The Last of Us DLC: Ashley Johnson on reprising Ellie in Left Behind

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The Last of Us DLC: Ashley Johnson on reprising Ellie in Left Behind

As announced in November last year, Naughty Dog is currently hard at work on Left Behind — a new single-player story expansion for its hugely acclaimed PS3 adventure The Last of Us. Acting as a prequel of sorts, the add-on will center around Ellie and her best friend Riley (played by newcomer Yaani King) as they attend a military boarding school in the Boston quarantine zone, prior to meeting Joel and the events in the main campaign of The Last of Us.

We’ll be revealing much more about what to expect from Left Behind later this week, but to whet your appetite I sat down with actress Ashley Johnson, who so brilliantly brings Ellie to life. Read on to find out more about where the new chapter takes the character.

The Last of Us DLC: Ashley Johnson on reprising Ellie in Left Behind

When did your involvement with Left Behind begin?

Ashley Johnson: Shortly after the release of The Last of Us, I went for lunch with Neil [Druckmann, Creative Director]. We sat down, and he said “Okay, I’m going to tell you the story for the DLC.” I was sitting there and just completely taken in by the story; so excited. I loved the idea that it was kind of a prequel, and you’d meet a younger Ellie and find out what makes her tick. From there we got started pretty quickly on the casting for Riley.

How different is the Ellie we meet in Left Behind to the Ellie we got to know in the original The Last of Us campaign?

Johnson: You kind of get to meet the real her. She’s in the quarantine zone prior to the events of The Last of Us — it’s her and her best friend Riley — what they do and how they live their lives in this world.

You’ll definitely see a more playful side to Ellie and get to know her a bit better. You’re going to see a lot of different sides to the character that you definitely didn’t see in The Last of Us. I’m excited for people to experience it!

How does the “feel” of the Left Behind campaign and the game universe differ to The Last of Us?

Johnson: It’s definitely different. It’s a little bit more “fun,” because you have two teenage girls going through a mall. It’s kind of like a post-pandemic version of two teenage girls hanging out. Definitely not a normal hangout! It’s very different — a little more playful.

There’s a bit of everything in there. You’re really getting a new sense of the environment. You’ll engage in combat that seems familiar from the original campaign, but there are some new touches and nuances, too.

In the original campaign, Ellie mentions being bitten by one of the Infected while with Riley. Is this something we’ll learn more about?

Johnson: There’s a lot you’ll find out about Ellie. You’ll just have to play it and find out!


How much of a challenge was it to hit reset and play a younger, more innocent Ellie who’s yet to experience the traumatic events of The Last of Us?

Johnson: It was a bit of a challenge to set aside everything we’d gone through, but when Yaani got on board she was just so fun and so silly that it sort of brought out my own kid-like tendencies, too. It was perfect. It’s so significant to the story because Riley is her best friend — this is a really important side of Ellie that people need to see.

What’s the relationship dynamic between Ellie and Riley? Presumably it’s very different to Ellie and Joel?

Johnson: It was interesting after working with Troy [Baker] and the Joel character for over two years, and then getting back on set and working with someone totally new. The relationship with Riley is vastly different to the one with Joel — firstly, they’re best friends and secondly, they’re both teenage girls.

There’s a playfulness and silliness that wasn’t necessarily there with Joel! It’s a different kind of relationship — I love it. Some of the stuff that we captured for Left Behind is my favourite stuff that we’ve done on the whole project.

How was it working with Yaani King?

Johnson: She was awesome. During casting, I got to be there to read with the different Rileys that Naughty Dog was looking at. When she came in, she was exactly who I always pictured, and who I had in my mind. She was tough, but really fun. She was perfect, and I’m glad everyone else liked her as much as I did, too.

Yaani is an incredible actress and she’s formed Riley perfectly. It was like she’d been there since the beginning, which I think in some ways is very hard. The whole crew at Naughty Dog are so awesome and anyone new coming in is made to feel totally welcome, but it’s still hard to come onto a set where people have been working together for so long. She did it with such ease.

Doing motion capture for the first time must be challenging for a young actress — did you feel you had to mentor her at all?

Johnson: There was a little bit of that, which was funny, because it was like I was in Troy’s shoes. But she’s such a pro. She just put on her suit and was like “Okay, let’s do this.” She had the attitude of Riley from the get go, which was great.

The Last of Us on PS3

Did you miss not having Troy around this time?

