Diversity in television — specifically, how it offers representation for marginalized groups of people — is an oft-discussed topic. But there’s another benefit to diversity that’s less to do with any social responsibility and more to do with storytelling; namely, that watching a bunch of characters who are all basically the same can become very boring.
“I became nervous that there was a mode of communication between Joel and Ellie that I didn’t want to feel like I was repeating between Henry and Sam,” Craig Mazin explains on the official podcast for “The Last of Us.” While this wasn’t really an issue in Bill and Frank’s expanded storyline, because the relationship between that pair of characters was so different, the guardian/child dynamic between Henry and Sam risked becoming a simple repeat of Joel and Ellie:
“In the game, you don’t spend time with Henry and Sam on their own, ever. But if they are on their own, and we knew we wanted to do that, well, what do those discussions sound like? And it could very easily fall into the trap of ‘exasperated father figure’ and ‘curious, concerned, scared child figure.’ And so, I was looking for a way to change that mode of communication.”
He was also inspired by the Sundance Now dramedy series “This Close,” created by and starring Shoshannah Stern and Joshua Feldman as two deaf best friends. Mazin was intrigued by how the show explored “how they navigate the world as deaf people when they’re dealing with other people who aren’t deaf,” which is something that he brought to “The Last of Us” through Sam and Henry’s interactions with Joel and Ellie.