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Warning: This article contains major spoilers for the final episode of The Last Of Us.
American actress Ashley Johnson delivered a sweet moment from The Last Of Us full circle fans at the end of the season.
Ashley, best known for playing Chrissie on the 1990s sitcom Growing Pains, played the mother of Bella Ramsey’s character in the Cousin finale to the hit drama.
It turns out that she also voiced a very important character On the video game the show is adapted from, series co-creator Craig Mazin explained in the Inside The Episode video on HBO Max.
“Here we are at the end,” Craig said of Ashley’s opening scene in the season finale. “And we go all the way to the beginning of Ellie. Which is her mother, Anna, who is played by Ashley Johnson, which is the real beginning of Ellie because Ashley played Ellie in the game.”
Yes, that’s right — Ashley voiced Ellie in the 2013 Last Of Us video game, and got the chance to play the character’s mom in the HBO adaptation.
“There was a special level of it to me, playing the mother of this character that I care so deeply about,” Ashley told HBO Max in the same video.
“There’s this genetic connection between the two Ellis that we know about,” Craig added. “And this moment binds them together.”
The opening scene of the epilogue is a flashback sequence, where we see Ashley’s character pregnant and running through the woods, trying to evade the inbred zombies chasing her.
At this early point in the scene, the audience has no idea who Ashley is playing or what this flashback is about.
The character eventually seeks refuge in an old farmhouse, and as she runs up the stairs to find a place to hide, realizes she is going into labour.
She finds an old nursery, barricades the door, and picks up a knife, preparing to attack. When the infected smashes down the door, she fights for her life and eventually stabs the zombie in the neck, killing her.
Soon after, Ashley’s character gives birth. But she notices that she was bitten, which means she caught a cordyceps infection in the show and will soon be turned into a zombie. Realizing this, she quickly cuts her umbilical cord with the same knife she used to kill the zombies, in an effort to prevent the infection from spreading to her baby.
The character then picks up her newborn, and as she holds the crying infant, she seems instantly aware of her daughter’s personality. She says, “You tell them, Ellie.”
At this point, viewers realize that they are watching the story of Ellie’s birth, and that the scene may vaguely explain Ellie’s unique immunity to a Cordyceps infection.
This origin story is not included in the game, and it brings brand new information to fans of the game and the show alike.
Neil Druckmann, the game’s creator and co-creator of the show, told The Hollywood Reporter That scene is a “hint” as to Ellie’s invulnerability, and offers “some theories as to why [is] Immune, although we don’t answer that definitively.”
Later in the episode, Ellie’s mother’s name is revealed to be Anna, when her friend Marilyn (Merle Dandridge, who voiced the same character in the game) finds Anna in the farm’s nursery. Anna holds baby Ellie in one hand, sings to her, and holds a knife to her neck with the other.
Anna lies to Marilyn and tells her that Ellie’s umbilical cord was cut before she was bitten. Marilyn then agrees to fulfill Anna’s dying wish: that Marilyn kill her, save Ellie, and give Ellie’s knife to Anna. Fans of the show and the game will know that Ellie is growing exponentially attached to this knife.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Ashley said she was “shocked” and “burst into tears” when she was offered the role of Anna in the HBO adaptation.
Ashley explained that voice and motion capture actors involved in video games “are not usually brought in to be a part” of a TV movie or film adaptation.
“The ability to still be a part of this story and this world and also be the first character to fight for that character to live means the world,” she said.
She also revealed that it was a “surreal” experience watching another person play a character she had once portrayed. However, she said she was “blown away” by Bella Ramsey’s performance, and that the young actor’s character embodied “the essence of Ellie”.
She told THR that she loved the way Bella handled a lot of her scenes.
“There was a moment when Joel [Pedro Pascal] Ellie finally gave the gun,” Ashley said.
“I had this look on her face where she started to smile because she was feeling so comfortable but she was also trying to keep it under wraps. Like, “I feel so comfortable about this.” I took a video of her and sent it to Bella and I was like, “Dude, this is funny.”
All nine episodes of The Last Of Us are now available to watch online.
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