‘The Last of Us’ on HBO spotlights queer characters

Adapted from the uber-popular Playstation video game series of the same name, HBO’s “The Last of Us” is set in a post-apocalyptic United States, 20 years after it has been ravaged by a deadly fungal disease that gradually turns people into zombie-like monsters.

Society has essentially collapsed, but many survivors live in quarantine zones under Martial Law conditions. Joel (Pedro Pascal of “The Mandalorian” and “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” ) works as a smuggler and is recruited to transport a young girl named Ellie (Bella Ramsey of “Catherine Called Birdy”) from the Boston area to the west.

Ellie was attacked by one of The Infected, but doesn’t show any symptoms, leading a militia group to believe she may hold the key to immunity and humanity’s survival.

Joel and Ellie set out on a perilous, cross-country journey, where they’ll encounter treacherous monsters and obstacles, human and otherwise — all in the hope that they can save the future of humanity.

“The Last of Us” and its 2020 sequel video game have created a lot of LGBTQ+ characters and those stories are in HBO’s nine-episode series, which premieres today.

Ellie is queer, and the budding exploration of her sexuality is expected to play a significant role in the series, including her complicated relationship with a childhood friend named Riley. “Euphoria” actress Storm Reid plays Riley.

“The Last of Us” also will spotlight Bill and Frank, a gay couple played by Nick Offerman (“Parks and Rec”) and out gay actor Murray Bartlett (“Looking,” “The White Lotus,” “Welcome to Chippendales”). Bill is a smuggler who has worked with Joel in the past, and the two have been living a survivalist lifestyle in a Boston suburb. The men offer Joel and Ellie a vital travel aide to help their journey to Salt Lake City.

Also, Pascal, who played the bisexual Oberyn Martell on season four of “Game of Thrones,” is a huge friend of the LGBTQ+ community.

The Chilean-born actor, 47, has used his social media channels to amplify his support; however, he seems to have deactivated his Twitter account, where some of these posts appeared.

In June 2020, he wished us all a “#HappyPride” on Instagram, posting a drawing of Burt and Ernie with a progress Pride flag and a Black Trans Lives Matter sign.

That same year, he called the Trump administration “pigs” for undoing nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people in health care and health insurance, and he said that Supreme Court showed “the f*cking basics of humanity” by ruling that gay and lesbian people can sue for workplace bias. 

 Pascal took to Instagram in 2021 to support his transgender sister, Lux Pascal, who appeared on the cover of the Spanish-language magazine Ya.

“Mi hermana, mi corazón, nuestra Lux” (“My sister, my heart, our Lux”, Pascal wrote in the post.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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