Strap on your survival gear, because The Last of Us will be back before we know it. Production on the hit HBO series’ second season gets underway in February with a handful of new characters set to join the zombie apocalypse with new tales to be told, and an anticipated make-good on one particularly heartbreaking storyline that fans of the video game are already dreading.
Season 2 will begin filming in February in Vancouver, British Columbia, following some delays due to the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes last year. With cameras soon to start rolling, a series of new casting announcements have been released for key players in the upcoming episodes.
The renewal of the video game adaptation series was previously announced on Jan. 27, 2023, two weeks after its series premiere became the streamer’s second-highest debut ever, behind Game of Thrones. In July, the show’s first season received 24 Emmy nominations, including Best Drama Series. Fans are now eagerly awaiting what comes next.
“It still feels surreal to me that it’s going to go again,” Bella Ramsey told ET of the renewal news, adding, “I don’t want to go into it comparing it to the experience of the first season.”
The beloved star and GoT alum added that The Last of Us season 1 was “the best year of my life,” saying she’s been most appreciative of the fans who have supported her character’s LGBTQ identity (Ramsey herself identifies as non-binary, and uses any pronouns).
“I have, it’s like a gay army,” Ramsey said. “That feels nice to just have that army behind me.”
Ramsey also added that she’s enjoyed hearing from fans of the The Last of Us video game. “I love gamers’ reactions to the show,” she said. “That’s the thing that feels the most validating, is when gamers who are so invested in the game say, ‘This is so good and it lives up to all my expectations.’ That is the reaction that feels really, really cool.”
Here’s everything we know about The Last of Us season 2.
Which The Last of Us stars are returning for season 2?
Both Ramsey and Pedro Pascal will return as Ellie and Joel, respectively.
A small group of fans during The Last of Us season 1 predicted that show creators Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann would recast Ramsey’s character, Ellie, between the first and second seasons. In the game’s first and second installments, the character ages up five years. Their worries, however, were largely unfounded as HBO never indicated any plan to replace Ramsey.
And while season 1 Ellie is only 14 years old, Ramsey is 20 in real life. As such, fans now seem confident that Ramsey will be able to portray the age jump rather seamlessly (and continue leading the show with her stellar performance).
Among the countless characters to meet their demise in the show’s first season, perhaps none were as beloved as Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett’s Bill and Frank. While no plans have been announced for the potential continuation of flashback stories, Offerman recently joked about a musical spinoff for his and Bartlett’s characters when asked if he had plans to return to the series.
“It certainly has been pitched. I think we pitched a whole mini-series of a prequel of their lives before they met each other. It could be a musical. We’re not short on ideas,” Offerman told reporters after accepting his Creative Arts Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series. “We’ll just we’ll see what Craig [Mazin] and Neil [Druckmann] come up with.”
Who are the new cast members?
A trio of stars have been announced to join the series in season 2, including Beef‘s Young Mazino as Jesse. As reported by Variety, the character is said to be “a pillar of his community who puts everyone else’s needs before his own, sometimes at terrible cost.”
Isabela Merced joins as Dina, who is an ex-girlfriend of Jesse and a love interest for Ellie. “Dina is warm, brilliant, wild, funny, moral, dangerous and instantly lovable,” Mazin and Druckmann said of the character, per Deadline.
Booksmart alum Kaitlyn Dever landed the role of Abby — one of the most pivotal new characters of the upcoming season. According to a character description published by the Hollywood Reporter, “Abby is a skilled soldier whose black-and-white view of the world is challenged as she seeks vengeance for those she loved.”
Does The Last of Us season 2 have a release date?
HBO has not yet announced a release date for The Last of Us season 2, but the network’s Drama Chief, Francesca Orsi, told Deadline in May 2023 that she and her team had set a goal for “some time in 2025.”
Production is confirmed to begin in February 2024, following the resolution of the SAG-AFTRA strike.
How did the WGA and SAG strike affect The Last of Us season 2?
Show co-creator Mazin previously told Deadline his team “got pretty far actually” before the Writers Guild of America (WGA) announced its strike in early May 2023. “We were doing great,” he said, adding that season 2’s first episode script was finished prior to the strike.
“We know what the whole season is, and I was actually able to get to write and submit the first episode right before the deadline hit,” he continued. “So now I’m just walking around kind of brain-writing, I guess, which I don’t think is scabbing. I take walks and I think through the scenes because when the bell rings and this is over because the companies have finally come to their senses, I’m going to have to basically shoot myself out of a cannon because we really want to try and get this show on the air when it’s supposed to be on the air.”
In May, Orsi told Deadline it’s “too early to tell” exactly how the WGA strike would affect HBO’s rollout, but acknowledged her original schedule may have to shift. Her prediction also came before SAG-AFTRA members joined the picket lines in July, further delaying productions.
“At this point, those shows that I’m looking to air wouldn’t necessarily be ready if this strike lasts six to nine months,” she said. “So yes, that’s a big question for us, but I think we’ll cross that road once we come to it.”
Still, Mazin said there was hope for a 2025 release.
“We had a little more flexibility I think than normally just because we had to wait a little bit longer anyway to line up production with the weather. A lot of what we do is outside, and so we had a schedule that weirdly hasn’t been immediately impacted. But we’re getting pretty close; wе can’t keep our original start dates forever obviously,” he said. “If these strikes go much longer we inevitably will have to push and that hurts us, and it hurts the audience, and it hurts HBO. We all, everybody wants to get back to work; I think everybody that’s actually doing the work, including the network people who are with us on the ground, I think everybody just wants to get this solved. So fingers crossed.”
What will The Last of Us season 2 be about?
The Hollywood Reporter asserted in January that the end of season 1 would align with the entirety of the first The Last of Us video game. Season 2 is expected to cover the game’s sequel, The Last of Us Part II, but cannot be described without spoilers.
“Who knows what’s going to happen in season 2?” Ramsey told ET. “I actually don’t know… I still don’t know what they’re hatching up.”
In January, Mazin told Collider that the game’s second installment would probably “take us more than a season to tell,” leaving the door open for more renewals, but both creators have made it clear they will never go beyond the narrative established by the game.
“Our ambition is to tell the story that exists, as best as we can, in a different medium,” Mazin said, with Druckmann adding, “This will be as many seasons as required to reach that ending, and no more.”
In a cover story interview for Esquire last year, Pascal addressed something of an open secret that surrounds the show. Based on the two-part video game of the same name, Pascal’s character, Joel, could be facing a fate that leaves viewers with — according to Esquire writer Dave Holmes — “a show with a lot less Joel in it.”
Pascal has not played the game or watched the scene in question, but he is keenly aware of it. Asked whether he thought a future season of The Last of Us will follow the same storyline, Pascal said in a video interview that, “It will stay true to the game, like entirely. I think.”