The Last of Us: Who does Troy Baker play in the HBO show?

Lucy-Jo Finnighan
Troy baker joel the last of us

Who does Troy Baker play in The Last of Us? The long-awaited HBO adaptation is now reaching its climax, but does Baker portray Joel in the TV show?

The Last of Us, one of the most acclaimed titles of the 2010s and a generation-defining game, is being given the prestige, big-budget television treatment on HBO. The original game follows Joel and Ellie on a life-or-death, cross-country trip across an America ravaged by a brutal virus.

Developed by the game’s creator and Naughty Dog co-president Neil Druckmann, alongside Chernobyl maestro Craig Mazin, it’s been one of the most anticipated TV events of 2023, bringing the “best video game story ever told” to the screen.

The original game features voice actors Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson as the main duo, which led fans to wonder if they would appear in the HBO show adaptation. And if so, who would they play?

Who does Troy Baker play in the Last of Us?

Troy Baker plays James in the Last of Us HBO show.

Yes, Baker does appear in the series, as does Ashley Johnson, though obviously they are not the roles that they initially played in the game. Full details of Baker’s role in the show were a little sketchy – some even believed he would be playing David – until a trailer for Episode 8 came out.

The trailer revealed that Baker would be portraying the character of James, who is a member of David’s cannibal group, and David’s right hand man. This puts James at odds with Ellie; we can see in the trailer that David wants to help Ellie, but James would rather leave her to die: “Maybe that’s God’s will.”

Ultimately, despite originally playing the hero of the game, Baker is now playing an antagonist, which is certainly interesting to watch.

Why isn’t Baker playing Joel in the HBO show?

While it’s sad that Baker can’t play his iconic role of Joel Miller in the series, casting for live-action shows can be a lot more complicated than casting for video games. While Baker is similar in age to Joel at 46-years-old – unlike Ashley Johnson who is too old to play her 14-year-old character – it ultimately seems like he didn’t have the “right look” for the part.

Baker himself knows this, as he stated in an interview after the first game came out that he wasn’t certain if he would be cast at all. To him, Joel was a “character that I was sure that I wasn’t gonna be right for; they were gonna see the aesthetics of me and it was just gonna be so different.”

For the HBO show, Baker has been replaced by Pedro Pascal, who has obviously made a name for himself as a gruff warrior protecting a young ward in The Mandalorian, making him a perfect fit for Joel.

But thankfully Baker hasn’t been blocked from the show completely, and he seems happy for Pascal, stating to him that “We’ve seen the show, and we just love you as Joel” as the pair, along with Johnson and Bella Ramsey, presented a gaming award recently.

Plus, Baker has plenty of other work on his plate. He is known for voicing characters in other major franchises, such as Uncharted, God of War, Batman and Superman, and he is once again working with Johnson on The Legend of Vox Machina, of which the second season has recently dropped.

He is also leading The Last of Us Podcast, which discusses each new episode of the HBO show as it comes out.

The Last of Us Episode 9 will premiere on HBO on March 12. You can find out more about the show here, and check out the rest of our coverage here.

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