How Pedro Pascal immersed himself in the role of Joel from `The Last of Us`

The project's creators, in their intent to avoid a complete replication of the source material, had forbidden key actors from playing 'The Last of Us'. However, Pascal, in his initial defiance, swiftly violated this prohibition. Yet, he conceded just as swiftly, recognizing his mediocre abilities as a gamer. Instead, he intently observed his nephew traversing through the game. Although both the character and the visual elements of the game had deeply impressed Pascal, he opted against mimicking the 'game' Joel, a decision that, in practice, proved extraordinarily apt.

How It Started

A confessed admirer of screenwriter Craig Mazin, especially his acclaimed 'Chernobyl' that made waves in 2019, Pascal was prepared to go to any lengths to secure a role when he discovered Mazin's involvement in the adaptation of 'The Last of Us'.
Pedro Pascal
Pedro Pascal
The irony was that Pascal, ensconced in London at the time of his remote audition, had forgotten the moment when his role was confirmed. Mazin and Neil Druckmann, the creator of the video game, were in Los Angeles. Pascal engaged in numerous nocturnal Zoom conversations with the creators over an extended period and diligently studied the script, continually uncertain whether he would land the role.

Following the negotiations, the actor decided to take a potent sleeping aid, aiming to achieve a modicum of rest and calm - just as the call came through confirming his candidacy. The cocktail of emotions, intermingled with the effects of the medication, caused him to completely forget the next morning that he had been cast in the series. Fortunately, before reaching out to the producers, he checked his phone, which was inundated with congratulatory messages from colleagues.
Pedro Pascal Forgot He Was Cast In The Last Of Us
During his preparation for the role, he had an epiphany: he should not mimic Joel from the game, but rather maintain a safe distance:
The character profoundly moved me, as did the visual aspect of the game. However, I grew anxious about the possibility of replicating the «virtual» Joel too closely, which I believe could be suitable in one circumstance and erroneous in another.
The project's creators also subscribed to the same principle: they acknowledged the game's key moments but did not wish to transform the series into a frame-by-frame remake.

Moreover, from the outset, the showrunners desired Joel to be portrayed not as a 'cool guy' bereft of principles, trafficking arms, and adeptly shooting with both hands, as in a blockbuster hero (finding such an actor posed no issue). Instead, they wanted a 'man concealing a tormented soul' - someone with whom the audience could empathize.
Pedro Pascal In The Last of Us
Pedro Pascal In The Last of Us
Realism also proved crucial. "The vulnerabilities of the characters enable the audience to immerse more deeply into the plot. The immersion methods for a series differ from those of a game. For instance, in a game, there are healing mechanics: you get shot - you heal. In reality, you perish. Consequently, in the series, Joel does not skulk around as much as in the game - a 55-year-old man in real life would strain his back within three minutes," Mazin later recalled.

The series' rendition of Joel emerged as hardened as his prototype, yet vastly more humane. Pascal himself recalled only one occasion when his interpretation of the character was guided:
I was requested to infuse Joel with my own persona... It was the best approach to understand my character. To me, he seemed like a truly hardened individual, not someone who dwells on his emotions, be it the demise of his daughter or the apocalypse unfolding before his eyes.
Pascal's nuanced performance drew rave reviews from his peers, and he himself realized his keen interest in portraying characters distinctly different from his own. Firstly, Pascal is a vehement adversary of settling matters with fists. "I never got involved in fights even as a child. Violence terrifies me," he admits. Secondly, the 47-year-old actor has yet to become a parent, and the sensation of paternal responsibility was a novelty for him, despite a somewhat similar role in 'The Mandalorian':
I do not have children. Only through this role did I discover how profoundly vulnerable a father becomes, how much a person's life becomes dependent on their child's well-being. I decided to strive to portray as many fathers as I can.
'The Last of Us' series emerged as a significant event in the 2023 film industry and was renewed for a second season even before the finale aired. When asked if his character would appear in the continuation of the series, Pascal, to the delight of his fans, responded tersely but promisingly: "Yes, there is a chance. Yes."

For more details about Pedro Pascal's life journey, his biography is available on