In adapting The Last of Us as a television show for HBO, Chernobyl writer Craig Mazin and Naughty Dog's Neil Druckmann, who is also writing and producing the series, have a fine line to walk. How do you make a compelling show out of a game that's already so heavily shaped by its use of cinematic storytelling techniques? One way may be to use an idea Naughty Dog cut from the games.
Mazin, in a recent interview with BBC's Must Watch (via io9), says that in the course of planning the show with Druckmann the Naughty Dog VP mentioned something that ended up not being explored in the games. Upon hearing the idea, Mazin says he seized upon it immediately.
"Okay, jaw drop, that's going in," says Mazin, careful to not give away the idea in question. "For sure, we have to do that, you couldn't stop me from doing that. You will have to shoot me to stop me from doing that. So we're doing that."
Mazin's point in mentioning this lightbulb moment is to assure fans that he and Druckmann are aiming to broaden people's understanding of Joel, Ellie, and the world of The Last of Us without detracting from or drastically going against what the games have established.
"We're going to be introducing this to a lot of new people who don't know the story, of course," Mazin says (based on HBO's reach and what we've seen with Netflix's The Witcher, that's a very safe bet). "But if you have played the game, all I can say is that our intention is that you will watch the show and say 'That has violated nothing of what I loved about the game and what I witnessed in the game, but it has brought me a whole lot more, things that I did not know. Really, kind of amazing things that I did not know.'"
Assuming Druckmann remains closely involved with the HBO show and it sees the light of day, it will be quite something to see how it compares to other upcoming game-to-TV adaptations in this respect. Compared to Showtime's in-production Halo series or recently announced projects like those based on Fallout and Disco Elysium, The Last of Us for HBO is unusual in having such strong ties with one of the game's creators.
This, Mazin thinks, will help the show avoid the kinds of pitfalls that other TV and film adaptations fall into. "I'm doing it with the guy who did it," says Mazin. "The changes that we're making are designed to fill things out and expand. Not to undo, but rather to enhance."