22 March 2023
Go inside The Last of Us on Showmax
Apocalyptic drama series The Last of Us Season 1 (now available to binge on Showmax) has set the bar sky high for TV in 2023. The collaboration between Neil Druckmann – creator of The Last of Us computer game, which the series is based on – and series executive producer-writer Craig Mazin has changed the game for how TV can bring game stories to new audiences. As a bonus, the series turned Pedro Pascal into the gold standard for TV daddies, and explored the sinister side of magic mushrooms.
The Making of The Last of Us takes the names scrolling by in the end credits, hits pause, and shows us the threads that bind them together. We are shown so much, so quickly that it’s worth pausing and clicking back to the series to replay a scene in a whole new light (especially episode 5). If you’re in any doubt about watching this, hop ahead to 16:20-18:07 in the documentary.
The Making of The Last of Us gives us a glimpse into the workshop of makeup and prosthetics artist Barrie Gower (who designed The Night King in Game of Thrones) as he sculpts The Infected, from the Runners (the fast-zombie guys), to Stalkers (the infected who have fungal growth around their heads), Clickers (who’re so distorted by fungal infection that they have to use sound to echolocate) and Bloaters (the huge, terrifying man-mushroom types – game fans will have spotted the recreation of a Bloater kill scene in episode 5).
Barrie reveals fascinating early camera tests for the series on the “threads” of cordyceps transmission during bites and reveals why this practical effect had to be replaced with CGI. Barrie and Neil discuss which details of the face had to remain to avoid veering off into zombie territory. Prosthetics supervisor Paul Spateri walks us through the test makeup for the stages of infection. And costume designer Cynthia Summers reveals how she collaborated with Barrie to take his design into the clothing pieces. As an outtake, it’s unsettling to see the performers in full makeup casually strolling around between scenes – a vision of an alternative world where humans and cordyceps coexist peacefully.
The Last of Us road-mappers, prepare to drop some pins. Location managers Matt Palmer (for episodes 8 and 9) and Jason Nolan (episodes 1-7) reveal the real-life shooting locations, and how production created the QZ (the Federal Disaster Response Agency’s Quarantine Zone). Set decorator Paul Healy talks about how they put together everything from that magical carousel in episode 7, to the arcade and Halloween store, using a real-life abandoned shopping centre. For a classic head-desk moment, SPFX supervisor Joel Whist reveals what it was like to have to bring in 350 trucks of snow to dress the set for episode 8, only to have it snow overnight … And if the secret underground tunnel scenes in Salt Lake City in episode 5 had you sweating with anxiety, wait till you see the exterior of the set, which looks like a hamster habitat!
The Last of Us is a perfect union of practical and computer modelled effects. VFX producer Sean Nowlan walks us through stitching the two together to reveal things like how episode 1’s plane crash scene was composited. He also explains how cyber scanning works to help create digital versions of every performer in the series and how motion capture of stunt performers was used to create a “library of movement”.
It all comes together in a full breakdown of how the cul-de-sac scene in episode 5 happened – with the rebel trucks and the accident that unleashes the Infected horde and the big Bloater. And there’s a detailed rundown of how the big Bloater (played by stuntman Adam Basil) and child Clicker (played by a nine-year-old contortionist) performances happened, alongside digital recreations using the CGI characters and performances.
But the most unbelievable character in The Last of Us is 100% real. He’s a giraffe, his name is Nabo, he comes from the Alberta zoo in Canada, and we want to feed him leaves …
If you love TV about TV like The Making of The Last Of Us, try other behind-the-scenes specials and series on Showmax like…
- The Wife Behind The Veil Season 1 and The Wife Behind The Scenes
- Barney The Dinosaur documentary I Love You, You Hate Me
- Documentary Julia, which focuses on TV chef Julia Child, as does the HBO series Julia
- Modern Family star Alex Winter’s Showbiz Kids documentary about child stardom
- Game of Thrones documentaries GOT Season 8 Behind The Scenes, Game of Thrones: The Iron Anniversary, and Game of Thrones: The Last Watch
- Oppie Kassie, a doccie series on the history of TV in South Africa from the 1970s to 2019.
- Sesame Street doccie Street Gang: How We Got To Sesame Street
- Tinsel: 3500 Documentary Special on West Africa’s longest running soap opera
- And Jara, a reality series about all things Nollywood.
Binge-watch The Last of Us on Showmax
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