The Last of Us co-creator Craig Mazin explains how Pedro Pascal’s beard caused casting backlash. Previously known as the Emmy-winning creator of HBO’s Chernobyl, Mazin created the television adaptation, The Last of Us, alongside Neil Druckmann – also the creator behind the acclaimed Naughty Dog video game. For the lead role of Joel, they cast Pedro Pascal, who is best known for playing Din Djarin on The Mandalorian. Like the case with most video game adaptations, Pascal’s casting was met with some significant backlash from diehard fans who felt he wasn’t right for the role, especially because of his physical appearance.
During a recent profile by The Hollywood Reporter, Mazin explained that part of the casting backlash was based on the concern that Pascal can’t grow a full beard like Joel has in the games. The admission prompted laughs from the interviewer, and The Last of Us showrunner explained how fans won’t accept anything less than complete faithfulness from video game adaptations, which he and Druckmann hope to deliver.
Why Pedro Pascal Is The Perfect Joel
Despite the backlash to Pascal’s casting (including the concern over his ability to grow a full beard), the actor’s resume proves he’s a perfect choice for Joel. In The Last of Us, Joel is a hardened survivor tasked with smuggling the teenaged Ellie (played by Bella Ramsey) out of a quarantine zone and escorting her across a post-apocalyptic United States swarming with the infected. The story sees Joel acting as a father figure for Ellie, which Pascal’s past roles prove he’s adept at.
The Mandalorian also sees Pascal playing the role of a father figure. His titular lone bounty hunter, Din Djarin, goes on the run to protect Grogu, with this heartfelt father-son dynamic representing the show’s heart. Outside of The Mandalorian, a few of Pascal’s other roles – such as Oberyn Martell on Game of Thrones and Javier Peña in Narcos – prove he excels at playing complex characters conflicted between duty and personal feelings.
The backlash over Pascal’s inability to grow facial hair appears to be a bit overblown. Based on The Last of Us trailers and images that have been released, Pascal doesn’t have the full beard that Joel does in the games, granted, but he still sports some respectable stubble that is rugged and unkept enough to believe the character is living through the apocalypse. Thus, Pascal’s casting as Joel makes more sense than ever, and it is only a matter of time before the initial backlash becomes a thing of the past.
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