's perspective on meeting Ramsey for the first time.

Ashley Johnson was a guest on the official The Last of Us podcast, where she told host Troy Baker (Joel actor from The Last of Us games) and showrunners Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann how her meeting with Bella Ramsey felt like meeting the real-life Ellie. "It's interesting being sort of attached and a part of a character for so long, and the lines get blurred. When it was talked about this was being turned into a movie or a show... not that we necessarily have any say in who was cast in it, but something didn't ever feel right until Bella," Johnson said. "There is something so similar that the both of us have. And, instantly, when I met Bella, there was this feeling of wanting to protect them."

She then started laughing while recounting meeting her Ellie counterpart. "The first time I met Bella, I was a little taken aback because it felt like I was meeting the real Ellie, like the character coming out of the game. Obviously, we played these parts, but it's a strange thing. There's a little bit of it where Ella kinda feels like my kid. And we have very similar mannerisms, and she gets it."

The Last of Us Season Finale Almost Had an Alternate Ending

HBO's The Last of Us ends its first season like the video game: Joel (Pedro Pascal) tells Ellie (Bella Ramsey) that no matter who dies — Riley (Storm Reid), Tess (Anna Torv), Sam (Keivonn Woodard) — they find something new to fight for. In the final scene of the season, Ellie makes Joel swear to her that everything he said about the Fireflies is true. Swear that dozens of people like Ellie exist who are immune to the cordyceps infection, and Marlene's (Merle Dandridge) Fireflies stopped looking for a cure.  

"I swear," Joel lies to Ellie, who was unconscious when Joel murdered Marlene and the Fireflies to save the girl he's come to see as a daughter. Joel gunned down a Firefly doctor before he could remove the cordyceps from Ellie's brain — fatal for Ellie, but the key to humanity's survival. 

"Okay," Ellie says. Recreating the video game ending that fans have debated for a decade, the camera then abruptly cuts to black. End Part I.

But the show's version of the scene almost ended differently: in an alternate ending, the camera would have lingered on the growing distance between Joel and Ellie as they made their way down toward Jackson, Wyoming.

"The change was really more something that Ali Abbasi, our director, had been playing around with. He had this thought of just playing out this slightly longer, sadder version where Ellie says, 'okay', and then she turns and walks away. And Joel looks after her. We see the two of them walking, not really together but apart, down towards Jackson. It lingers and then fades. There was something beautiful about it," series co-creator Craig Mazin, who co-wrote the episode with game writer Neil Druckmann, told GQ Magazine. "Everybody was like 'what do we do?' And there was that meta-discussion of, are the people that played the game going to be more annoyed that they didn't get it just the way it's supposed to be, or are they gonna be more annoyed that they only got what they had before? And then how will everybody else feel?"

Mazin continued: "In the end, there's something very specific about ending on that close-up of Ellie. Not knowing what comes next. Not knowing what she does. Does she walk away from him, does she walk with him, how does she feel? That moment gets suspended permanently."

Season 1 of The Last of Us is now streaming on HBO Max.