Johnson: I was so used to working with Troy and I think a lot of my confidence and comfort on set came from him because he’s such a pro. So when it was just going to be me and someone new I was a little nervous. But I think that helped in a way, as it felt like I was doing something new. There was a little insecurity there — “Troy’s not here and he’s the master of this!” — but I think that actually helped in some ways because I’m playing the younger version of Ellie who has her own insecurities as a teenage girl.

It’s been six months or so since The Last of Us launched. What impact has the game had on your life and career?

Johnson: To this point in my life, The Last of Us is 100% my favorite thing I’ve ever worked on. You’d think working on something for two years would not be a fun thing to do, but I’ve been so blown away by the response. When we were working on it, I think we all knew we were working on something special. I just feel so fortunate that I got to be a part of it — even more so because of the response to Ellie and to what a strong female character she is.

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  • I cant wait to play this game on the PS4. I missed it on the PS3 so ill be getting it on the PS4 with NOW.

  • So can not wait for this!!!!

  • great game, but I’ll wait for the game of the year edition on Playstation Now.

  • Ugh this is all I’ve been waiting for since I finished the game. I love the character of Ellie, kind of bummed there won’t be any Joel but that’s fine. I’ll take any new content for the story of this game. Also, Ashley Johnson does a great job bringing Ellie to life. Hope to see her do more voice acting in future games.

  • Ashley keeps talking about Troy being the master, but her performance was truly remarkable.

  • Great job Ashley! Can’t wait to play the DLC. Here’s to hoping there will eventually be a Joel DLC down the road.

  • Just started to get into this game. It took awhile for the game to set in. The best part is that the items just are not more bullets, but the crafting.

    What made it for me so far is the puns that Ellie talks about.

  • Any word on the promised multiplayer patch ? The wait is killing me.

  • What can we expect combat wise? Can I assuming it’ll be as exciting as her time with Joel?

  • assume* opps. Spell check

  • Really thought this was coming out this month. :(

  • More bow hunting action? :)

  • Yay for more The Last of US. My #1 game of 2013! (closely followed by Bioshock Infinite)

    Please feel free to make (and encourage your fellow game devs) more game with Troy Baker!

    Can’t wait to play this. Hope this team gets to make something great for the PS4 soon.

  • Ashley Johnson’s a great voice actor, as already evidenced with her work in Teen Titans and Ben 10. This is definitely her best role yet, and I’m thankful she was chosen for it. She brings so much life to the character that would otherwise be lost.

  • What’s the estimated play time for this DLC? I’m wondering how many hours I’ll get out of this.
    Can I still buy the season pass? I don’t see it in the store but I’m gonna start searching again.

    • The estimated play time varies from player to player but it’s a good chunk of time.

      The season pass is still available globally. Check the PS Store in your region.

  • Words can’t describe how excited I am.

  • Great interview..I love to read these,especially with TLoU cast….well I’m drolling to play Left Behind….and my season pass is just waiting for this baby.

  • So, when can we expect the PS4 version of the game?

  • Awe yeah buddy glad I bought that season pass Whoohah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Will there be all new music for this? I loved the main game’s soundtrack. Gustavo Santaolalla is so freaking good!

  • awesome

  • I agree with #6 I would love to see a Joel DLC and would love to know how Joel and Tommy got out of the first outbreak. How Tommy became and Firefly and got out. How Joel started doing work for Tess. Those 20 years need to be revealed, make it happen Naughty Dog.

    PS. Please no Dark Hose Comic…Please

  • Honestly, I was disappointed to find out this was a “prequel.” I would have loved a DLC that followed a new character in this world — or some kind of DLC continuation of the the main story. (Whether it followed Joel and Ellie or one of the other characters they came acrossed on their journey.)

    Regardless, you already have my money (from the Season Pass), so I will be playing it either way.
    Looking forward to checking out “Left Behind” when it releases.

  • I thought ND had announced this was coming this month. How much longer now?

