Why The Last of Us TV Show Made One Major Change From the Games (Exclusive)

The Last of Us is aiming to be an extremely faithful adaptation of its video game source material. After all, it is adapting one of the most critically-acclaimed and beloved video game stories. Still, in bringing the PlayStation game's world to HBO, there are a few tweaks made to the world and story of The Last of Us for various reasons. One thing gamers will recognize as not being a part of the series is spores. In the games, spores linger and float in dark, enclosed spaces, waiting for a human to stumble into them and become infected with the fungal virus which has wiped away humanity as it was known. Those spores won't be a part of The Last of Us on television, a decision executive producer Craig Mazin, who previously delivered HBO's Chernobyl, explained in an interview with ComicBook.com. 

Mazin said that in cracking the story and world-building for the adaptation of The Last of Us, he and The Last of Us creator Neil Druckmann found themselves asking a lot of questions. "That's the name of the game. What do you keep and what do you duplicate? What requires enormous fidelity? What do you need to touch on and allude to?" Mazin explained. "What do you want to change and do completely differently? Neil [Druckmann] and I just talked through all of it and, as a fan, I was able to say at times, 'Hey, no, no, no, we're not changing that. That has to be the same.'"

The core parts of the story and many of the finer details make the jump to the live-action version of the story, with Pedro Pascal taking on the role of Joel and Bella Ramsey becoming Ellie. "Obviously, there are some big things that we know we're keeping, of course, but then there are challenges from the game to the show that had to be considered," Mazin explained. "For instance, little things like the spores. In the game, there are these where you encounter spores and you need to put a gas mask on. In the world that we're creating, if we put spores in the air, it would be pretty clear that they would spread around everywhere and everybody would have to wear a mask all the time and probably everybody would be completely infected by that point. So, we challenged ourselves to come up with an interesting new way for the fungus to spread but mostly I think we just connected with the soul and spirit of the game. He, as the creator of the game, and me, as a fan of the game, we were caretakers on behalf of all the fans but also on behalf of all the people who haven't played the game who need a television experience that is holistic and connected to itself and doesn't feel like you ned to play a game to understand."


Those spores are a big part of why the world ended in The Last of Us games. Humans would inhale them which lead to them becoming ravenous, thoughtless, bloodthirsty monsters which only spread the virus to other humans with each violent encounter. With the virus in the TV show being similar to that of the games, Mazin wanted to dig a little deeper when it came to explaining how and why the world fell apart, as a result.

"In the games, because you're playing as Joel, there's really no reason for anybody to say, 'Hey, let's talk about a thing we all already know,'" Mazin explained. "But, once we got into this, especially when Joel and Ellie are together and alone, her natural curiosity seemed like a great way to kind of explore filling in some of the questions people might have watching the show. I know I'm a very curious person. I want to know how things work. I want to know why they went wrong and once Joel starts to explain and fill in some of those gaps, some of the things that happen in the very first episode suddenly take on a slightly different meaning and a little bit more resonance. So, I think it's just a product of my natural curiosity. I think people would want to know. You don't want to bore people with lots of exposition but, again. I made a show where I guy stood up and explained how a nuclear reactor worked. I thought, 'Hey, I could do this again with the fungus. I can do it!'" 

Are you excited for The Last of Us? Subscribe to ComicBook & ET's new podcast The Last of Pods for weekly interviews and episode discussions! The Last of Us premieres its first episode on January 15.