The Last of Us: She played Abby in a fan film – now she wants Season 2
The Last of Us Season 2 is bound to introduce Abby, a wayfaring stranger who may become one of the most notorious villains in TV history – and Mary Krantz could be the one to carry that legacy.
“Swear to me… swear to me that everything you said about the Fireflies is true,” Ellie asks Joel in the closing moments of The Last of Us, as the sun appears to dawn on their new life of serenity. “I swear,” he says, and after a long, pensive pause, she replies: “Okay.”
Already, their future days are doomed. Unbeknown to his new “baby girl”, his ruthless, no-less fatherly actions in Salt Lake City lit the fuse on a ticking trauma bomb for Ellie, Tommy, the fans, and anyone who’s yet to experience Part 2’s unforgettable, devastating opening rug-pull.
Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin made slight alterations to the original game’s story in Season 1 – we can all agree that Episode 3’s changes to Bill and Frank were exquisite – but Abby, whose tough-to-swallow vengeance will only fortify her formidable rep in a whole other medium, is unavoidable and unimpeachable. But who could shoulder the weight of such a role? Well, meet Mary Krantz.
Warning: we’re going to be discussing The Last of Us Part 2 spoilers in depth, so this is your last chance to cover your eyes and go.
Mary Krantz played Abby in a fan film
Krantz is an actress based in Portland, Oregon. Her credits aren’t wide-ranging, but she’s known in The Last of Us community for her performance as Abby in Ellie’s Revenge, an impressive short film released in 2021. You can check it out here.
Directed by Tommy Jackson, the film recaps key beats of Part 2’s story while following Ellie as she prowls through the woods, mowing down Seraphites with her shotgun, machete, and anything else she can get her hands on. “Where’s Abby? Tell me where she is… she took someone away from me who can never be replaced,” she tells an unnamed hunter, before shooting him in the face.
Abby emerges from the side of the frame. “We gave you a second chance, but you wasted it… you killed my friends, but you won’t kill me,” she warns Ellie, raising her blade as the pair stare each other down in the rain.
It was shared by Indieblackmagic on YouTube, where it’s been viewed more than 1.5 million times and attracted acclaim from franchise enthusiasts – especially for Krantz. “The girl who played Abby looked so much like her it was almost creepy, props to you guys,” one commented. “I was breathless when I saw Abby,” another wrote. “Abby is spot on! It’ll be cool if there’s a version starring her,” a third wrote.
That latter wish is exactly why we’re here. Krantz is hoping the positive reception to her brief appearance as Abby could act as a pathway to HBO’s adaptation, especially as speculation around the character’s casting intensifies. So, we sat down with her to find out why she’s so keen to take on the role.
How Mary Krantz found her dream role
The Last of Us Part 2 hit consoles in 2020. The ensuing discourse was so unbearably toxic that it made Scanners’ head explosions look like mercy, but Krantz didn’t fully engage with the game until the casting call for Ellie’s Revenge came around. “I had heard of the name of the game in the ether. I knew that it was a popular game,” she said.
She looked up Abby and felt an immediate attachment to the character, if only for her physical likeness at first – the resemblance is uncanny, truly. “For a fan film, this one especially, the priority is the physical likeness. It’s fun for fans to see someone pulled straight from the game… that attention to detail is really appreciated. So when I saw the character physically, I thought… that’s definitely me. And so I put myself out there,” she continued.
“The film crew was just really, really excited and passionate about the story and bringing it to life. So after auditioning and getting cast in the role, then doing that research and the deep dives into the world of The Last of Us, I was hooked.”
Naughty Dog’s games have been heralded for their stories just as much as the gameplay, particularly the second chapter. Krantz wasn’t immune to its power, wowed by the “super interesting” emotional narrative, “and so that was how I got introduced to the franchise.”
A newcomer’s response to Abby
Abby is the daughter of head Fireflies surgeon Jerry Anderson, who was murdered by Joel when he rescued Ellie in The Last of Us finale. Years later, Joel has a seemingly random encounter with her in a blizzard, and she leads them back to her group’s camp. Soon after, she gets her revenge by brutally killing Joel with a golf club in front of Ellie, which puts them both on a bitter, blood-soaked collision course.
