Why is Ellie so obsessed with outer space? Why did Joel want to be a singer growing up? The truth is, these are facets of Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson’s own personalities that have been forever imbued into Joel and Ellie. Over the course of the production process for the game, Druckmann became close with Baker and Johnson and got to know them as their own special individuals.
“Ashley loves space, and astronauts, and knows everything about it,” he explained on the podcast. “And I’m like, ‘I want to make Ellie even more like Ashley.'” Meanwhile, Joel idly dreaming of being a singer is a reflection of Baker’s own career as a musician. Joel and Ellie were already characters that are so near and dear to Druckmann himself that he figured: why not blur the lines between character and actor, and make Joel and Ellie more like Baker and Johnson?
“Yeah. There’s just something — I get a little emotional about this ’cause, like, we’ve all put, like, so much of ourselves in this,” Druckmann said to Baker, who also hosts the official “The Last of Us” HBO podcast. “And the combination of all that makes for something greater.”
A key resource that informed the direction of “The Last of Us” adaptation is the foresight that Mazin and Druckmann have now that “The Last of Us Part II” exists, allowing them to emphasize and go deeper on some themes in the original story in retrospect – paving the way for season 2 and beyond. Ellie’s fascination with space is taken from a heartwarming scene between Joel and Ellie in the second game, so bringing it into the first season of the show helps flesh them out as characters (as well as providing a fun reference for fans of the games).