'The Last of Us': Troy Baker Talks Pedro Pascal's Performance and His Episode 8 Cameo (Exclusive)

Baker opened up to ET about the "unique experience" he had watching Pedro Pascal take on the role he originated.

Troy Baker knew that stepping onto the set of the HBO adaptation of The Last of Us would be an interesting experience. But he didn't expect it to feel so uniquely "wonderful."

The actor played Joel in The Last of Us video game franchise, a role that required much more than mere voice acting. As Joel and Ellie, Baker and Ashley Johnson also provided motion capture for their characters, essentially acting out the games' entire storylines in front of a green screen, for the animators to use as a reference.

Now, as Pedro Pascal embodies the role of Joel in the series, Baker said it's been a "unique experience" to watch another take on the character.

"What I love is that he's not trying to ape anything that we've done before," Baker praised Pascal, calling the actor "incredibly kind and incredibly gracious."

"My goal, and I've said this countless times, is I just wanted someone to show me something different," he continued.
"What did I miss? What was underneath the floorboards or what rock did I not pick up?"

The actor also made a lovely analogy in explaining the distinct experience he's had watching Pascal act in The Last of Us series, recalling a tribute to Irish stage actor Colm Wilkinson, who originated the role of Jean Valjean in the Broadway and West End premieres of Les Misérables.

"They brought him back to do this beautiful tribute to the musical, and they lined up every person that played Jean Valjean, starting with him," he said of an anniversary celebration of the musical. "And you could see the echoes of his performance in every [actor]... they're standing on his shoulders."

"I can't think of any other actor that's had this experience, where it's like, you've had kind of authorship of something in a character. You've got to see it put out. And now it's being done by a completely different person," he added. "And it's just like, what a great way to pay tribute."

Noting that he and his game co-stars are "all over those characters" -- Baker recalled that Joel's past ambition of being a singer and Ellie's interest in space and astronauts came from real-life conversations he and Johnson had with game co-creator Neil Druckmann -- the actor also took a moment to pay tribute to the late Annie Wersching, who played Tess in the video game series and died in January after a lengthy battle with cancer.

"So much of who Tess is, the strength that Tess had, was absolutely imbued, by Annie," he shared. "That's a big loss. But I'm so grateful for what Anna Torv has done, because now there's a new opportunity for people to see an entirely different side of that character. I really hope that Annie got to see it, because what Anna did was just incredible."

Baker makes a cameo in The Last of Us episode 8, playing a very different character than the one he originated in the game series. The actor appears as a member of a group of skeptical -- and heavily armed -- settlers that Joel and Ellie come across on their travels. However, the actor pointed out, that doesn't mean his character is necessarily a "bad guy."

"I'm one of those people that subscribes to the theory that there are no villains," he explained. "There's just my hero from a different perspective. I am 100% the hero of that story and I'm living my movie of my own life, and all these other people... they are the antagonist to my protagonist."

"It's way more interesting to me to find the empathy in someone and try to understand their perspective," he added. "I think that you can't out-hate somebody. That's why empathy has to be the key."

So, video game spoilers aside, is there a future for Baker in The Last of Us franchise?

"People always ask, is there gonna be a Last of Us Part III? I have no idea. I didn't know there was gonna be a Part II," he admitted with a laugh. "But if Neil has a story that he wants to tell, and he wants me to be a part of it in any way, I am there, seven days a week and twice on Sunday."

The Last of Us airs Sundays at 9 p.m. PT/ET on HBO and HBO Max.