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Nico Parker and his mother Thandiwe Newton at the Hollywood premiere A memory in 2021 (Photo by Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images)

Warning: this post contains spoilers for the series premiere The Last of Us.

When Nico Parker joined the cast The Last of Us — HBO’s adaptation of the blockbuster 2013 PlayStation video game — he knew he’d be living on borrowed time. 18-year-old daughter of Westworld Star Thandiwe Newton and director Al Parker star as Sarah, the only child of the show’s central character, Joel (played by Pedro Pascal), who lives in a post-apocalyptic United States ravaged by a deadly epidemic that has created a new population of vicious zombies.

The oversized series premiere accurately depicts how that outbreak unfolds, and the lives it claims…including Sarah’s. A teenager is killed during a desperate flight from his home in the company of his father and uncle Tommy (Gabriel Luna). While driving away from the infected, Joel and Sarah cross paths with a soldier ordered by their superiors to open fire on the escapees. Tommy dispatches their would-be assassin before he can execute them, but it’s too late for Sarah; she has already been fatally shot and is dying in Joel’s arms.

While viewers who played the game were prepared for his death, newcomers may have been caught off guard because Parker is such a big presence in the first half hour of the premiere. And the actress tells Yahoo Entertainment that one of the hardest parts of the role was not letting go and telegraphing Sarah’s fate.

Watch our interview with Nico Parker below on YouTube

“I didn’t want to treat every moment like it was the most important moment, especially because it’s kind of like the beginning,” Parker explains. “You see a more orderly version of life, and I didn’t want you to feel. “Just wait until you see what happens.” I wanted it to feel like every day. And then when it got to the more emotional, stressful scenes, I wanted it to feel like everything you’re seeing, you’re seeing for the first time.”

Fortunately, Parker didn’t have to immediately shoot those “stressful” scenes that ended with his character’s death. The actress says that she spent the first half of her limited time on it The Last of Us to bond with his on-screen father. “I absolutely adore him,” she says of Pascal. “Very quickly, I said, ‘This is my best friend.’ Neither of us seemed to be faking anything. Obviously she might secretly hate me, but I had no idea.

Like Bella Ramsey, who is introduced midway through the premiere as crazy teenager Ellie, Parker hadn’t played the original video game before coming on board. The Last of Us collection. “I’m terrible at anything gaming,” he admits. “But I watched other players play it like it was a movie. I cried all the time at anything to do with Sarah. But the unspoken thing on set was… not watching the games. Because what’s the point? any other way to have a show?

Pedro Pascal and Nico Parker in The Last of Us.  (Photo courtesy of HBO)

Parker and Pedro Pascal as Sarah and Joel The Last of Us. (Photo courtesy of HBO)

One of Parker’s favorite memories from the first days of filming was a small scene where Joel and Sarah sit down for a casual breakfast. “It was so quiet,” she recalls. “We were finding a rhythm to the shoot that was very enjoyable.” Naturally, that pace picked up as the on-screen events spiraled out of control. It is a mutated strain during the premiere Cordyceps a blight is sweeping the world and society is rapidly collapsing. Sarah lives only long enough to see the beginning of that collapse, and her death is the first of many scars Joel accumulates as one of the (un)lucky survivors of the epidemic.

“The harder scenes were for the end of my shoot,” says Parker, referring to Sarah’s last night alive. “So Pedro and I already had a foundation there [to draw on]and all the feelings could be really real, it seems [my death] was actually happening.”

Before the show premieres, it’s a toxic element The Last of Us Fans criticized showrunners Craig Mazin and Neil Druckman, who created the Playstation title and its 2020 sequel, for casting Pascal and Parker as Joel and Sarah, characters who were portrayed as white in the video game. “You can’t make everyone happy,” the Chilean actor recently told Yahoo Entertainment about the hateful backlash. “The game is very, very innovative in its scope. So it’s really a way of honoring the original source material, the way Craig and Neil have done the casting and the way they’ve told this story.”

For his part, Parker says he “understands” why that minority of fans might be disgusted by an adaptation that doesn’t recreate the exact experience of playing the game. “There are people for whom the game is incredibly important to them,” he notes. “But when it comes from a place where it’s just disdain for any kind of inclusivity, I don’t care, I don’t value that opinion and I don’t agree.

Nico Parker as Sarah in The Last of Us.  (Photo courtesy of HBO)

Parker in the HBO scene The Last of Us. (Photo courtesy of HBO)

“Hopefully they can look past that and still enjoy the show,” Parker continues. “But I think inclusion is incredibly important. If young kids watch the show and feel represented by race or hair or whatever, that’s ten times more important than those who don’t because they don’t like to be seen different. people on their screen.”

It’s worth noting that while Sarah may be dead in Joel’s time, there’s no reason she couldn’t reappear in a flashback to happier times. And being friends with a star The Mandalorian could become George Lucas’ gateway to a galaxy far, far away, a place his mother previously visited on the big screen in 2018. Star Wars history, Solo. “I wasn’t invited into that universe,” Parker says with a laugh. “I am waiting for my invitation.” Someone give him a spotlight already!

The Last of Us airs Sundays on HBO and HBO Max.


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