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The new HBO series, The Last of Us, stars Merle Dandridge as a tough-as-nails rebellion leader who is fighting for freedom and looking for a way to end the zombie apocalypse. In a recent interview, Dandridge talked about her role and her family. And she suggested her bomb-expert father would know exactly how to navigate and survive an apocalypse. 

Merle Dandridge plays Marlene in ‘The Last of Us’ 

the last of us merle dandridge
Merle Dandridge attends the Los Angeles Premiere of HBO’s “The Last of Us” at Regency Village Theatre on January 09, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

The Last of Us is a post-apocalyptic action-adventure drama television series created by Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin, based on the 2013 video game of the same name. The series follows the adventures of Ellie and Joel, two unlikely companions who are forced to survive the dangers of a zombie-infested dystopian world.

The main cast of the series includes The Mandalorian star Pedro Pascal as Ellie’s protector and father figure, Joel. Game of Thrones star Bella Ramsey portrays Ellie, a young girl who is immune to the infection and holds the key to a possible cure. 

Merle Dandridge plays Marlene, the leader of an underground group of freedom fighters called the Fireflies, who discovers that Ellie could be the cure. The actor has been with the franchise for a decade, as she voiced the character for The Last of Us video game. 

The series follows the same premise as the original video game, with Ellie and Joel struggling against the infected and scavenging for supplies in a harsh post-apocalyptic world. Along the way, they must also contend with other survivors, as well as the ever-present threat of the military. The series also delves deeper into the characters’ relationships and struggles, offering more insight into their motivations and emotions.

‘The Last of Us’ star Merle Dandridge explains how her military dad could survive an apocalypse 

In a recent interview with IMDb, The Last of Us cast discussed who they would want on their “Apocalypse Dream Team.” After Pascal called out famous names like Michelle Obama and Indiana Jones, Dandridge suggested she’d want her father with her because of his military training. 

“I would have to pick my dad,” she said. “He knows all of those things. Family of mechanics who can do anything, and he’s a bomb expert for the military. So I think he’s the guy.”

Dandridge was born in Japan to an American dad and an Asian mom. “My mother is half Japanese and [half] Korean,” she told the Center for Asian American Media. “My father’s family [members] are big Memphis church folks — I was raised in Nebraska.” 

Merle Dandridge is the only cast member that starred in ‘The Last of Us’ video game

Dandridge is the only actor that The Last of Us creators Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann brought over from the video game. In a chat with EW, they noted that the actors who voiced Joel and Ellie — Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson — didn’t fit the character visually, due to their age and physicality. 

Luckily, Dandridge fit Marlene’s aesthetic perfectly. And the showrunners revealed that casting her was a no-brainer. 


HBO’s ‘The Last of Us’: A Guide to the Cast and Characters

“She does have this wonderful gravitas,” Mazin said. “So it was really a question of, ‘Hey, if we just wig her, I think we’re there.’ That was an easy one. It’s obviously not anything we could contemplate with, say, Troy Baker.”

However, Baker, Johnson, and some of the other voice actors from the video game will appear in the HBO show as different characters. “It was important for us to find space for them [in the show] because they matter,” Mazin explained. “It’s not just about fan service. It’s a dramatic genetic connection between the game and the show. They needed to be there.”

The show is still just a few episodes in, and fans are already wondering if there will be a The Last of Us Season 2. Luckily, on Jan. 27, HBO announced that it’s renewing the series. So viewers should have a second season sometime in 2024.