HBO’s post-apocalyptic drama series The Last of Us, starring Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey, is based on a video game franchise developed by Naughty Dog. The series is set twenty years into the pandemic, which is caused by a mass fungal infection that turns the hosts into zombie-like creatures. The television series, created by Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann, is regarded as one of the biggest and most popular series of 2023.

The Last of Us
Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey in The Last of Us | HBO

The Last of Us was dubbed one of the best adaptations of a video game for television. The performances of the actors on the show were highly lauded by the critics as well as the audience, which has been waiting for season two. The show’s brilliant music was composed by Gustavo Santaolalla and David Fleming, and in a recent interview, the former opened up about his experience working on the show.

Gustavo Santaolalla says that he had ‘total freedom’ while working on The Last of Us

In a recent interview with Radio Times, The Last of Us music composer Gustavo Santaolalla detailed his experience while making music for the game and later adapting it for a TV series.

Calling his collaboration with Neil Druckmann and Naughty Dog something of a revolution, Santaolalla shared that he is a terrible gamer. But he has always enjoyed watching his son play and thought that if someone, at some point, connects with a gamer more emotionally and has a more soulful connection, it’s going to be a revolution.

The Last of Us
Pedro Pascal plays Joel Miller in The Last of Us | HBO

The music composer’s work in Brokeback Mountain and Babel had earned him two Academy Awards, and he shared that several companies for huge projects approached him. However, the composer declined all the projects, stating that it was too big to say no, but he knew what he wanted. Gustavo Santaolalla further said,

Then suddenly, Neil Druckmann appeared, and the story of The Last of Us began. And he also pointed out that he was looking to connect with the gamer at that level, you know? So I got to work into it. It was very organic. I had total freedom to do whatever I felt.

Santaolalla mentioned to the publication that the vision he and Neil had in their minds was something that everyone was connected to. When they heard that the people were crying while playing the game, he said it was like confirmation for them that the series was happening.

He shared that he works in a very primitive, primal, instinct-driven way, and there is not a lot of reasoning behind it. The music composer mentioned that at times what happens with him is that he’ll do things and then later sit and rationalize them. It is the same that happened with The Last of Us, as the low-end music was related to Joel’s side of the world and the ronrcoco with fragile sound was Ellie’s world.

Gustavo Santaolalla talks about working on the TV adaptation of The Last of Us, starring Pedro Pascal

The composer mentioned during the interview with Radio Times that working on the music score for the television series of The Last of Us with Pedro Pascal as Joel was not any different than him working on the game. Regardless, he claimed that some anxiety was still apparent. He said,

Usually, whenever you have any work that becomes successful in one medium and one format, to transpose that now to another format, there is a high level of anxiety because you don’t know if people are going to go, ‘Oh, no, I like better the book,’ you know?

The Last of Us
Gustavo Santaolalla revealed they decided to stick to the original music from the game | HBO

Gustavo Santaolalla added that they decided to stick to the original musical vision for the TV adaptation of the game with Pedro Pascal, as it was helpful. He explained that the transition of music for the series was smooth because they decided to stick to the original music, theme, fabric, and textures, which were instrumental.

According to Mirror, the composer noted that the creator of the show always wanted to maintain the essence of the original soundscape, as it has been very important to the success of the series. He said that it would have been completely alienating if they had changed to new themes.

Talking about the future, he said that he’d love to continue working on The Last of Us because he believes there is so much stuff to be tapped into. He touched upon the second season, adding that it’s the continuation of the story, about which he does not know much at the time. He concluded by stating that he feels he is a part of the story, and so whatever happens, he will be there.

Season one of The Last of Us is streaming on HBO.


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