For half of the game, you play as Ellie as she tries to track down Abby. However, it then switches to Abby’s perspective, leaving you to play out the story through her eyes, before her face-off with Ellie unfolds. It was, and remains, a lot to take, and the show has a mighty tough task on the horizon: translating one of gaming’s most horrific moments on TV’s biggest stage.
When Krantz researched the character and learned about the storytelling mechanics of the sequel, she thought it was “beautiful… what Neil was able to do, in presenting her as a villain, you followed Ellie and therefore you’re invested in her story because you’ve spent the time and now you want what she wants.
“But it holds a mirror up to yourself. Especially as you go back and play as Abby and step into her shoes and you get to sort of come to terms with the facts. ‘Oh, what if I was in her shoes?’ You know? ‘What if I had played it as Abby from the beginning?'”
Krantz also observed the debate around Joel’s decision to save Ellie from the Fireflies; some believe he’s a monster, while others – especially those with children of their own – are completely on his side. Regardless, “there’s consequences to both of those things,” she said.
“Thematically, it’s so clever what Neil wants to do is: present that dichotomy and make people think. There’s not a right or wrong answer. That grey area is clearly where he wants to draw our attention, and I think healthy dialogue around that is cool.”
The Abby backlash is inevitable
Alas, the dialogue was far from healthy, unless you muffle the mouths of a very vocal, insidious minority. Abby led to review bombing against Part 2, with its fiercest critics complaining about having to play as someone they couldn’t root for after watching them murder their favorite character.
There are some fans who’ve argued that the game should have let you play as Abby for longer before killing Joel, but these are people who lack the ability (or willingness) to accept complex morality in a video game. Having her do it straight off the bat (or the club) is the whole point: as Krantz said, we’re forced to hold up the mirror. Also, it has to be noted: the hate against Abby is rooted in misogyny, with some gamers trying to discredit her more muscular build for no reason at all.
The anticipation for Abby’s eventual arrival in Season 2, whether it’s early on or setting up a third season, has been mostly positive – but the backlash will resurface. It’s not a matter of if, it’s when. Krantz knows it’s a minority, but she’d rather have more discourse than none at all.
“I think the worst thing would be less people talking about it, because I think it’s very important those opinions get voiced, even though I don’t agree with them, so we can have this dialogue and come together and share our opinions and educate each other,” she said.
Let’s be fair to the initial, natural emotional response: you should hate Abby at first. She comes in like a squall and kills Ellie’s father figure, one we’ve grown to love despite his violent past. “If we were living in this world, we might be doing things that we never thought we would do in this world today,” Krantz continued.
“So, while I don’t think the backlash is warranted, I think if people have the feeling of hatred towards Abby, as long as there’s a curiosity and we’re talking about it, I think that’s the most important thing… discussion and community is key.”
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Abby’s physical build is “perfect”
In simple terms, Abby is jacked. Like Ellie, she’s a frightening killer when she needs to be, but her figure is striking, especially when she’s found gaunt and battered in Santa Barbara. But it’s not unrealistic, nor is it distracting or off-putting – the world accepted Sarah Connor in Terminator 2, so why would anyone be bothered by Abby’s build? For Krantz, it’s “one of my favorite things about her.”
“It’s such a perfect physical manifestation of the emotional journey that she’s going on. We see the flashback… she’s a young woman and then going through the trauma that she does and being faced with total vulnerability, loss of control, she’s just broken wide open,” she explained.
“The body doesn’t wanna feel emotions like that. She wants the exact opposite of that… I do believe that she equates vulnerability with weakness. She says, ‘I’m gonna keep myself busy. I’m gonna train, no one’s gonna mess with me.’ You know, it’s her wanting to regain control that I think physically mirrors the emotional world.”
Is Mary Krantz ready for the haters?
Dread it, run from it, the Season 2 backlash will arrive. This isn’t a case of muting and blocking people on social media: Laura Bailey, the original actor behind Abby in the game, was bombarded with death threats from enraged players. The question is, does Krantz feel equipped to deal with that level of hatred, should it arise again?
“You know, 5-10 years ago, I may have had a different answer. I feel like I have come to a point where I feel I’ve come to terms with my self-worth as a human, which I haven’t in the past. I really feel like I have come into my own over the past couple years and I’m confident in myself and have developed a self-love that I think will carry me very far to the future,” she said.
