The Last of Us: Why Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey Are the Perfect Joel and Ellie

We finally know who will play Joel and Ellie in HBO's The Last of Us, and there are plenty of reasons to believe that Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey are the perfect choices.

The Last of Us Pedro Pascal Bella Ramsey
Photo: Netflix/HBO

After much speculation and more than a few false rumors, we finally know that Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey will portray Joel and Ellie in HBO’s The Last of Us series. That announcement brings us one step closer to the debut of what is the most exciting video game adaptation in production at the moment.

As is usually the case when these casting announcements are made, there are some fans who remain unconvinced that these are the right choices for two of gaming’s most iconic characters. Some of that doubt is stems from the parade of big names that have been associated with these roles in the past (including Mahershala Ali and Maisie Williams), but others simply don’t think that this pair has what it takes.

Yet, a quick look at their filmographies reveals all the reasons why Pascal and Ramsey are actually perfect for The Last of Us. If you weren’t already excited to see the pair bring Joel and Ellie to life, here are some of the reasons you should be.

The Mandalorian Is Basically a Preview of Pedro Pascal as Joel

The Mandalorian star signing up for another “escort mission” in HBO’s The Last of Us has been joked about elsewhere, but the similarities between Joel and Din Djarin are actually really fascinating.

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Both The Mandalorian and The Last of Us focus on two strong loner types who start to discover (or rediscover) their sentimental sides as they protect a young ward who is only starting to realize their full potential. Joel, much like Din, can certainly defend himself, but the true joy of watching both of these characters grow is found in how they try (and sometimes fail) to raise someone in a hostile world. 

There are distinct differences between the characters and their circumstances, but Pascal has more than shown that he can carry a long, epic journey and absolutely chew up the scenery while also exploring the emotional depth of his character without dulling the edge. 

Bella Ramsey’s Game of Thrones Role Shows She Can Capture Ellie’s Dark Side

Many people immediately associate Bella Ramsey with Lyanna Mormont. Not only is the Game of Thrones character one of the series’ best cast additions in the later seasons, but the role is Ramsey’s biggest (and arguably best) to date. 

More importantly, there are elements of the Lyanna Mormont character which remind me of what Ellie eventually becomes. Without diving too deeply into spoilers, Ellie walks down some dark paths in The Last of Us Part 2. It’s not that the character ends up becoming something entirely different from what they were (such as how Wesley evolved in Angel) but rather that we helplessly watch as Ellie turns into what some feared she would become. 

We’ve seen Bella Ramsey portray a character we want to root for even as we understand that the ways they were shaped by war and horror are hard to walk away from. She’s going to need to tap into something similar for Ellie. 

Pedro Pascal Can Be Effortlessly Charming

While there is still some room for debate regarding Joel’s intentions, desires, and humanity, the events of The Last of Us franchise make it clear you can’t deny the character’s more violent tendencies. Yet, his charm and moments of heroism inspire many to defend and even root for him. 

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Pascal’s effortless charm certainly gives him an advantage when it comes to playing a character with an undeniable dark side. Just look at Pascal’s performance in Wonder Woman 1984. Despite his character’s cartoonish villainy and the movie’s unevenness, most of us probably found ourselves drawn to the ways that Pascal manages to steal the show. 

The Mandalorian also serves as an excellent showcase for Pascal’s ability to convey so much through relatively little dialogue but sheer physical presence. In the case of Joel, it will likely be what Pascal isn’t saying that will be so haunting from one scene to the next. 

Bella Ramsey Can Capture Ellie’s Musical Side

If you only really know Ramsey from her work on Game of Thrones, then you probably don’t know what a well-rounded actress she is. For instance, did you know that she’s actually a pretty talented singer?

The song above was written, composed, and sung by Ramsey. While it wouldn’t exactly fit into the world of The Last of Us, it does showcase a side of Ramsey’s abilities as a performer you may not be familiar with if you typically only associate her with more hard-edged characters.

More importantly, it proves that Ramsey can convincingly perform the singing scenes that rank among Ellie’s best in the games. They’re a rare look into an aspect of the character that is both a breath of fresh air and oddly troubling when weighed against Ellie’s dark fate.

Pedro Pascal’s Characters Can Convingly Explode into Violence

In one of his first Game of Thrones scenes, Pascal confronts two Lannister guards in a brothel. Sure, that sounds like the start of a joke your uncle awkwardly forces into the conversation at Thanksgiving, but the scene takes a turn when Pascal puts a dagger into one of the guard’s hands in the blink of an eye.  

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It’s a scene that perfectly captures Joel’s ability to interrupt a seemingly quiet moment with a burst of violence. Granted, that quality is arguably a symptom of a style of video game design that often requires protagonists to be ready for action sequences at all times, but the idea that Joel can’t escape his violent urges is very much a part of his character and the ways he influences Ellie. 

If The Last of Us series’ at least loosely follows the games, Pascal’s ability to turn a scene of levity into murderous rage will certainly come into play. 

Bella Ramsey Has the Ability to Convey Emotional Weight Beyond Her Years

It’s easy to forget, given the nature of the games, but Ellie is only 14 years old when we meet her in The Last of Us. She’s 19 when The Last of Us Part 2 begins, but by that point, she already feels like a worn veteran of the world she was born into. 

The reason that Ramsey captures so much attention in Game of Thrones isn’t that she was a talented child actress who exceeded expectations but rather that she instantly convinced us that she could believably be the ruler of a cold, hard kingdom despite being so young. In a show full of badass warriors, there was a real sense that the toughest of them all was a 13-year-old with vengeance in her heart. If that’s not the perfect actress to portray Ellie, then who is?