The Last of Us stars Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey bonded over Game of Thrones

The Last of Us is HBO’s new big genre series, a zombie apocalypse story which follows hardened survivor Joel (Pedro Pascal) as he escorts teenage girl Ellie (Bella Ramsey) across a ruined United States. Based on the beloved video game from Naughty Dog, the relationship between the two leads is hugely important to The Last of Us. What begins as a reluctant pairing will become something much deeper and more complicated by journey’s end.

It’s somewhat fitting that both Pascal and Ramsey also appeared in HBO’s last big genre series: Game of ThronesPascal played the charmingly dangerous Prince Oberyn of Dorne during season 4, while Ramsey appeared in seasons 6-8 as Lady Lyanna Mormont, the teenage ruler of Bear Island. Despite never appearing together onscreen, the shared experience of becoming fan favorites on the hit fantasy series is something that helped Ramsey and Pascal form an immediate rapport.

Game of Thrones

Image: Game of Thrones/HBO

“My experience with Game of Thrones was incredibly romantic,” Pascal told Entertainment Weekly during a joint interview with Ramsey. “My costume was probably a lot more comfortable than Bella’s, and the locations I shot in might have been much more comfortable. But she was young enough to deal with an uncomfortable costume, I think.”

“It was my first job ever, so I didn’t know any different. I was young and impressionable,” Ramsey smirked.

“I feel like it made us come from a family without knowing each other already,” Pascal said. “To have two characters that the fans liked make their entrance and make their exit is parallel for the both of us and a kind of bonding thing before we even got a chance to bond. So, yes, I am grateful for that.”

“I don’t think that I’d be an actor if it wasn’t for Game of Thrones, ’cause I never really set out to be [one], and then it sort of happened,” Ramsey added. “I wouldn’t have it any other way. So it set me up and prepared me for The Last of Us, and all my other projects, in ways that I don’t think anything else could.”

Ramsey was still in school during the shooting of Thrones, and appearing in the series precipitated a huge change in her life. “I was very much a loner, didn’t really have any friends in secondary school—suddenly everybody wanted to be my friend and talk to me,” Ramsey told Elle about life after the show as over. “I guess that’s the first time that I ever felt something was shifting in my life.”

The Last of Us

Image: The Last of Us/HBO

Pedro Pascal: “It’s such a rare experience where you get to bond to this degree.”

The Last of Us is off to an especially promising start. The series premiere had the second highest ratings of any premiere on HBO since 2010, ranking only behind the Game of Thrones prequel series House of the Dragon. Ramsey believes The Last of Us could become one of the next big watercooler shows, just like Game of Thrones was. “But I don’t think it’s gonna be as long as Game of Thrones. I don’t think it’s gonna be this show that goes on forever.”

This tracks with what we’ve heard from showrunners Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann, who’ve confirmed that they don’t plan for the show to go past the events of the two video games currently out, which means the show could potentially only last for two or three seasons.

“None of us wanna think about that,” Pascal said. “We had such a great time [making The Last of Us] and it’s such a rare experience where you get to bond to this degree. You almost feel like if you have a really good experience, it’s asking for too much that it’d be well received or that experience be translated to an audience, but that’s the intention and what our whole want is more than anything.”

The actor also hints that there may be some changes from the events of The Last of Us game coming later in the season, which is something he finds exciting since it means it’ll keep viewers on their toes. “The way that [The Last of Us] departs from what people’s expectations may be, knowing the game very well, is what I loved the most,” he mused. “And the way that things sing around the central relationship of Ellie and Joel, and somehow directly affecting our journey and our arc but also the audience’s experience of the whole piece.”

The Last of Us

The Last of Us

Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey grew so close on The Last of Us that it was “almost a little frustrating” for their directors

Despite having something in common with Game of Thrones, Ramsey put a lot of pressure on herself to “make instant friends” with Pascal, who had already filmed in Calgary, Canada for around a month before Ramsey got on set.

“I felt like the new kid coming in,” Ramsey said. “I remember that first day that you made me go up to Craig and say, ‘I’m not doing any of that!’ I was like, ‘It’s a joke!’ as soon as I said it ’cause I was so new and nervous. I actually struggled on the first day ’cause of my accent. I had the sound of the accent right, but…”

“It must have been terrifying,” Pascal chimed in. Indeed, filming The Last of Us could be an intimidating process, although it helped that the show was shot largely in chronological order, so Pascal and Ramsey got to know each other as Joel and Ellie did.

The Last of Us Episode 2

“It just kind of got scarier and scarier,” Pascal said, teasing that the deeper into the shoot they moved, the “more and more seminal moments” there were.

“We took care of each other quite well, I think,” Ramsey said. “I think it was just the case of recognizing the pressure we were putting on ourselves. I guess that was helpful being able to recognize and verbalize things, but then it got to the point where we didn’t even have to do that.”

I knew when you were beating yourself up and you knew when I was beating myself up, and then we met in the middle or dragged each other kicking and screaming out of that state.

The two grew closer over the course of filming, to the point where Pascal worried it could actually annoy their coworkers. “There was so much time we got to spend together on set that it was almost weird when we weren’t together, as far as shooting was concerned,” he said. “There was this fascinating thing that would happen. We were just kind of in our own bubble no matter what. That almost became a little frustrating for our directors. The bond could never intentionally leave anybody out, but what became less hard was stepping into each other’s presence and being together.”

We never stopped being scared or [were] convinced that we were getting it right, but at least we could rely on each other without question. So often it almost felt like people [were] having to tap on the outside of a bubble to be like, ‘Did you hear me?’

No doubt it will make game fans happy to hear how solid the chemistry was between Pascal and Ramsey offscreen. Joel and Ellie’s relationship is the core of The Last of Us, and it sounds like the actors went all in on developing that bond for the show.

The Last of Us premieres new episodes Sundays on HBO and HBO Max.

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