This article contains spoilers for “The Last of Us” and its video game source material.
The original Joel Miller shows up in HBO’s adaptation of “The Last of Us” — just not in his original part. Troy Baker, who voiced and mo-capped Joel in the video game, plays James, the right-hand man of Bible-quoting cannibal David (Scott Shepherd). It might seem like a downgrade, but Baker was surprised to get even that substantive a part.
Speaking to Deadline about his experience on the series, Baker described how Naughty Dog co-president Neil Druckmann came to him with the part:
“Neil was coy about this potential role. He was like, ‘So, there’s a character that we have in mind for you, if you’re interested. If you don’t feel interested, it’s totally fine.’ And I’m like, ‘Dude, if there’s anything for me …” Look, I thought I was going to be a Clicker. So, this is an upgrade. I was so happy. And then, when reading the script for James, I was like, ‘OK, there’s a good challenge.’ I love playing a villain to show you he’s not the villain.”
How did Baker decide to show James as “not a villain?” He explained that he saw his new character as a dark reflection of his old one. In a teaser for “The Last of Us,” Ellie (Ashley Johnson) quotes Joel: “On this journey, you either hang onto your morals and die or do whatever it takes to survive.”
Who Is Troy Baker?
Baker is one of the best American voice actors in the business. He was born in Dallas, Texas — and so was his voice acting career, which took off thanks to anime dubbing at local studio Funimation. His most famous anime roles include Pain in “Naruto,” Greed in “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood,” and Abel Nightroad in “Trinity Blood.” These characters run the gamut from villain to anti-hero to lead protagonist; Baker’s subsequent work has been just as varied.
Video game voice acting is where Baker has done his best work and 2013 was an important year for him on that front. He voiced the Joker in “Batman: Arkham Origins,” doing a pitch-perfect impression of Mark Hamill’s acclaimed take. As a testament to his range, he would later voice Batman in Telltale Games’ eponymous game series.
Baker’s resume that year doesn’t end with licensed games, though. He voiced Booker DeWitt in “BioShock Infinite,” a cynical mercenary with a dark past who finds himself in the flying city of Columbia. Like in “The Last of Us,” Booker winds up escorting a young woman, Elizabeth (Courtnee Draper), on a perilous journey. Joel became and remains his most acclaimed role. However, the thin-framed, youthful Baker doesn’t resemble the weary Joel at all; there’s a reason Pedro Pascal subbed for Baker in the series and it’s not just one actor being more well-known to the public en masse than the other.
One of Baker’s less reputable roles was partnering with Voiceverse NFT. On top of all the other problems with cryptocurrency, the company was later found to have plagiarized voice lines via AI. Baker ended his association with them after two weeks. Nobody’s perfect.
Other ‘Last Of Us’ Alumni Cameos
Baker isn’t the only “Last of Us” alumni who shows up in the HBO series. The most substantive appearance definitely goes to Merle Dandridge, who reprises her role as Marlene from the original game. Marlene is the leader of the Fireflies, a paramilitary out to save what’s left of humanity — no matter the cost. This casting makes Dandridge the only actor in either cast to play the same character in both mediums.
In a perfectly fitting cameo, Ashley Johnson appears as Ellie’s mother Anna in the season 1 finale, “Look for the Light.” A flashback reveals how Anna’s infection by the mutated Cordyceps fungus created Ellie’s immunity. Jeffrey Pierce, who played Joel’s brother Tommy in the game, has an ancillary part as Perry, a soldier under the command of Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey). Gabriel Luna substituted Pierce as Tommy in the live-action series.
The least identifiable cameo on HBO’s “The Last of Us” is Laura Bailey, the voice of Abby in “The Last of Us Part II.” She plays a masked nurse in the season finale, so viewers don’t even get to see her face, much less hear her most recognizable feature, her voice. While Bailey’s character is spared from Joel’s rampage, fans of the games know how his choices impacted Abby. TV-only fans will soon learn that too, once “The Last of Us” returns for season 2.
Read this next: The 10 Most Intense Scenes From The Last Of Us Season 1
The post Troy Baker Thought He’d Have A Much Smaller Role In HBO’s The Last Of Us appeared first on /Film.
/Film – Troy Baker Thought He’d Have A Much Smaller Role In HBO’s The Last Of Us
Author: Devin Meenan
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March 17, 2023