Bella Ramsey to trolls: “Get used” to queer characters on The Last of Us

The Last of Us Episode 3
The Last of Us Episode 3 /

Before HBO started airing The Last of Us, star Bella Ramsey (Ellie) was inundated with nasty comments online about how she didn’t fit the part. Speaking to GQ, she said that “everyone” seemed fixated on her “square head.”

Ramsey was in her mid-teens at the time, and reading these comments became a kind of masochistic compulsion; as the kids say, she was “doomscrolling,” where you cycle through negative news online even though you know it’s bad for you. “You’re looking for a comment that’s more painful than the last one,” Ramsey said. “I’d kid myself that I was doing it in jest.”

Of course, once the show started to air, Ramsey got widespread acclaim for her performance as Ellie, a precocious teenager on a road trip across the United States 20 years after it’s devastated by a zombie apocalypse. “I wish I could say that I was confident enough [already] that it hasn’t affected me in any way, but it has,” Ramsey said. “I’m just glad I could do that for them. And for the show. And for Ellie. I want to do her justice.”

Bella Ramsey isn’t “anxious” about hate-based backlash to The Last of Us

But trolls are trolls, and some fans have found something new to complain about: gay people. The third episode of The Last of Us, a gay love story called “Long, Long Time,” is the lowest rated installment despite being the most moving hour of TV to come out in a long time, and it’s not hard to see through whatever feeble objections people raise against it. “I love that episode,” Ramsey says. “I was on the verge of tears throughout it, and cried at the bit in the montage when they got married.”

And if The Last of Us sticks to the source video games from Naughty Dog, the second season will feature queer characters in even more prominent positions. That includes Ellie herself, who in The Last of Us Part 2 is involved in a relationship with a woman named Dina. “There are a few bits with Ellie on her own, probably, but I like the fact that she also has [Dina] now,” Ramsey said.

The Last of Us Part 2 suffered a huge wave of fan backlash when it came out in 2020, much of it related to the inclusion of gay and trans characters. Clearly, that kind of nonsense hasn’t gone away, and I’m already nervous about a repeat when season 2 starts airing on HBO.

That said, the game itself is terrific and there’s no reason to think the show won’t follow suit. The more common stories like this get, the more frothing haters lose their enthusiasm, which can only be for the good. “I’m not particularly anxious about it,” Ramsey said. “I know people will think what they want to think. But they’re gonna have to get used to it. If you don’t want to watch the show because it has gay storylines, because it has a trans character, that’s on you, and you’re missing out…It isn’t gonna make me afraid. I think that comes from a place of defiance.”

Ramsey also has a personal stake in stories about queer characters. She identifies as non-binary herself (she doesn’t mind what pronouns you use). Her costar Pedro Pascal, whose sister is trans, was “super supportive.“ The two of them had many conversations about gender and sexuality. “And they weren’t always deep: they could be funny and humorous, the whole spectrum. We were just very honest and open with each other.”

The Last of Us season 2 will “likely follow the storyline of the games again”

The Last of Us writers are working on season 2 as we speak. Ramsey even got to sit in on some of their discussions recently. “It was so cool to hear them talk about ideas — I’ve watched quite a lot of the gameplay of the second game, just because I’ve been curious,” she said.

"I think [the show] will most likely follow the storyline of the games again. I don’t think there’s much need to fill in the gaps."

The first season followed the first video game pretty closely, so I think we can expect season 2 to do the same. “I mean, season one really was the best year of my life,” Ramsey said. “As the episodes come out, [they] bring back such good memories. I am nervous, of course. [But] I’m so excited to get the chance to do that again.”

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