‘The Last of Us’ Showrunner Craig Mazin on Casting Nick Offerman as Survivalist Bill
HBO’s The Last of Us, starring Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey, is chock full of spectacular performances, including from Parks and Recreation‘s Nick Offerman as survivalist Bill. Although The Last of Us is a video game adaptation, and many remember his introduction in the game to be loud and bombastic, the series takes a more intimate approach.
We’re introduced to Offerman’s Bill, living alone at home in his secluded neighborhood, all of which is secured enough to keep the infected away. Although it gets lonely, Bill can live a relatively normal life thanks to his survival tactics, that is, until a man named Frank (Murray Bartlett) finds his home.
The series goes in-depth with Bill and his relationship with Frank, focusing almost an entire episode on them. They also change a few things, with the showrunner foregoing his encounter with Joel and Ellie entirely for something different.
In an exclusive interview with TV Insider, showrunners Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann told us the decision behind casting a comedic actor such as Offerman despite the character’s vulnerability and the reasoning for changing his story.
“Well, I remember Vince Gilligan, who is, you know, even though I’ve never taken a class with Professor Gilligan, I’m happy enough to know him, and I’ve studied his work,” Mazin professed. “And one of the things that Vince Gilligan has always said is when in doubt, hire funny people–cast funny people. If you look at Breaking Bad, he’s the guy who’s saying, ‘Hey, you know what, the dad for Malcolm in the Middle, right?’ Like everyone else thinks Bryan Cranston is a funny guy. He’s like, ‘Well, what if he was Shakespearean and tragic?’
“And looking across, you know, how he casts his shows and Bob Odenkirk, funny people have soul. Funny people have a connection that I think is even stronger to what it means to be human. And being funny is harder. Honestly, it’s harder than being dramatic. If you can be really, really funny, you have the capacity to be really, really dramatic. And comic actors have shown this to us over and over and over, whether it was Robin Williams or Tom Hanks, Eddie Murphy, [or] Will Smith. We see it happen over and over.
“I wasn’t at all surprised to know that Nick could do something like this. What I was surprised about was how good he was. I mean, I had high expectations, and he just went right over the top. It was an incredible thing to watch his chemistry with Murray Bartlett was incredible. You know, we cast Murray Bartlett, and then a few months later, Murray Bartlett wins an Emmy (for HBO’s The White Lotus.) And we’re like, ‘this is really great.’ And so we’ve got these, like absolute A-List guys bringing it at such a high level.
“That storyline was really just a product of us saying, ‘hey, we have an opportunity to actually do something different that doesn’t break our experience of the game if we are a fan but adds to it. And if we’re not, and we don’t know about the game, [it] will just feel right. And it was that was such a joy to work on. And those guys are amazing.”
The Last of Us, Sundays, 9/8c, HBO