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Posted 4:46pm

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

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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 centre 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.

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?
Ashley 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?
Ashley 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?
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 re-set and play a younger, more innocent Ellie who’s yet to experience the traumatic events of The Last of Us?
Ashley 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?
Ashley 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?
Ashley 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?
Ashley 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.

Did you miss not having Troy around this time?
Ashley 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?
To this point in my life, The Last of Us is 100% my favourite 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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Comments

34 Comments 4 Author replies
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Gamesgbkiller 13 January, 2014 @ 4:52 pm   1

I’m very exited to see more from LB DLC.

Can’t wait :)

CIausSanAndreas 13 January, 2014 @ 5:07 pm   2

First of all, i pre-order Left Behind the first day it appears, i love The Last of Us, story, characters, gameplay, Online and- ¡EVERYTHING ABOUT IT! Can’t wait to see Ellie and Riley adventures :)

Youssef_Mazen 13 January, 2014 @ 5:12 pm   3

Will we see a new trailer this week or just some new info? CAN’T WAIT!!!

DoYouLikeMyID 13 January, 2014 @ 5:22 pm   4

A quick ctrl+f on this Wikipedia page tells me The Last Of Us has won more overall Game of the Year awards than any other game in 2013! (so far). So congratulations to Naughty Dog! It’s great to see the kings seize their throne once again!

I hope Left Behind will be even just nearly as good as the rest of The Last of Us. Although that seems to be a largely impossible task. So good luck with that! ;)

Sweetbrandigirl 13 January, 2014 @ 5:28 pm   5

I for one am hugely disappointed that ND choose this story as the SP DLC. It’s going to be a lot less then I expect from ND. I expected better game play then running around the mail with Riley & Ellie. Two teenage girls who neither have any combat skills, weapons, or abilities. We already known how this story ends they both get bit WOW ! big deal….NOT ! I feel like ND rested on they’re laurels wanting to move on to the new Uncharted game and gave us some LAME ASS DLC just do get it off their do to list. They could have done so much more with the DLC like covering Joel passed 20 years or Joel & Tommy from the night Sarah died to now or they could have done Frank and his partner. There just so much more they could have done with the DLC then two teenagers running around a mall.

Maybe we’ll go shoe shopping or stop by Starbucks for a coffee, then we can swing by the MAC store for make-up…Geez I can’t wait !……… NOT !!!

SqueakyZeeky 13 January, 2014 @ 5:28 pm   6

I cannot wait for this DLC. I was always an xbox man but I bought a PS3 exclusively for this game, following that I bought a PS4. This game has made me a Sony convert. The only reason I didn’t buy an Xbox One was the hope that The Last of Us 2 would come out on PS4 eventually. Sony, you owe Naughty Dog big, I know a few others who switched to Playstation on this game alone. Thank you!

Best game of the generation! Naughty dog you guys are the best at what you do, keep up the good work!

medenko1975 13 January, 2014 @ 5:37 pm   8

we want more DLC……..ND take more money :D

Forgot to add I can’t wait for the dlc, you chose the perfect story to tell. Gonna be emotional!

fps_d0minat0r 13 January, 2014 @ 6:17 pm   10

Its about time I got myself a copy of this game, im sure I will get the DLC as well when I do get it.

…and a quick question for Fred: are we getting a 14 for 14 sale like the US?
They have KZ mercenary for only $9!!!! Its not fair.

Coody-Baroody 13 January, 2014 @ 6:30 pm   11

Even though I love TLOU and it’s my number 1 favourite game of all time AND I love Ellie as a character, I still feel Naughty Dog have made the wrong choice for story in this DLC and for a number of reasons.

Firstly, combat. How are they going to implement this in a prequel when Ellie killed for the first time when saving Joel in the main game and i kind of got the impression – and I’m sure I’m not the only one – that Ellie became more and more able to look after herself after meeting Joel and kind of learning it all from him. So, if they go along with that, I can’t see the combat in this being very enjoyable if Ellie’s very vulnerable for its entirety.

Secondly, I strongly believe that in light of this combat issue that Joel and Tommy’s story in the 20 years after the outbreak would’ve been a MUCH better choice. To find out how Joel changed after what happened to Sarah n how he adapted to survive, what that entailed n to show us WHY they gave Tommy “nightmares”.

That would’ve been a much better idea in my opinion.

    Eric Monacelli 14 January, 2014 @ 12:07 am    

    Interesting thoughts. We’ll be talking more about the DLC in the coming days. Get ready!

BrigadierA 13 January, 2014 @ 6:50 pm   12

So it sounds like this DLC will follow the comic mini series. I hope we see a lot more than the mall and the fireflies. I’m guessing that combat will be mainly carried out by Riley?

@Sweetbrandigirl
I.. don’t know where to begin. Fair enough if the premise of the DLC is not what you were expecting, but come on! They’ve shown two and a half minutes of footage since the announcement, and both videos were cinematics. There hasn’t been a shred of gameplay yet with which to draw any sort of real conclusions or opinions. I can’t believe you wrote an entire paragraph without any sort of reasoning or thought. Just pure bitter emotion?!

Naughty Dog are a two team development house. It’s safe to assume that their main team has indeed shifted over to shepherding the creation of Uncharted for PS4, so that leaves HALF THE STUDIO handling the ongoing DLC for The Last of Us. The fact that they have started making another game isn’t an indication that Naughty Dog have “rested on their laurels wanting to move on… and gave us some LAME ASS DLC just do get it off their to do list”. That is pure conjecture, and has absolutely no basis in reality.