  • Looking forward to playing more TLOU! Are there still MP trophies coming? :)

  • Ellie is my favorite female video game character of all time. I can’t wait to play this! Ashley Johnson was born to play Ellie…

  • Can’t wait !, I have i feeling it will release in middle of february

  • on the PlayStation store it was showing that Left Behind was coming out in late march and I have heard that Naughty Dog has no interest in bringing The Last Of Us to PS4, I mean I played TLOU a few days ago because I love it and all I could think of was “Damn how would this look on my PS4” I mean look at the comparison of Tomb Raider on PS3 and PS4 the differences are outstanding! and that could so be TLOU. and I want Naughty Dog and everyone to know if Naughty Dog thinks that “oh no one will by the same game again we shouldn’t bringing it to PS4” I want them to know I will so buy it again like I am buying Tomb Raider again its not about the money, its about good story telling but I think they all ready know that :)

  • Can’t wait for the DLC! Don’t care if the protagonist is either Joel or Ellie. Both are great characters!

    Also, how long do I have left to get the Season Pass? I need to make sure I have the money by then.

  • I’m playing the waiting game now.

  • definitely hype as hell for this!!

  • I can’t wait to play the new stuff. I preordered a while back, got that cool Ellie dynamic theme. So cool!

    Great job Ashley!

  • Man I can’t wait for the new DLC to come out. Best Game Ever.

  • Great interview! I just finished The Last of Us yesterday and LOVED it!!! had to have more so I preordered Left Behind…can’t wait for it to come out! How come Naughty Dog is so awesome? Everything they do is a huge hit. So incredibly proud that they’re PlayStation exclusive :-) can’t wait to see what they can do with the PS4.

  • The Last of Us is one of the best games experiences I had and to know that soon I’ll be able to play it again with the new DLC, is awesome. I would like to ask for more DLC, but I’m truly satisfied. Thanks.

  • come on ND, make 1 more SP DLC :))))))


  • Ashley Johnson and the rest of the voice cast did an amazing job in this game. I hope to see a sequel or more single player DLC that happens after the main storyline

  • Where are the trophies Eric? You replied to me with assurances of trophies, now I only hear “later” and “maybe never.” Signed up for the season pass because you assured me, specifically, directly on this issue. Feeling really positive toward the game, but negative toward ND over this. Please respond.

  • @ GamerzLimited: To my knowledge, the only Season Pass that was made unavailable at any point was Uncharted 3’s. And that was once all the DLC content included in the Pass had released. So, it should be available at least until they get the last Multiplayer DLC release out. Basically if you want to play the Left Behind DLC right around when it comes out, but you want to get it as part of the Season Pass, you should be fine.

    @ topic: Picked up TLoU on sale for Black Friday, but still haven’t gotten around to it yet. Once I do, I’m sure I’ll want to purchase and play this DLC once I finish the game. It sounds like it will be really good. Looking forward to what ND’s various teams can bring to us on PS4.

  • Tess better be back on this one!

  • Perfection…

  • I agree with #37 hope there is more also. Loved the game and without giving anything away, the way it ended there could be a lot added to this story!! So please make it happen, it would make a lot of us very Happy :)

  • Such a great game.

  • Like a lot of people I can see there is huge potential to this Franchise and I know the DLC will be amazing and a 100% day one purchase for me. I only hope that they dont let this be the end of The Last Of Us. I would love nothing more than to see a PS4 game in the future. Maybe after the end of TLoU.

    What would be awesome is from a different country specific storyline. Same timeline from the out break and everything but a new country and what other people went through. It would be hard to top Joel and Ellies Story but i know Naughty Dog can blow our minds again.

    I have played hundreds of games on every platorm over the last 20 years and not a single one has ever grabbed me and made me fall more inlove with characters and their story as this did.

    More DLC is more than welcome :D

  • PS3 still connected for this DLC. Waiting patiently for this.

  • Oh I also forgot to mention, this game is so emotional that you can’t help but cry during some of the game. You get so involved that you almost forget it is a game you are playing. If you haven’t played this game yet, you won’t be sorry it is one hell of a game. I love a good story and this one doesn’t disappoint ;) So we need more story Please Make It Happen!!!!

  • I have a question about the dlc. It stated on the ps store that by pre ordering it(left behind dlc) it will include a theme. Will this also apply towards the season pass holders? Just asking that’s all.

  • I love this game! Naughty Dog has done such an amazing job with the story and there’s so much more to tell with the characters and the universe they’ve created here. I’m hopefully they’ll continue to release more story DLC that expands on characters like Joel and how they got to be where they are by the time the main game begins. Like how Joel explains to Ellie how he used to be a “bad guy” or when he and his brother talk about the years they spent surviving together.

  • I saw the trailer of the game behaves like the movie I Am Legend but I think we should buy the game compared to film.

  • come on give us more then 1 minute trailer!!!!

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