“The online backlash doesn’t worry me too much. It does get hard because our lives these days are so intertwined with the internet, but I know that I have some control over what online spaces I exist in, and which ones I do not. The times when that backlash shows up in the physical world, like the threats that Laura Bailey received, do make me nervous. I still have hope for a more positive experience for whoever ends up playing Abby this time around.
“Just within the online groups for The Last of Us, there’s some positive spaces and there’s negative ones. I don’t take part in those negative discussions. I don’t even look at the comments. I follow the light, you know?”
The Bella Ramsey backlash “hurt”
HBO’s show has already had its share of ridiculous controversy. The two episodes with the lowest ratings also happen to be the ones that focus on gay characters, and Ramsey’s casting was met with hideous comments about the young star’s appearance compared to the game’s Ellie.
“Seeing the backlash when Bella Ramsey was cast really hurt as an actor. That’s our job… to transform into these characters, and also having the trust of Neil and Craig finding that person that embodies Ellie as the role,” Krantz said. Both Druckmann and Mazin have had nothing but glowing things to say about Ramsey, and she received the whole-hearted backing of Ashley Johnson.
“They said she had that Ellie energy and we felt it. And getting to see the positive dialogue after she was cast and throughout the show was very positive because people responded in that same way. People who played the game agreed.”
Just like everyone else – or those with good taste, anyway – Krantz loved the show. “I was really hooked by Episode 3. They crafted the narrative really nicely with the relationship between Ellie and Joel,” she said.
“I was surprised on how much they really built into all the emotional territory… the fighting aspect of the game was in it way less than I expected. It was much more narratively driven and emotionally driven, and as an actor, you know, that’s the meat – that’s what I love.”
Another The Last of Us Short film may be on the way
That’s not to say Krantz isn’t fussed about the action. Whoever plays Abby isn’t just gonna have to be a dab hand with a driver – if the show follows the game’s narrative trajectory, we’ll see her dispatching quite a few people, whether they’re Scars, horrifying infected like the Rat King, and other smugglers.
She doesn’t have much experience in stunt training, outside of some theater training and movement classes, but “I do strength training, so I have body awareness that definitely gives me a leg up in that regard, but I don’t have any formal stunt training, so I would definitely be relying on the experts that they would have in regards to that.”
Krantz is also gearing up to shoot a POV short action film, “more military style, and I’ll get a chance to work with the movement director.” Here’s the exciting bit: it’s in pre-production, and they’re hoping to have it set in the world of The Last of Us, as “an imaginative scene of Abby… it’ll definitely be geared towards anyone who likes The Last of Us and appreciates that sort of style of action.”
What Mary Krantz wants from HBO’s Abby
The hard truth of the matter is this: the chances of Krantz actually bagging the role are slim – not because of her talent, but it’s fiercely competitive and it’s not likely to be an open casting call. Other names have been in the mix too: The Wilds’ Shannon Berry is a popular choice, and Florence Pugh has been mentioned in some fan casts.
So, if Krantz doesn’t get the chance to play Abby in the show, what matters to her about the way the character is adapted? “I think what’s important to me is that whoever plays Abbey recognizes that there is a core vulnerability there that we do get to see in the game. I think it would be really fun for us to see the transition from the very beginning to the very end,” she said.
“I’ve heard Craig say that flashbacks are hard. I thought maybe they would try another approach with telling Abby’s story from the beginning. We’ll see. But understanding this vulnerable young woman who does go through this traumatic moment and getting to see a transformation into the more hardened exterior and commanding presence while still being able to portray a depth of emotion going on [is important].
“I have no doubt that whoever they cast will be able to do that. The danger would be that you go one-note… you go to that hardened presence without recognizing the layers of the emotions that’s going on underneath.”
Krantz was keen to clarify: she’s not spoken to anyone from HBO or had any “direct communication from the series so far… as the show has gained in popularity before and after premiering, it became more clear that there likely wouldn’t be an open call for Abby, rather that the casting team would put together a short list for the showrunners and go from there.
“Knowing the nature of the casting, I knew that I was going to have to put myself out there and advocate for the role on my own. I really respect the work of [casting director] Victoria Thomas and HBO in terms of their process, and I care deeply about Abby’s narrative and do want the chance to audition. I have the absolute trust that Neil and Craig and HBO will cast the perfect Abby for their adaptation of The Last Of Us.”
The Last of Us Season 1 is available to stream on HBO Max. You can find out more about Season 2 here.