The Last of Us almost had a very different Joel

Ahead of The Last of Us series premiere, we learn that Matthew McConaughey almost starred as Joel, with the HBO show's actor admitting "it would have been odd."

The Last of Us almost had a very different Joel
Published by Mason @ PC Game Spotlight a year ago

Ahead of The Last of Us series premiere

We learn that Matthew McConaughey almost took on the role of Joel, the game’s iconic main character. McConaughey may be known for his more laid-back roles, with his swagger often coming across in his characters – a style which would have been well-suited to Joel. However, the decision to cast Pedro Pascal was the right one, with the actor explaining it would have been “odd” for McConaughey to portray the post-apocalyptic survivor.

“We had talks about it, for sure,” Pascal says in an interview with Thrillist. “But I think that would’ve been a little odd for everybody to see McConaughey as Joel. That would’ve been a slight stretch. We got lucky on this one.”

Pascal has proved his worth not once but twice, following up his memorable role in Game of Thrones with The Mandalorian. Now, he’s leading the cast of The Last of Us as Joel, with the upcoming HBO series seeking to bring the intense post-apocalyptic world of The Last of Us to beautiful, cinematic life in a far more impressive, immersive new medium.

We already knew that The Last of Us showrunner, Sam Stratton, wanted to cast someone with “manlier” qualities to portray Joel, particularly when it came to fight scenes. During the aforementioned interview, Pascal admits that he wasn’t really a fan of the game but admits that, given his busy acting schedule, he wouldn’t have necessarily said ‘no’ to the role if he’d been offered it.

“I’m excited to see it, man,” Pascal says, modestly. “I hope I’m doing a good job to be honest. It was such a long time ago that I played it, I don’t really remember what Joel is about. I wasn’t thinking about that as much [as accepting], I was thinking about ‘should I take one more?’ [because] I had Malcolm [in The Mandalorian] and this [The Last of Us], so it was pretty full-on. I was like, ‘I can’t say no at this point, I guess I’ll do it.’”

Game developer Naughty Dog is known for storytelling that’s on a par with Hollywood and novels, and The Last of Us series has big shoes to fill. McConaughey’s unique acting style would certainly have added some extra flair to Joel and his misfit supporting cast of allies and enemies, but the general consensus seems to be that Pascal was the right choice.

“Getting an actor of Pedro’s calibre to portray such an important role in the Last of Us story is both thrilling and validating of the work done by Sam, Jack, and the rest of the team,” Matt Tang, VP of marketing at PlayStation, comments to Thrillist. “Pedro’s portrayal has already been celebrated by gamers around the world, and we look forward to fans of the game continuing to discover and fall in love with Joel through the medium of television.”

Pascal leads an impressive cast for the show, with Bella Ramsey confirmed as Ellie, Joel’s young companion in the post-apocalyptic, confusing and cruel world. The pair embark on an adventure in hope of either finding a cure, or – if that’s not possible – taking their own lives before the infection takes hold.

We can only hope the series delivers on Naughty Dog’s quality, with The Last of Us earning critical acclaim for its storytelling, character development, and stunning visuals. If it does, perhaps Joel and Ellie’s story won’t be told just once, but twice, through the mediums of TV and video games once more.

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