“I remember when Neil texted me and … I just instantly burst into tears,” Johnson explained in the same podcast episode, “‘Cause I was like, ‘Wait, are you serious? No way.’ Because when they adapt a video game into a film or TV, generally the voice actors don’t — it doesn’t go past that.”
She’s not wrong: generally speaking, voice actors rarely seem to get the same level of respect and attention conventional actors get. That’s part of why it’s become so common for animated kids’ films to be filled almost entirely with celebrity stunt casting rather than with professionals trained specifically for voice acting, and it’s why it’s so surprising to see the game’s voice actors constantly make appearances throughout “The Last of Us.” Troy Baker, who voiced Joel in the game, makes a memorable show appearance as David’s right-hand man in “When We Are Need.” Jeffrey Pierce, who played Tommy in the game, gets to play the show-only character Perry, who meets his grisly end at the hands of a bloater. Merle Dandridge, meanwhile, gets to play Marlene both in the game and the show.
“The Last of Us” has largely avoided the failures of other videogame adaptations. Whereas movies like “Uncharted” and shows like “Halo” all flopped, this show has managed to win praise from both fans of the game and audiences completely unfamiliar with it. Perhaps the key to success here is the sheer extent to which this show respects its source material, and that respect extends to the voice actors. HBO’s “The Last of Us” is happy to include the actors who helped the game work so well, and that’s one of the best decisions the show’s made so far.