And you can’t assume that just because Ashley Johnson said in her interview that “It’s a little bit more ‘fun’, because you have two teenage girls going through a mall.” that THE ENTIRE DLC TAKES PLACE IN A MALL. Both videos they’ve shown so far don’t even take place in a mall! One was at an abandoned fairground, and the other in their military boarding school. Your whole sarcastic thing about “Maybe we’ll go shoe shopping or stop by Starbucks for a coffee, then we can swing by the MAC store for make-up” literally has NO BASIS IN REALITY.

What I will say is if you’re such an avid fan of the game (as your numerous ideas for alternate DLC storylines seems to suggest) how about waiting for actual gameplay footage and reviews of the expansion to hit the web before dismissing it entirely? Be happy and open your mind to the potential of its awesomeness! I know this is the internet, but it’s possible!

I for one am just excited to see stuff that was alluded to in the main campaign, the comics etc… be fleshed out and made canon. There’s definitely a lot of potential here, and if it plays a bit differently, then great! That’s what narrative driven single player campaign DLC for games should be: meaningful, substantial extra hours that mix up the gameplay formula whilst still giving you more of what you loved in the first place.

renatabls 13 January, 2014 @ 9:08 pm   16

Can’t wait for this! Thanks ND. :)

YoungBeard 13 January, 2014 @ 9:52 pm   17

Yes! Thank you so much for this! Been waiting for a long time! Bought the season because the multiplayer was great as well. Just one question: What is the release date?!

Damn it can’t wait :P looking forward to the extra info.

Agree with #4. I was expecting more of Joel’s life with Tess, that’s 20 years of their life up to the point of the game, or maybe some of his life in the gang but we get NONE of that.. just a side-story of Ellie growing up.

MrBigNTasty 13 January, 2014 @ 11:19 pm   20

@SweetbrandigirlI hate people like you lol. Judge it before the damn thing is even out. SO DAMN NEGATIVE. And can you not be stupid and be aware of spoilers for the sake of other people? Sheesh

Jamesyp00 14 January, 2014 @ 1:10 am   21

Loved TLOU It shows ND back on top form with such a gripping story with some great gameplay on top.
But this DLC is just pointless, the story’s already been told and it just isn’t that interesting anymore, You created this world that could have taken anything, added anything and it would have been great, and you just went with a dull prequel from the comic. Good luck on Uncharted PS4 though!

I’m a bit late to the party and am in the middle of the Last of Us and it is freaking awesome! I would love to buy the DLC but on it’s own it’s very expensive and the pass contains MP components I don’t care for and don’t want to pay for.
Could you add a SP DLC pass for people who only want the story and don’t care for MP.

Bovrillor 14 January, 2014 @ 11:10 am   23

@OttoT

A SP DLC pass would be pointless, as this is the only piece of SP DLC for TLoU.

I’m really looking forward to this DLC, The Last of Us and Bioshock infinite really show how to tell a story and even expand it with probably the best DLC’s…

Also @Fred, a little bit off topic, but do you know when the februari IGC will be announced so I can buy january sales, without end up buying an future IGC game

WinterEdit 14 January, 2014 @ 2:20 pm   25

I do not think Naughty Dog will fail this.

Looking forward to the DLC. Don’t mind the criticism – you’ve proven you can surprise everyone. :)

solarwind12 14 January, 2014 @ 3:00 pm   26

Best wishes for the coming year, ND rock, like a few others i would of loved some story covering the ‘outbreak’ years, starting from The night it all went south, but i guess the creative director guys know better than the few of us who long for that gameplay, still my main wish though.. Cannot wait until theres a Charted4 blog-post, fingers are crossed it’s been being worked on for a good, long while already…

tr-fan-4-ever 14 January, 2014 @ 4:59 pm   27

Is this DLC available to pre order? I’ve just checked the PS Store but couldn’t find it.

Ryusennin 14 January, 2014 @ 5:02 pm   28

Online was utterly poor and disappointing (no co-op? seriously) but TLOU is still my goty. Not sure about this DLC, especially as it’s the only piece of story DLC we will get, but Ashley gets my vote nevertheless.

transpondster 14 January, 2014 @ 5:19 pm   29

This is the best possible material for a DLC, so interesting to see Ellie before/in time of outbreak

alice_push_lara2 14 January, 2014 @ 5:45 pm   30

we do not know the ending of this DLC, right?
I mean we all knew that Riley and Ellie got bitten and Riley dead. I hope the story in this DLC will extend this part and give us more surprise like the main game did.

fireflyM15 14 January, 2014 @ 9:05 pm   31

i want to see it!!!!!

LakiStrike880621 15 January, 2014 @ 12:02 pm   32

I bet that there’s gonna be some kind of twist in the story of Ellie and Riley. I guess that either Riley became infected first, and she was the one who bit Ellie, or they really got bitten at the same time (like Ellie told Joel), and Ellie had to kill Riley. We need the drama, don’t we? :D

Stonesthrow 16 January, 2014 @ 6:42 am   33

You guys who prefered something else for DLC do realise that there’s a strong possibility this becomes a series and gets sequels right? So many questions and such a successful game, no way they won’t pick up on all that :p

chankemop 20 January, 2014 @ 6:34 am   34

I wish there will be more Single Player DLCs, not just one!