The Last of Us: Ashley Johnson on bringing Ellie to life

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As you’ll find out in just two weeks’ time, Naughty Dog’s keenly-anticipated new survival adventure The Last of Us does a phenomenal job of making you really care about its two protagonists, Joel and Ellie.

Partly through Neil Druckmann’s nuanced writing, partly through the tactile, reactive gameplay, and partly through the pitch-perfect performances of the voice cast, The Last of Us packs an almighty emotional wallop to go with its blockbuster action set-pieces. It’s bar-setting stuff from the Uncharted studio, and these are characters that will resonate with you long after the game’s epic conclusion.

To find out a little more about how Naughty Dog pulled it off, we sat down for a quick chat with Ashley Johnson, the young actress bringing world-weary teen, Ellie, to life.

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How did you first get involved with the project?
Ashley Johnson: My voice-over agent sent me the audition and asked if I’d be interested in doing a video game. She warned me that it was motion capture and that whole thing. I said yes, so I went out for the audition and met with Neil, Bruce and Evan. I did a few auditions and got the part. After that I put on the mo-cap suit and we did auditions for Joel, until we finally settled on Troy (Baker).

How did you get on with mo-cap? Was it your first time?
Ashley Johnson: Yes, it was my first. It’s been really fun. It was definitely difficult at first to get over the fact that you’re wearing this really strange suit but once you get into the scene and get into the character… Neil would show us all the environments and we’d get to see pictures of the world we were in – that made it pretty easy.


Does the suit make it more difficult to really inhabit the character?
Ashley Johnson: It definitely was very different for me because I’m not used to it. Sometimes when you’re playing a character, how you’re dressed or what shoes you have on, that changes the way you walk and how you act. So when you have that funny suit on – just a skin-tight jumpsuit – and your hands are covered, and you have a sock on your head, it can be a little challenging at first! But a couple of hours in you get used to it. I actually think it helps in a lot of ways. You have to expand your imagination a little bit more, which I think is really good.

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Have you played the final game yet?
Ashley Johnson: I’ve played parts of it. I haven’t been given a finished copy yet. But I’ve played parts when I’ve visited Naughty Dog. I’ve been tempted to play more… but I want to wait. I want to experience it as a whole. I don’t like spoilers and I don’t like watching trailers – I like to play something from start to finish.

Has what you’ve seen of Ellie in the game surprised you at all?
Ashley Johnson: It’s very weird. I think if you were voicing a character and then you see that person walking around with your body movements you’d think it was weird too. Weird and exciting. Mostly I’m just so excited that it’s done and I can’t wait for people to play it, knowing where the story goes. It’s going to be good!

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4 Author Replies

  • Well after playing a demo a couple of weeks ago and reading a leaked review, this game is going to be amazing. I really think Naughty Dog may have out done themselves and topped Uncharted 2. Which makes me wonder what are the second development team over there are cooking up?

  • And the multiplayer info?

  • When there will be pre-order The last of us on PSS?

  • The Demo is unlocking in a few hours time :P I can’t wait! ;) (on the GoW:A disc that is)

  • “I’ve been tempted to play more… but I want to wait. I want to experience it as a whole. I don’t like spoilers and I don’t like watching trailers – I like to play something from start to finish.”

    Really? Too bad she’s the actress of one of the main characters. Spoilers couldn’t possibly be worse than this…

  • Is there any kind of co-op in this game at all?

  • Fred, can we have a proper estimation of when the MP will be announced? I know you’re not to blame, but ND is selling the Season Pass without even announcing the MP?!

    Eric said the word “VERY soon” on 28th of May. Now it’s 31st and you guys are still saying soon? Is it next week? Please say something.

    • Alas, I can’t give you an exact date right now. Hopefully next week, but it’s not 100% confirmed at present.

  • Thanks for the info fred that we soon get Multiplayer Info :)

    Within like 2 weeks eh ? xD

    I am sure this is a great game but I am not convinced yet I want something like dayZ/warZ but will check out the demo , I think everyone gets it in a week already (today GOW buyers only).


    Hello, Fred, have you preordered the game? If not, will you be picking it up at launch? I preordered the “Joel Edition” earlier this week because it looks fantastic.

    In order to have the greatest affect upon me I’ve been avoiding media coverage of the game, therefore, I’ll be missing the multiplayer reveal that is soon due.

    • Well, a perk of the job is not having to pre-order these things ;) Good call on the media blackout – it’s a phenomenal game and I don’t blame you for wanting to go in cold.

  • @Fred

    What’s going on with digital preorders of The Last of Us ??!?

    Where is it ?


    • Sorry to keep you waiting. We are working on this now and should have an update for you early next week.

  • “Well, a perk of the job is not having to pre-order these things”
    O_O Are you telling us you get the games free? Any jobs going? lol. Get me a little desk beside yours and we can chat about the new games all day :D

  • umm this may be a little bit of thopic but why are there no demos? i want to try this out for myself! I CANNOT WAIT 2 WEEKS!, please? may i have demo?

  • To be honest, seeing these behind the scenes mocap pictures REALLY breaks the illusion of the game, you’ve kind of ruined it for me already.

  • Hi, I tried to deposit $20 in my PSN account but it was rejected. However, in my credit card I lost the $20 and this money haven´t been returned. Can u give me a solution? I have the bill than proof.

  • SandrokottosRule

    probably, game of the year !!!. last of us meets uncharted !

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