“The Last of Us” star Bella Ramsey has hit back at the homophobic response to a gay storyline in the TV adaptation of the popular video game, calling the representation “extremely important.”
The 19-year-old British actress told Sky News she found it “weird” that some people on the show were against gay love stories, adding: “The climate emergency and more, there are many bigger things to worry about than two people Love and kiss on screen.”
The post-apocalyptic drama is set in 2023, two decades after a massive fungal pandemic wiped out most of the population.
It earned critical acclaim, became HBO’s second-most-watched U.S. premiere in over a decade (behind Game of Thrones, a spin-off from House of the Dragon), and was a hit on Sky Atlantic. Popular, the first episode was streamed by over 3 million viewers in the UK.
The show follows Ellie, played by Ramsay, and Joel, played by Chilean-American actor Pedro Pascal, as they travel across a ravaged America battling zombie-like creatures and violent vigilantes.
“Just because it’s the end of the world doesn’t mean gay people don’t exist”
The show has stayed true to the depiction of gay relationships first introduced in a video game in 2013, and has grown further, including a love story between two peripheral characters in a third episode titled Long, Long Time.
The episode in particular drew criticism from a small but vocal fan base who refused to focus on the show’s LGBTQ+ characters.
Responding to the reaction, Ramsay said: “Why isn’t there a gay storyline on a show like this? I’m glad HBO is doing it and I know it’s Craig [Mazin – the show’s co-creator] Really enthusiastic.
“It’s in the game, like the Ellie and Riley story in the game and the Bill and Frank implied in the game. I think that’s really cool. Just because it’s the end of the world doesn’t mean gay people don’t exist.”
Mazin co-founder Neil Druckmann, who also developed the video game, previously told The Hollywood Reporter that Bill and Frank’s relationship “got a lot of attention” in the game.
“then, [the subtlety is] What helped it get in,” he said. “It’s sad to say, but otherwise it would be controversial.
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“It’s about equal opportunity”
As in the game, the TV show continues to explore Ellie’s sexuality, with the characters developing same-sex relationships.
Ramsey, who has said before that she doesn’t like being gendered and doesn’t mind which pronouns people use when talking to her, said it’s all about diversity in representation when it comes to actors playing LGBTQ+ characters.
She explained: “I think it’s certainly important to give queer people the opportunity to play queer roles. But I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with straight people playing queer or cis characters.
“I don’t have a problem with that personally. I just think as long as people get equal opportunity … I think that’s the most important thing. There’s no persecution in terms of roles.”
The show’s seventh episode, titled “Falling Down,” introduced Ellie’s best friend Riley, played by Storm Reed.
Reed, 19, who starred in Oscar-winning film 12 Years a Slave, told Sky News: “We’ve all seen the comments, whether they’re good or bad, or warm. When we do, we know what we’re doing, we know what the purpose is.”
She continued: “People love each other, and love is love. So, if you can’t accept that, then I don’t know that you can find a comfortable space anywhere in the world because people are people and live in their truth. I Think it’s beautiful.”
Looking forward to the second season
Facing any criticism, unlike most video game adaptations before it, the show was a huge success.
With a 97% favorable rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the show has been renewed for a second season.
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With a script currently in development, the show is expected to stay true to the game’s second iteration, The Last of Us Part II, and continue to explore Ellie’s sexuality and introduce a transgender teen named Lev.
Just as Ramsay was able to ignore any negative reaction to the show, she was equally adept at turning a blind eye to its success, admitting: “I sort of forgot that when we were filming it was going to be on screen and people were going to watch it, and it was okay, it was going to be very Well, millions of people will watch it.”
As the series is destined to become a household name, she added: “I think if I knew this, I’d be terrified every day.”
The Last of Us airs every Monday in the UK on Sky Atlantic and NOW.